For the third consecutive year, the Cactus Reining Classic, the first in the three-show series that includes Reining By The Bay and High Roller Reining Classic posted a double-digit increase in the number of entries over the previous year. This premiere event held March 6-10 in the Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center at WestWorld in Scottsdale, Arizona, continues to attract top American and international horse and rider combinations.
This year riders came from as far away as Italy, Brazil and Canada as well as all over the United States. The Cactus Reining Classic also continues to play host to a large number of riders who have competed in the 2010 World Equestrian Games and will be vying for a spot on their respective nation’s 2014 WEG teams.
WestWorld’s ongoing $42.8 million expansion of the Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center includes enclosure and addition of climate control in the Equidome, which proved to be invaluable during the two days of torrential rains and unseasonably cold weather, but even Mother Nature could not dampen the spirits of the Exhibitors, Owners and Trainers who came to compete with the best of the best and have a great time doing it. National Sponsors Rancho Oso Rio of Scottsdale, Arizona hosted the Open Derby Celebration and Silver Spurs Equine, LLC of Cave Creek, Arizona hosted the Big Chex To Cash Exhibitor Party, 2 nights of food, fun and festivities for all those attending Cactus Reining Classic.
Expect the Unexpected is the tag line of the three-show series for 2013, and a conscious effort was made to increase the recognition of the Non Pro riders. Six of the eight of the Bob’s Custom Saddles were awarded in Non Pro divisions. In addition, the Four Seasons Silicon Valley Trifecta Non Pro Reining Challenge six day vacation to the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele Lana’i, Hawaii which will be awarded to the Non Pro Derby horse and rider combination with the most prize money won in the Non Pro Derby Divisions in all 3 shows (Cactus Reining Classic, Reining By The Bay and High Roller Reining Classic). Needless to say this move was well received by Non Pros and their trainers alike.
When it came to added prize money for 2013 the bar was raised in a very big way. The SmartPak Non Pro 7 Up maturity added prize money increased from $8,000 in 2012 to $10,000 in 2013, The Conquistador Whiz Non Pro Derby added prize money increased from $23,000 in 2012 to $42,500 in 2013 and the Spooks Gotta Gun Open Derby added prize money increased from $42,000 in 2012 to $67,500. This was not lost on the large contingent of exhibitors and trainers from Texas who were attending Cactus Reining Classic for the first time.
One of the big winners from Texas was Mandy McCutcheon, the NRHA’s sole female Million Dollar Rider. Mandy and her Customized Gunner (Colonels Smoking Gun x Custom Made Dunit) posted a 223.5 to secure the top spot out of a field of 39 in the Conquistador Whiz $42,500 Added Non Pro Derby Level 4 and a $7,222.00 paycheck. Reserve Champion to Mandy in the Level 4 was the 2010 NRHA Non Pro Futurity Finals Champion Tish Fappani and the 4 year old gelding ARC Spark It Up (Custom Crome x Sailing Spark x Shining Spark) who marked a 220.0 and took home $4,396 in prize money.
The Cactus Reining Classic win is yet another in a string of victories for the pair who won the Non Pro Derby Level 4 at the Tulsa Reining Classic, The South West Futurity and was tied for first in the 2012 NRHA Futurity Finals. Mandy says of the gorgeous 4-year-old mare “She’s been good to me. My father raised her; she’s a homegrown model.”
Speaking of family, the McQuay/McCutcheon clan had 3 generations showing at Cactus Reining Classic: patriarch Tim McQuay, Mandy and Tom McCutcheon and their son Cade McCutcheon. This is not the first time mother and son have shown against each other “Last year Cade made the L4 Non Pro Finals at the NRHA Futurity last year, so that was pretty exciting. It was fun. He didn’t have such a great show this time, but that happens. Its horse-showing. I told him get used to it buddy, ‘cause if you’re going to do this there’s going to be heartache. But he loves it so much. He’s really into it. He may just follow in my father’s and his father’s footsteps becoming a trainer”.
This was Mandy’s first trip to the Cactus Reining Classic and she didn’t leave empty-handed “I won a Pendleton Blanket, a Markel Horse Insurance cooler, a pair of Ariat boots, Lonehorn Jeans, Finish Line products, a Pard’s Western Shop gift certificate an ad on Reiner’s World.com and I appreciate all of it very much”. Mandy had nothing but praise for National Sponsor and President of RBB, Inc. Pat Warren “What Pat does for the Reining Horse industry, not only at these 3 horse shows, but as a whole is tremendous. Her contribution to the Reining Horse industry is huge. I love to come and support her and what she does”.
