By Christy Egan, Horse Show Global

If there was an annual award for Perfect NRHA Show of the Year, the 2016 Cactus Reining Classic would seriously have to be in the running. The five-day event - held March 2 to 6, 2016 at the WestWorld facility in Scottsdale, Arizona - had it all. 

The competition on days one and two of the event was exceptional, with Shane Brown winning the NRHA Open on day one with Double Loaded Gun (73), and Wind Er Up Wimp (73.5) on day two. Paige Barton’s Diamond Oak, with Martin Padilla riding, held on tight to take second place with a 72.5 on day one, and scored a 73 on day 2. He’s Smart With A Gun won the Intermediate for owner Michael Berg on days one and two. 

Day one also saw the Non Pro, the Prime Time Non Pro, and the Non Pro Masters go to rider/owner Mark Blake and Plum Gotta Gun with a 72.5, which earned them some bragging rights and over $400 in prize money. Jennifer Greenleaf and her Dun Git A Nicadual won the Limited Non-Pro and the Intermediate Non Pro on day two.

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Mark Blake and Plum Gotta Gun. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

Cactus Reining Classic, Horse Show Global, westworld reining, arizona reining, NRHA Show of the Year, Shane Brown NRHA Open, Martin Padilla, He’s Smart With A Gun, Mark Blake Plum Gotta Gun, Jennifer Greenleaf

Jennifer Greenleaf and Dun Git A Nicadual. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

Sandy Vickrey and What A Lucky Hit gave one of the best rides of day two, and perhaps of the entire show, winning the Prime Time Non Pro High Point Circuit, scoring 71.5. But the truly impressive part was the fact that this marked Sandy’s first competition since her freak horse accident more than a year earlier, which left her struggling for life in a hospital with multiple crushed and broken ribs. Everyone can appreciate a victory like this; this is one buckle she earned the hard way! 

On day three, everyone was present for the $40,000 Added Protect The Harvest Non Pro Derby. Harper Conner turned in the best runs of the day, first posting a 221.50 on Jacs Princess, and then a 220 on Vintage GQ. Harper was also in the money (11th) with Revolutionary Jewels to take home a total of over $9,700. Julie Ridgeway showed her beautiful Palomino mare, Designed With Shine, to third, winning the PT Non Pro Aged Event. 

The best of the best lined up for the big money competitions on day four, starting with the $10,000 Added SmartPak Non Pro Maturity. Jessica Sternberg and Shiners Chic took home the Level 4 money, but the big winners were Kate Buchanan and Vintage Neptune, who won the Level 1, 2, and 3 divisions and went home with over $2,300 in cash plus great buckles and prizes. Youth competition ran outside both days four and five. Luca Fappani scored the highest mark among the young set, marking a 72.5 aboard his mom’s talented reiner Premier Diamond in the Youth 13 & Under.  

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Julie Ridgeway and Designed With Shine. Photo: Egan©16

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Jessica Sternberg and Shiners Chic. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

Cactus Reining Classic, Horse Show Global, westworld reining, arizona reining, NRHA Show of the Year, Shane Brown NRHA Open, Martin Padilla, He’s Smart With A Gun, Mark Blake Plum Gotta Gun, Jennifer Greenleaf

Harper Connor and Jacs Princess. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

The $70,000 Lucas Oil Open Derby was the big meet of day four. Within the first 15 minutes, Casey Deary posted a 220 on Lenas Sparkplug, and the bar was set. Jordan Larson posted a 222.5 on Ruff Lil Magnum, which stood until Tracer Gilson and Shiners Gotta Whiz hit a 223.5 mark. But Jordan Larson came back with a resounding 226 on a shiny copper penny of a Palomino horse named ARC Gunnabeabigstar. Meanwhile, Matt Mills (Wimps Cool Breeze) and Dan Huss (Ms Dreamy) were caught in a Level 3 tie throughout the day. As the hours passed, the discussion regarding a possible ride-off intensified. Finally, Matt brought in Gotta Trigger Man, and scored a solid 223.5, breaking his own tie. He and Dan took their tie to second place and settled it with a coin. The Level 2 Limit and Level I Open Aged Event were won by Nicolas Barthelemy and All That Boon. Platinum Vintage and Andrea Fappani appeared at the in-gate about five runs from the Derby’s end. Earlier in the day, Andrea had posted a 218 on Pinesail Jac and a 219.5 on Electric Genes. This was his last chance at the big money, and he and the big Palomino both brought their A game. Winning was going to take a perfect run. Horse and rider were utterly focused and hit the in gate ready. Together they scored a spectacular 230, exactly what was needed to win. 

Cactus Reining Classic, Horse Show Global, westworld reining, arizona reining, NRHA Show of the Year, Shane Brown NRHA Open, Martin Padilla, He’s Smart With A Gun, Mark Blake Plum Gotta Gun, Jennifer Greenleaf

Andrea Fappani and Platinum Vintage. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

On day five, Jenny Ricotta and SS Spyderman won the Rookie Non-Pro Level 2 High Point Circuit. Donita Mullins and Heza One Step Ahead won the Rookie Level 1 as well as the Prime Time Rookie High Point Circuits, making Donna the first recipient of the Bruzzy Cooke Memorial trophy awarded in a special presentation by Bruzzy’s widow, Polly, at the end of the show. It was an especially satisfying moment for the show’s producer, Amanda Brumley. “Bruzzy was such a great example of a true sportsman and competitor,” says Brumley. “He always brought his best effort, his sense of humor, and his ability to inspire everyone around him. I am so pleased to have a trophy at the Cactus Reining Classic that bears his name.”

Cactus Reining Classic, Horse Show Global, westworld reining, arizona reining, NRHA Show of the Year, Shane Brown NRHA Open, Martin Padilla, He’s Smart With A Gun, Mark Blake Plum Gotta Gun, Jennifer Greenleaf

Donita Mullins and Heza One Step Ahead. Photo: Waltenberry Inc. 

For more information, please visit: www.cactusreiningclassic.com

Main photo: Jordan Larson and ARC Gunnabeabigstar. Photo credit: Waltenberry Inc.

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