Flarida Flies To Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup Victor

Shawn Flarida and Wimps Chocolate Chip scored 228 points to decisively capture the CRI3* at the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup. The dark palomino Quarter Horse showed superior spins and stops as he flew around the Alltech Arena to capture the title.

“I just had a lot of fun [tonight],” said Flarida, a World Equestrian Games gold medalist. “I’ve had that horse since he was 3. He runs down and stops. I have a lot of enjoyment with that horse.”

Tom McCutcheon and Chic Olena Starbuck slid into second place (224), and Craig Schmersal and Whizs Katrina spun into a close third (223.5).

“She’s been a really great mare for me,” said McCutcheon of the chestnut Quarter Horse he started as a youngster. Her owner had been showing her for several years, but McCutcheon recently started competing her again.

“She’s just really consistent every time I show her,” McCutcheon said. “It’s hard to find a horse that age that can be that consistent.”

Schmersal’s diminutive palomino mare showed tremendous turn of foot in her run-downs and her large fast circles, and she put a smile on her rider’s face at the end of their pattern.

“She’s just a fun mare,” said Schmersal. “She’s been very consistent, and I’m happy to have her in my barn.”

The top-placed riders in the CRI3* shared in $50,000 in prize money, and the team competition garnered an additional $50,000 in prize money.

Team SmartPak (Tom McCutcheon/Chic Olena Starbuck, Mandy McCutcheon/Don Julio Whiz, Pete Kyle/A Ruf Gal) were the clear winners with a final score of 664.0, but the scores were tight to the last ride for the other five teams. Finishing second was Team Ariat Boots (Shawn Flarida/Wimps Chocolate Chip, Shane Brown/Houston Shine, and Sam Smith/Dun Its Chico) with 661.5, just half a point ahead of Team Purina (Craig Schmersal/Whizs Katrina, Shane Brown/Shepherd Star, and Jarvis Anderson/Pretty Peppy Chec).

“The [team competition] adds some pressure—I don’t want to let these guys down,” said Mandy.

“And I certainly don’t want to let my wife down. It’s plenty of pressure,” joked Tom.

Said Kyle, “We really enjoy this event. I don’t think it’s as much pressure [as some other competitions we do], but we want to come here and represent our sport because we’re in front of so many new people.”

The reining competition concludes tomorrow night with the freestyle, which will feature several “celebrities” trying their hands at reining, including event riders David and Karen O’Connor and Gina Miles, and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron. The freestyle, which features custom choreography and music, as well as costumes on horse and rider, is always a crowd-pleaser.

Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup tickets are just $25 per person for Saturday’s World Championship Freestyle with the celebrity field. Tickets may be ordered on line or by phone and will be held at the Will Call window for pick-up at the event. Hospitality options, including the use of luxury suites in the Alltech Arena for both nights of competition, are also available.