By Alden CorriganCactus Reining ClassicMarch 13, 2014
The Cactus Reining Classic, March 5-9 at WestWorld in Scottsdale, Arizona, had every element required for a star-studded action movie. Top horses and riders left nothing on the table day in and day out, and a cliffhanger ending to the $65,500-added Lucas Oil Open Derby Level 4, culminated in a run-off to remember between Franco Bertolani on CFR Centenario Wimpy and Jordan Larson on Show Me The Buckles that had everyone in the Equidome and watching online on the edge of their seats.
Franco Bertolani of Aubrey, Texas: $67,500-added Lucas Oil Open Derby Level 4 champion with earnings of $13,832.20 on CFR Centenario Wimpy (Wimpys Little Step-Miss Hollywood Whiz by Topsail Whiz, bred by 4R Performance Horses of Boerne, Texas), owned by Slide or Die LLC (Domenico Lomuto of Rome, Italy)
Brazilian rider Franco Bertolani and 6-year-old stallion CFR Centenario Wimpy repeated their Open Derby Level 4 winning performance from the 2013 High Roller Reining Classic in this year’s $67,500-added Lucas Oil Open Derby with run that won’t soon be forgotten.
“I think the West Coast brings me luck," Franco said. "I came back here after the High Roller and he was really good. Jordan Larson and Show Me The Buckles and I were both 225.5 in our first runs. My horse was a little fresh in the first run and when we came back for the run-off he was really good; much better than the first one and we marked 231.5.
"Jordan put a lot of pressure on us, going first and marking a 228.5," Franco continued. "I got in the arena and thought, Just do the best run you can.' I had just shown him the first time 20 or 30 minutes before the run-off. He was great. I felt really good with the first stop. It was long, and I think plus one-and-a-half. He has a big heart and gave me everything he had.”
The only person who was possibly even more excited than Franco with CFR Centenario Wimpy’s performance was his owner, Domenico Lomuto, who has owned the stallion since he was a 4-year-old.
Domenico got into reining in a very round-about way. As owner of the largest collection of Leica cameras in the world, Domenico was approached by a very good friend who asked to purchase one special camera about four years ago. After repeatedly turning the friend down, a photo of a palomino arrived in the mail.
“The note said, 'If you send me the camera, the palomino stud is yours,' so I did it. The horse was a cow horse. After that, I bought an embryo in the U.S. and things went along that way, and I bought 'Rio.' ”
Now two years later, Domenico, who, along with Show Me The Buckles’ owner Rebecca Martin, had to make the call literally from Rome, Italy, on whether or not to go head to head in a run-off for the Open Derby title.
“My wife and my daughter were sleeping, because it was 3 a.m. in Italy, when I was watching Rio on the computer. Then I received the call from Franco asking what he should do. Franco said, We are here I think we should go ahead (and run-off),' and I said, 'Yes, it’s good for the industry to have a run off.'
"When Jordan marked a 228.5, I was already thinking of writing a message, congratulating him. I thought I had made the worst decision. And then when I heard 231.5, I was completely off my sofa sitting on the floor! I had my headphones on because everyone was asleep, and I started screaming. My wife came out of the bedroom and said, 'What is going on?' I said, 'I want to explain to you how we won the derby,' and she said, 'Tell me in the morning,' " Domenico said with a laugh.
Rio’s 2014 calendar includes the NRHA Derby, High Roller Reining Classic, NRHA Shootout during the Futurity, the AQHA World Championship Show, and of course his breeding season.
Ollie Galligan of Petaluma, California: NRHA open and NRHA intermediate open high-point champion with earnings of $1,078 on California Shines (West Coast Whiz-Shining Maid by Shining Spark, bred by Bob Loomis Quarter Horses in Overbrook, Oklahoma), owned by LaVonne Sturgeon of Sebastopol, California
Ollie Galligan of Petaluma, California set a goal at the beginning of the year for his clients and himself to work hard together to really step up their game in 2014. Team Galligan started the year off with two shows in northern California before heading to the Cactus Reining Classic.
Ollie explained, “We got our horses schooled, I pushed my clients, the clients pushed their horses, and we all focused on trying to get to that next level.
"You have to set a goal of coming to a unique show like this if you want to get to that next level. You have to be able to compete under this kind of pressure, against this level of rider, and bring everyone with you in the barn, trying to win and compete together.
"Everyone has worked so hard to make it happen at this show, and it’s kind of a bonus because it’s my birthday! Doing well on 'Cal' yesterday was great. We won in the NRHA $500-added intermediate open, then last night in the NRHA $1,000-added open. To come back today and be in the running again and get a half-point higher than we did yesterday, we’re just tickled to death. And I want to thank Brumley Management Group, who does a beautiful job putting on this big show.
“I want to encourage everyone to keep following your dreams no matter who you are or where you’re from," Ollie added. "If you work hard enough, you’ll get there. I’d like to thank the owners for providing us with these horses, for trusting us with these horses, allowing us to take them down the road and show them and do what we love. Thank you.”
