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Triple Crowned

Spooks Gotta Whiz legacy grows after a history-making NRHA Derby title

Special to the Horsetrader - July 19th, 2012 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. –- Michell Anne Kimball instantly sensed something special in September 2009 when she was presented a 2-year-old reining prospect that had been started by the late John Slack.

Kimball, who just five years earlier had ridden her first reining horse after two decades of success as a Southern California hunter-jumper trainer, bought the colt, and Spooks Gotta Whiz has proved her right.

In three years, the flashy stallion has won more than $317,000 and reining’s biggest events, the latest coming June 30 when Shawn Flarida rode him to victory in the National Reining Horse Association’s Open Derby Finals. The win also slid Spooks Gotta Whiz into history as the second horse ever to claim reining’s “Triple Crown” – winning the NRHA Futurity, the National Reiner Breeder’s Classic and the NRHA Derby.

“From the minute I saw him, there was just something about him,” said Kimball. “I am extremely proud of him. I feel really blessed and grateful, as much as anything, to have the honor of owning this horse.”

The NRHA Derby showcased the $435,000-added Open Derby finals at the Oklahoma State Fair Park. It is the NRHA’s premiere event for the world’s best 4-, 5- and 6-year-old reining horses. This year’s Derby finals were the richest ever, paying out approximately $885,000 to owners and nominators of open and non pro finalists.

During the go-round, more than 500 entries competed for a spot in the finals with 76 of the top-scoring horse-and-rider teams invited back to Saturday night’s event.

Flarida, from Springfield, Ohio, took Spooks Gotta Whiz (Spooks Gotta Gun x Prettywhizasprettydoes, bred by Clint Haverty) to a 226.5 and the Level 4 Derby Open Championship that paid $60,000. The 5-year old previously had taken the level 4 open championship titles at the 2010 NRHA Futurity and this year’s NRBC, held during April in Katy, Texas.

“He’s changed my life immeasurably,” said Kimball. “He has a calm resolve in him that I will never have. There’s something to be garnered in that sort of a human-equine relationship that you can’t manufacture.”

“He also has that youthful face that looks at you with those baby blue eyes like a child — just with a wonderment of the world,” she added. “He’s very unique. I’ve owned a lot of horses, trained a lot of horses, and many have been very, very nice. But there’s something unique in Baby.”

In addition to owning a Triple Crown Reiner, the energetic Kimball spearheads a pair of heartfelt causes. She leads the San Diego County Equestrian Foundation that she launched in 2009 — the same year she bought “Baby Spooks” – and works with county staff to overhaul outdated zoning ordinances for the region’s horse owners. She also advocates for disclosure of genetic testing in horse breeding, most recently before the AQHA stud book committee at the AQHA Convention.

“I am trying to make it palatable — trying to teach people why there’s a benefit to it,” said Kimball. “I’m trying to make it so people are not afraid or intimidated by it, so that they see the positive part.”

At the NRHA Derby, the race for the Level 4 Open Reserve Championship ended in a two-way tie with matching scores of 226: Xtra Quarter Horses, LLC’s Shiners Voodoo Dr (Shining Spark x Voodoo Chic, bred by Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch) and Todd Bergen of Eagle Point, Ore., tied with Rancho Oso Rio, LLC’s Tinker With Guns (Gunner x Tinker Nic, bred by Rancho Oso Rio, LLC) and NRHA Professional Andrea Fappani of Scottsdale, Ariz. Each horse won nearly $40,000 for the reserve co-championship.
In Level 3 Open competition, Sean McBurney guided Chics Loaded Gun (Gunner x Smart Chic Olynna, bred by Gary Putman) to a score of 220.5 to top the level 3 open division. They also earned finalist honors in the level 4 open division and nearly $30,000. Brian Knutson and Gaylene Sawchuk own the 6-year-old stallion.

Pete Kyle of Whitesboro, Texas, and E Bar Z Stables’ Gunner Git Ya Dun (Gunner x Gotta Git Ya Dun, bred by Monica Hicks) rose to the top of the level 2 open division. Their score of 219.5 also garnered third place in the level 3 open division. Gunner Git Ya Dun earned more than $24,000 for her owners.

The Level 1 Open ended in a dramatic run-off between three entries marking a 218: Ben Baldus riding Dainty Little Step (WT Waggoner Estate), Jimmy Van Der Hoeven aboard Wimpys Cute Tune (Stephanie Diane Nelson, owner) and Lisa Coulter on Whiz It A Chic (Robert Thompson, owner). Dainty Little Step (Wimpys Little Step x Tucks Little Poco, bred by WT Waggoner Estate) won the run-off, earning nearly $20,000.

In Non Pro competition, NRHA Derby featured the $75,000-added Level 4 Non Pro; $55,000-added Level 3 Non Pro; $30,000-added Level 2 Non Pro; $15,000-added Level 1 Non Pro and $5,000-added Prime Time Non Pro division finals. Out of the original 180 horses and 621 entries, the top 56 horse and rider teams qualified to compete in Friday’s finals. This year’s Derby finals were the richest ever paying approximately $250,000 to owners and nominators.

Jose Vazquez of Markham, Ill., a veteran NRHA major event finalist, rode into the arena aiming to best Mandy McCutcheon’s score of 220 she earned just a few runs earlier on Always Gotyer Gunsup (Gunner x Always A Dunit, owned by McQuay Stables, Inc.). After winning the go-round in the Prime Time Non Pro division and tying for first in the Level 4 Non Pro division riding Moonshine Juice (Smart Like Juice x Wind Her Up Shiner, owned and bred by Smart Like Juice Inc.), everyone knew Vazquez could do just that. They marked a 221 to claim championships in both of those divisions.

For his championship run, Vazquez earned over $17,000. Vazquez ($780,000 NRHA LTE) and Moonshine Juice ($51,000 NRHA LTE) most recently won the Prime Time Non Pro division at the 2012 National Reining Breeders Classic. He also qualified for the finals on Slj Ruf Juice (owned by Smart Like Juice Inc., Smart Like Juice x Ruf Catalyst). They finished sixth in the Level 4 Non Pro division and tied for third in the Prime Time division.

In Level 3 Non Pro, Wynnewood, Oklahoma’s Ruben Pacheco Cuevas piloted his Sugar Chics Gunnit (Gunner x Sugar Chics Dunnit) to a score of 220 to tie with McCutcheon for second place in the Level 4 Non Pro division and win first place in the Level 3 Non Pro division. Cuevas and Sugar Chics Gunnit (bred by Jess Moore) were NRHA Derby Level 2 Non Pro Reserve Champions last year. At the 2012 NRHA Derby, they earned over $20,000.

More online: See website http://bit.ly/27B_NRHA

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