2010 World Equestrian Games double gold medalist and USEF Equestrian of the Year Tom McCutcheon said of his wife’s performance “Mandy was good. Her horse was real good. That’s a show horse. Every time that mare goes in the pen she responds and she’s been great for her. Mandy showed her awesome.” Mandy’s 223.5 was in fact the third highest scoring run of the show.
The SmartPak $10,000 Added Open Maturity also had a $2,000 increase in prize money over 2012, and no one could be happier about it than Travis Wigen of North Ogden, Utah. Travis and Morris Kulmer’s eleven-year old Dreamy Little Sailor (Magnum Chic Dream x Enjoy A Lena) marked a 220.5 for a clean sweep of the top spots in the SmartPak $10,000 Added Open 7Up Maturity Level 4, Intermediate Open and Limited Open taking home a total of $5,411 for their efforts as well as SmartPak gift certificates, Senior Flex, Gist belt buckles, Markel Horse Insurance cooler, Pendleton blankets. Morris (Kulmer) had a golf cart full of awesome awards”. Tanya Jenkins and Berry Shiny (Shining Spark x Custom Red Berry) was Reserve Champion to Travis in the Level 4 marking a 218.00 and taking home $2,141 in prize money. Tanya also took home the Open circuit champion with Surpriseinadarkalley (Jerry Lees Surprise x Foxy Ali Cat).
Travis Wigen comes from a riding family began his career with horses with Cutting then Pleasure horses before moving into Reining at age 17. It didn’t take long before he was apprenticing with Billy Campbell and Bob Avila before going out on his own at 22. Travis credits Todd Bergen for mentoring him during the early years of turning pro.
“Dreamy” came to Travis by way of Garret Turner who was showing him when Travis was horse shopping for his clients. Morris Kulmer’s wife actually bought him as a birthday present for Morris in in 2010 when he was already 8 years old. “The Maturity division gives value to the older horses. It used to be when a horse was done with his Derby age it still had value, but nothing like this. People are out shopping for a horse they can win the Maturity on because there is big money in it’.
Travis also believes in taking his time with his 3 and 4 year olds as well, and is thrilled with the addition of the Whizkey N Diamonds Partnership 4 Year Old Stakes at the 2013 High Roller Reining Classic September 8-14 in Las Vegas, Nevada. “We personally own Magnum Chic Dream gelding that’s four that’s good enough to be in the Derby here but we decided to wait. We’re focused on the 4-year old stakes. The longevity is more important to us for sure”.
Dreamy’s owner Morris Kulmer couldn’t say enough about the 11-year old superstar “We are very proud of Dreamy and Travis. Dreamy is a very special athlete, and now his LTE exceed $100,000. At 11 years old, he is still in amazing shape, and is loved by everyone who knows him. Troy Koehl, Frank Bolea, Joe Smith, Sally Broten, Kim Diercks, Crystal Carreon, Garret Thurner, Madison Wigen, Travis Wigen, Andrea Fappani, and yours truly have all shown Dreamy. From Short Stirrup to Open riders, and everyone in between, they have all been winners on him, and he is just coming into his prime. Yes indeed we are very fortunate to own such a Champion”.
The huge increase in prize money brought out the big guns, and a lot of them. The field of 69 competitors in 2012 grew to a field of 93 exhibitors, 52 of which were in the Level 4. None of which had the luxury of holding anything back.
Tom McCutcheon who finished in a four-way tie for fifth in the Spooks Gotta Gun $67,500 Added Open Derby Level 4 marking a 222.0 on Dun Git A Nicadual spoke to the depth of talent in the class “This is the toughest pre-Derby in the country. It was an awesome group of horses and riders. It was tough, you had a little bobble and you weren’t going to get a prize. The judges were marking conservative, they weren’t giving big scores, and it still took a 220.5 to win a check. The judging was very consistent. I thought overall they did a really good job”.
When the dust settled on the Spooks Gotta Gun $67,500 Added Open Derby it was Custom Spook (Smart Spook x Custom Spinderella) and Marco Ricotta going 63rd in the draw that ended up on top of both the Open Level 4 and the Level 3 Intermediate divisions wining a total of $19,789.00 in prize money for Rancho Oso Rio’s Pat and Jim Warren. There was a tie for Reserve Champion in the Level 4 between 2010 WEG riders Tim McQuay on Hollywood Gotta Gun (Hollywood Dun It x Katie Gun) and Martin Meuhlstaetter on Blue Collar Tag (Whiz N Tag Chex x Kachina Oak Olena) both marking a 224 and taking home $7,367 each.
