By Kristen SpinningSun CircuitFebruary 19, 2013
Another new event at this year’s Sun Circuit was the Huntfield AQHA Derby Series, presented by Abbott Fine Properties. (Journal photo)
In an age when many horse shows across the country are struggling, the Arizona Sun Country Circuit has seen explosive growth. This year’s nine-day event, held January 26 - February 3 in Scottsdale, posted more than 17,000 AQHA entries and 20,728 total entries from all over the U.S. and Canada. Those figures represent growth of 46 percent since the 2010 Sun Circuit. Not only were there more horses showing at Scottsdale’s WestWorld facility, there were more classes and events in which they could show.
This year’s event saw the addition of cowboy mounted shooting, the Green Western Pleasure and Ulcergard Green Hunter Under Saddle stakes, the Huntfield AQHA Derby Series, 4D Barrel Racing Sweepstakes, plus big money in the Smart Boons Fence Work Challenge and Self Shine Reining Stakes. Along with a full slate of rail, trail, cattle classes and a day of Versatility Ranch Horse competition, there truly was something for every Quarter Horse competitor.
Mother Nature did not cooperate the first three days of the show, ushering in cold temperatures and rain. Show management scrambled to rearrange the schedule and move classes to drier arenas. The newly rebuilt Equidome was a much-welcomed warm and dry refuge for both exhibitors and spectators. Despite the weather, spirits remained high and the sun returned to reward everyone for their patience.
The first Sun Circuit Shoot Out blasted through the Equidome on Friday evening with 56 cowboy mounted shooters competing for cash and AQHA points in this AQHA world championship show-qualifying event. A huge crowd filled the stands for the evening’s action. When the smoke cleared, it was youth competitor Lisa Degeare of Sanger, Texas, riding Hancocks Sparkle Red to the fastest time of the evening with a flashing run of 27.32 seconds.
Fast-paced action returned to the Equidome with 151 barrel racers in a competition that included AQHA points and $2,500 in added money for the 4D Barrel Racing Sweepstakes. The seats were packed for a night of fun and tough competition. April Denny of Willcox, Arizona, and Kinica Six, owned by Tammie Goldston of Amarillo, laid down a smooth 17.873 early in the night, making it the time to beat. A dozen runs later, Flash Fast Hawk and owner Vonnie Nunes of Prather, California, shaved a smidge off that time with 17.851 seconds to take the top spot. Try as they might, the rest of the field could not best that time. Vonnie took home $665 and April picked up $549 for her efforts.
The Journal's Christine Hamilton was on the scene at the Sun Circuit, bringing you top-notch advice from AQHA Professional Horsemen Bob and Ryan Kail, plus Bruce Vickery.
The Smart Boons Fence Work Challenge tempted some of the nation’s best cow horse competitors with a total purse of $13,600. AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Barkemeyer piloted Dulce Smart Boomer, owned by Brad’s wife, Mindy, to take the winning slot, good for a $3,930 check. AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Lund was right on Barkemeyer’s heels riding Wright On Tari and winning $3,144 for owner Eric Dunn of Norwich, Kansas. It was a good day for Eric; his AQHA Superhorse, Rising Starlight, with Cory Cushing in the saddle, took the third spot, good for $2,358. In the non-pro division One Smart Cross and owner Robin Flournoy of Modesto, California, turned in the best work, earning a check for $1,850, while Sally Drennon of Lincoln, California, won second place on Cheque Please, adding $1,110 to her earnings.
Ropers love to run for money, so the Cinch Timed Event Challenge was a popular returning favorite special event, adding $2,500 to the pot for both open heading and heeling and $1,250 for the non-pros. Brad Barkemeyer got it done in 6.06 seconds on Greenberg Land & Livestock’s Im Easy Darlin in the open heading, while Jason Hershberger and his partner had a lightning fast 5.20 in the heeling. The non-pro division brought out a large number of good hands. Weatherford, Texas, cowboy Rod Patrick, riding Spin Me Doc, bested all the headers with his 8.45 to win $1,100, while Chad Turner of Wickenberg, Arizona, stopped the clock at 7.12 on MH Futurity Bound for a $1,140 payday in heeling.
The Self Shine Reining Stakes brought some of the top reiners in the nation to compete for a piece of the $7,000 open purse. A full house enthusiastically cheered as horse after horse made dizzying spins and spectacular slides. Scottsdale’s Dan Huss rode off with half of the winnings by tying himself for first and second with a 145 on Hollywood Dunit Easy and Sparks Of Glory. Both horses are owned by Marc and Kathy Gordon of Elgin, Illinois. Plain City, Utah, reiner Travis Wigen’s scored a 143.5 on Dreamy Little Sailor, good enough to hold third place and earn $1,260 for owner Morris Kulmer of Bountiful, Utah. In the non-pro division, Bob Shearer slid his way to a check for $1,425 on Dun Playin Tag, owned by Bob and his wife, Melissa, of Bonita Springs, Florida. Lindsay Wadhams of Pueblo, Colorado, and Spursuasion took the second-place spot to win $1,187.50. It was a good show for Lindsay, as she also took amateur all-around cowgirl(-boy) honors, winning the $1,000 award from Bella Vista Ranch.
Another new event at this year’s Sun Circuit was the Huntfield AQHA Derby Series, presented by Abbott Fine Properties. This hunter challenge featured a course of jumps including those one would find in a hunt field. Twelve horses competed for a $2,500 added purse. At the end of two rounds, Easy Details and Nada Wise had scored the most points to win $750 for owner and breeder Charles Wright of Argyle, Texas. Ryan Painter finished in second aboard Peyton Bivins’ Kamanyawannadance for a $550 payday.
Green horses had their chance to shine in two new events this year. The Green Western Pleasure Stakes saw Armed An Dangerous make off with $2,650 for Knapp Quarter Horses of Van Meter, Iowa, after a great ride by Patrick Heeley. In the English pen, the UlcerGard Green Hunter Under Saddle Stakes saw a nice field of up-and-comers. A smooth ride by Courtney Ryan of Whitesboro, Texas, on Allocate In Blue impressed the judges, taking both the open and limited divisions for total winnings of $2,297.50.
In addition to all the lively action in the arenas, the Sun Circuit once again offered a wealth of educational opportunities with a dozen free clinics throughout the show. The ever-popular lunch and dinner parties were well attended, giving everyone a chance to unwind and have fun. The Johns, Tobins and Searles families welcomed everyone with a free dinner to kick off the festivities. Lunch was served up three days by Stehney-Smith Show Horses, the team with Good I Will Be and the Machine Made gang. The Salamone Family hosted the Sweethearts ‘N Denim Dinner Party and Fund Raiser, and the crowd was treated to an ice cream social by Sweet Things. Exhibitors and spectators alike enjoyed shopping in the new enclosed vendor hall that is part of the Equidome expansion project.
With its tremendous diversity, the Sun Circuit is truly a show for all Quarter Horse enthusiasts. The success of this year’s circuit means that organizers are already working on plans for 2014.
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