The Better Barrel Races Oklahoma City Futurity takes over the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds from December 6–11, and we’ve got all the updates and stories from the final event of the 2022 barrel futurity year.
—> Find complete results from the 2022 OKC Futurity here. Scroll down for stories and updates from winners of each round.
Benjamin Beall and Slick Swingin Claim OKC Futurity Championship
DECEMBER 11, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Slick Swingin more than delivered at the last futurity of the season, bringing home an emotional OKC Futurity championship for rider and trainer Benjamin Beall and owner Ashley Harvey to close out the futurity year. The $29,786 win pushed the gelding’s earnings over $200,000.
“When they let me out of the alleyway, I just teared up,” Beall said of ‘Slinger’s’ 15.320-second run in the finals. “He did exactly what I wanted him to do this year. My goal was to get him to at least $100,000, and I set that pretty much in January. I knew he could do it, and at times I didn’t know if we were ever going to get there, but he’s just a nice, solid, consistent horse now. I wouldn’t have spent all that time on him for nothing. I talked to Bo Hill and she always said to start out slow and end strong. You’ll leave with a better horse than when you showed up, and he’s done exactly that.”
The pair’s week didn’t start out as the fairytale ending it turned out to be. Slinger fell at the first barrel in the first go-round, and after getting checked out by the Outlaw Equine veterinary team, he was ready for redemption in the second go. Slinger and Beall turned in a 15.440 to finish third in the round for $1,960 and come back as the third-fastest qualifying time in the finals.
“I sent him in and let him work, and he was a little hesitant behind the first barrel after what happened the first day, but he felt good,” Beall said. “He didn’t feel like he was going that fast, so I wasn’t expecting the 15.4. I actually woke up a little nervous [the day of the finals], and I haven’t been getting nervous lately, but this is our last futurity together, and I knew he had a chance.”
Beall admits the mental game has been a struggle for him to master as a competitor. He focused on keeping Slinger calm and his own mind in control during warm-up before the finals.
“I have gotten in my own way 90% of the time. I tried not to overthink things, and I warmed up outside away from everyone to keep him as calm as can be. He warmed up perfect, in fact a little lazy, but the calmer and lazier he is, the harder he runs,” Beall said. “I focused on quiet hands, bump and release, and now he’s getting to where he’s so solid and easy, I don’t really have to do anything other than bump at the first, give it back to him, and ride the turn. He’s a big horse, so I give him more room around the barrel so he can make that move on the backside.”
When Beall rode Slinger out of the arena and saw the 15.320 on the scoreboard, he knew Slinger stood a big chance to win the futurity.
“I knew there was a big possibility we had won it. I cried,” Beall said. “I sent him in a little harder than the last one, and his turns weren’t as locked on, but he was doing more running today. At the third I safety-d up a little and let him go by it about half a stride, because I knew he’d come around. He was running pretty hard, and he never looks like he is, but you can feel it. Then he walked right out like we did nothing.”
The 5-year-old gelding by EquiStat $4 million sire Slick by Design and out of Pete Oen’s futurity standout Hip Swingin Gypsy by Firewaterontherocks has been right in the mix at some of the biggest futurities all year long. However, it was the $105,000+ Pink Buckle Futurity championship in October that blasted Beall and Slinger onto the map with their first futurity title and propelled Slinger to No. 4 on Slick By Design’s highest-earning offspring list.
“[The OKC win] was more emotional, more mentally exhausting, because it was the last one. I just wanted him to win it, not for me, but for him. I felt like he had a lot to prove this year,” Beall said. “After Pink Buckle, I mellowed out and it was like OK, now we can just have fun, enjoy the ride and enjoy each other’s company.”
Watching Slinger effortlessly put together winning runs makes it hard to imagine the struggles and inconsistency Beall worked through with the gelding early on.
“I just had to be patient, wait on him, not force him to do something he wasn’t ready to do,” he said. “You’ve just got to know your horses. I get myself in trouble being too patient sometimes and getting behind, but at the end of the day you have a better horse. It took just being patient with him, waiting on him to tell me he was ready, not me telling him.”
A Louisiana native who now resides in Weatherford, Texas, Beall has earned more than $220,000 in EquiStat reported earnings. Slinger is Beall’s first futurity horse since moving to Texas several years ago, and he thanks Josh and Ashley Harvey for the opportunity with the special gelding that changed his life.
“Pretty much, it was just me and him all year, and he was the only thing I could turn to that would make everything be all right. He was there for me when I needed him, and he helped me so much financially,” Beall said. “I want to thank the Harveys and Outlaw Equine, Wyatt Paul and Jade Crago; Samantha Hill and Sophie Palmore of Southwestern Farms for letting me keep him at their place and helping take care of him. I also thank Shaun Sandoval of 3S Custom Equine, and Ashley Schafer and Kelly Conrado for helping me with him.”
Of Note: Slinger’s full brother, 2018 gelding Slick Swingin Gypsy, owned and ridden by Ceri Ward, placed 10th for $2,310 in the OKC Rookie Futurity for horses beginning their 2023 futurity year. The pair also won the Rookie Futurity Sale Graduate Incentive for $1,500.