Custom Spook has been in the Fappani Performance Horse training program since his two-year-old year earning over $163,000 with four riders. “Custom’s” Trainer Andrea Fappani said of the talented 6-year-old gelding “He is a remarkable individual and has been a consistent and winning show horse for myself, Luke Gagnon, Pat Warren and now Marco. His score of 225.5 yesterday was the result of his talent combined with an exceptional show plan and great execution by Marco”.
That 225.5 score also netted Marco Ricotta the Perfect Products Run of the Show Award, a Bob’s Custom Saddle, Gist Buckles, Markel Horse Insurance cooler, Back On Track Quick Wraps Ice Horse Evendura Wraps, Cavalor feed, Equithrive supplement, and Finish Line Products.
This was the debut ride on Custom Spook for Marco who has been with Andrea Fappani since September of 2012 “This was the first time showing him. Andrea said try to push him a little bit and see what happens. You’ve got to test him a little bit before NRBC. I tested him, and everything was good. Pat (Warren) rode him every day for the last couple weeks at home and showed him this week. We shared the horse. He’s a really special horse. He’s really good-minded he’s really well broke, so he’s easy to share”. What was it like to “out-run” the boss (Andrea Fappani) for the win? “I don’t think of it that way, we’re a team. Andrea is a great mentor. He’s really, really professional”.
Pat Warren of Rancho Oso Rio was thrilled with the performance turned in by Marco Ricotta and her Custom Spook “I think it was really neat to have Custom Spook win that big and tough of a Derby. He has done well for all of us who have ridden him but I suppose it's harder for the trainers that have ridden him to have to share him with a Non Pro also. However, he's really good minded and seems to know the difference between me riding him as a non-pro and what he's supposed to do when a trainer gets on him. As far as sharing him with Marco or anyone else, I've always been in the situation of sharing a horse with my trainer. My horses have always had to do two jobs, as I do enjoy watching my horses compete but I also really love showing them myself”.
One of only 5 NHRA Million Dollar Owners, Pat Warren feels strongly about giving back to the industry that has been so good to Rancho Oso Rio “I think it is very important for all the Reiners themselves to do whatever they can financially to keep the shows alive and growing. It doesn't matter whether you're able to give a lot or a little I just think that those of us in the sport should give what we can. If we don't, who will?
I was happy that so many people came to Cactus Reining Classic knowing that WestWorld was in a state of flux due to the construction and is not a perfect venue yet. Our show production team does its best to put on shows that are especially exhibitor friendly. We want the main focus to be on the exhibitors experience and to that end we try to provide good scheduling, unique awards, and great customer service”.
The forward thinking Cactus Reining Classic team is committed to delivering the finest customer experience, and to that end leverages many social media platforms to reach out to the fans that are unable to attend the event. One of the most popular is the real-time photo galleries posted daily on Facebook and www.equestrianlife.com. Over the course of the 5-day event, 37,000 fans of Cactus Reining Classic were reached and 256,000 of their friends were engaged as well.
Over 15,000 unique viewers from 31 different countries logged on to the comprehensive, live streaming online broadcast provided by Classic Video. California was home to the highest number of U.S. viewers followed by Colorado and Arizona, while Alberta, Canada, Italy and Germany represented the 3 highest international viewership numbers. The live streaming online coverage was also accessible by all mobile devices as well this year. In addition, Equestrian Life, a multi-discipline equestrian website partnered with Cactus Reining Classic promoting the event to it’s 54,000 members.
Event Manager Amanda Brumley shares her thoughts on why this year was one for the record books “We have developed a reputation for putting on great events with fantastic prizes and lots of fun and I believe that we saw many new faces this year because of that. Several exhibitors traveled from all over the United States and Canada, and riders from as far away as Italy and Brazil to get here. Many people and their horses traveled over 2 days to get here. Several exhibitors shared with us that they had saved their money for months to be able to come to Cactus Reining Classic, and we really appreciate that kind of effort, as well as the generosity of our amazing sponsors who are the lifeblood of our events. We are extremely grateful and honored to be supported by exhibitors, owners, trainers and sponsors alike, and want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every person who contributed to the success of Cactus Reining Classic this year”.