Kris Loewenthal of Sonoma, California: Dixie Reining Horse Association Rookie reserve high-point champion on Whattadualpep (Mister Dual Pep-Whattaroyalprincess by Royal Chic Olena, bred by Carolyn Edson of Whitesboro, Texas)
Kris came to reining in 2013 by way of jumpers, which she still shows competitively in.
“I don’t know if it’s my experience or my age, but my nerves at the in-gate were almost overwhelming and I thought, 'I need to do something that doesn’t have fences in it, to get control of my show nerves,' and reining looked like a lot of fun," Kris said. "A lot of people thought this would last for about a year, but I love reining; it’s an amazing sport, and I couldn’t leave now. The people are great, the horses are insanely talented and it’s a beautiful sport to be a part of.”
The Cactus Reining Classic was Kris’ first big show with “Wonton,” who she purchased during the National Reining Horse Association Futurity in early December.
“This is my first time at Cactus Classic, and I was honestly hoping to come away without a penalty. That was my major goal, and marking a 72.5 was way more than a zero!" Kris said. "The Cactus Classic was big and full of quality horses, but it wasn’t intimidating. While the quality and excitement were there for someone who is a real rookie, Mike Boyle and Martin Padilla made it possible for me to feel comfortable at the same time, and that was really special.”
In what little exists of Kris’ spare time, she is the chairperson of Giant Steps Equestrian Therapeutic Center in Petaluma, California.
“Giant Steps has changed my life as I was coming into horses late and on a competitive side, but being able to see what they can do from a therapeutic angle for so many disabilities, from physical to mental, from Autism to PTSD to cerebral palsy (has been life-changing," she said.
"Having the opportunity to work with Giant Steps has really transformed the way I look at the animals and (reminds me to) never under value them.”
Sharee Schwartzenberger of Longmont, Colorado: Salamander Resort & Spa Novice Horse Level 2 Non-Pro Challenge and Level 2 Non-Pro high-point division champion on Game Day Surprize (Hang Ten Surprize-Dunnit N Continental by Hollywood Dun It, bred by John M. Deer of Glenwood Springs, Colorado)
Six-year-old Game Day Surprize and Sharee have been together since last year when she bought him as a derby horse from a client of her father, Steve.
“When the owner talked about selling him, my dad said he thought he’d be a good non-pro horse, so I decided to invest in him as my ‘going-to-the-big-shows’ horse," Sharee said. "I showed him all last year and did well, including winning the Novice Horse Level 2 affiliate championship and the non-pro out in Oklahoma. After the Cactus Reining Classic, my big show with him this year will be the National Reining Breeders Classic."
What brings the Schwartzenberger family all the way from Colorado to Arizona?
“We come every year," Sharee explained. "It’s a great show, awesome weather, and if you have a solid run, you’ll be in the money. I won my check back on both horses.”
Sharee manages her schedule to allow it her to help run her parents' business, Schwartzenberger Equine, business in Longmont, Colorado, in addition to working part time for Greeley Hat Works and showing. Now she’ll have to make time for her four-night stay, daily breakfasts and spa treatments for two at the exclusive Salamander Spa & Resort in Middleburg, Virginia. So who will be Sharee’s plus one for the Salamander Resort & Spa experience? Her sister, who she surprised with the news by phone immediately after the win picture.
“She’s been really busy and deserves some time off. We’re both really excited.”
Cam Essick of Clements, California: $42,500-added Protect the Harvest Non-Pro Derby Level 3 and Prime Time champion, as well as tying for Level 4 reserve champion on Who Loves You (Walla Walla Whiz-Love Em N Lena by Smart Little Lena, bred by Camela R. Essick)
Five-year-old Who Loves You is a gelding that Cam bred, raised and has shown for almost a year under the guidance of Arno Honstetter at the shows.
“He’s a horse that I keep at home, so my challenge as a non-pro is to make the time while I’m working to manage a show horse and be competitive on a national level in the aged events," Cam said. "That’s a huge challenge for me, as I do not ride with a trainer at home. I like that challenge, but on the other hand, I’m probably the only one that does that. I have bred every horse I show, so I don’t have the liberty to give up on a horse.
"It’s easy for me to come and show my horse because I really believe in my horse, and I have a really good coach behind me. We marked a 220 at Reining By The Bay last year, and we came back to High Roller Reining Classic and had a few challenges, then came back here.
"It’s a fun challenge for me, and I’m appreciative that I can maintain my horse and go to the shows. This is the third time I’ve gotten help from Arno, and we’ve won just under $25,000 at Brumley Management Group shows. To be in good company makes it all the better.”
Cam is currently at the top of the leader board for the Four Seasons 2014 Trifecta Non-Pro Reining Challenge as well.
For complete results, go to www.cactusreiningclassic.com/2014-event-results.
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