Brian Wheeler and Streakin Moon Flash Top OKC Rookie Futurity
DECEMBER 10, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — It’s been a long wait for Brian Wheeler, but Streakin Moon Flash has been worth it. The 2018 mare owned by Mission Ranch put it together at the OKC Futurity to win the Rookie championship for $10,327, a class that the OKC Futurity opened up this year to both coming 4- and 5-year-olds starting the 2023 futurity year.
“This means a lot to me, because Kim [Matthews of Mission Ranch] sends me a lot of nice colts, and this might be one of her favorite ones — she loves the First Moonflashes of Wenda Johnson’s, and she always loved this mare,” Brian said. “I always felt like she had a lot of talent, and I’m just really glad she went somewhere and done what she was supposed to do. It means a lot when one that you think can win went and won somewhere.”
Brian and the mare by First Moonflash and out of Guys Streakin Angel by Frenchmans Guy posted a 15.757 in the first round to place 11th for $1,575. The Summit, Mississippi, trainer knew the mare had more to give, and she stepped up in the second round with a 15.433 to finish second for $5,697 and win the OKC Rookie Futurity average in 31.190.
“The first day we drew No. 77, and I like being in the 70s or in the first 100, because there’s not a whole lot of pressure. Nobody’s went that fast yet, and it seems easier sometimes,” Brian said. “The first day she made a nice, smooth, easy run. I thought to myself that I think she could run a 15.5 if we had a little better trip the next pass. She came back the next day and was faster than I thought she would be.”
The victory marks Brian’s first major early-season futurity win — he came close three weeks ago with a reserve championship in the Barrel Futurities of America World Championship Juvenile with homebred and -trained SBW Feelinthepressure.
Streakin Moon Flash has been in Brian’s program since he broke her as a 2-year-old. She’s the second First Moonflash he’s ridden, the first being First Flashin Jet, a mare also owned by Mission Ranch that he rode to a little over $10,000 in earnings before she got hurt during the early part of her 5-year-old futurity year in 2019.
He says having that experience helped him going into training Streakin Moon Flash.
“I knew what I was getting myself into being another First Moonflash,” Brian said with a laugh. “I like that they’re fast, and they have their own unique style. You’ve gotta let them do it the way they want to. I broke [Streakin Moon Flash], and I’m probably the only one who’s ever been on her back. She took a while for me to really get her broke like I like one. She was always the kind that took a lot more riding. Once I got her where she figured out what I was asking for, it all came easy to her. Everything else from that day on was simple and easy. I’ve really been excited about her.”
Matthews and Brian made the decision to hold Streakin Moon Flash until she was 5 after she kicked a fence and needed to have a hind splint bone fragment removed. Brian says it was actually beneficial that Streakin Moon Flash was on the greener side of his group of colts for 2023.
“I didn’t get to haul her as much as I wanted to, because I didn’t have room in the trailer because I had four 3-year-olds. She didn’t get to go exhibition and get ready as much as I’d have liked to,” said the EquiStat earner of more than $650,000. “I think that was almost better for her, because she rode a little more green. I could handle her and run her through there, and she let me help her and I could stay out of her way, and it just worked out good.”
Brian thanked Kim Matthews, his mom Stephanie Wheeler for her guidance with training, riding and breeding barrel horses, Dr. Reese Hand, DVM, at ESMS.
OKC Futurity Second Round Winner Jordan Harrell and DLJ Poignant Cartel Enter Futurity Finals with Fastest Qualifying Time
DECEMBER 11, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — It’s OKC Futurity Finals Sunday in Oklahoma City, and Jordan Harrell and DLJ Poignant Cartel enter the top-40 short go as high callback from a 15.292 that won the second go-round for $3,919.
“I drug a barrel in the first go to run a 15.6 and place in the round, so I was super happy about that [time], but it would have been nice to have qualified in that round, so there was some more pressure for the second round,” Harrell said. “I told myself that it didn’t matter and he was a good horse either way. I did feel like he deserved to make it [to the finals], but if he didn’t it was going to be OK. I tried to have fun and make a smooth, clean run, because he’s fast enough that he’s going to clock.”
The 4-year-old gelding by Mr Ease Cartel and out of Poignant by Invisible Injun has been in the 21-year-old barrel horse trainer’s program since winter of his 2-year-old year. Harrell prefers off-the-track prospects, and the race-bred speedster immediately caught her eye when he came up for sale on Facebook through her friend Mikey Callahan.
“He came off the track as a 2-year-old, and it’s kind of weird because he broke his maiden two years ago today on the dot, and he was in my barn nine days later,” Harrell recounted. “We have another Mr Ease Cartel that we raised, and we really like him. I love the off-the-track horses. They have a special place in my heart.”
The gelding hasn’t had the full futurity year Harrell planned for after soundness problems forced her turn him out for a few months. The Hazlehurst, Georgia, trainer now has a chance to capitalize on the gelding’s last-chance futurity of the year in Oklahoma City.
“He got put on the back-burner in February of his 3-year-old year because I was moving to Georgia and just had a lot going on, so he ended up getting turned out for six months. Later in the year I got more serious hauling him more, and he was really easy and didn’t take a lot of effort. He came on pretty strong early in the year, and he was progressing really fast and then he started to fall off a little bit, and I knew something wasn’t quite right,” Harrell said. “Dr. Nate Lea, DVM, with Outlaw Equine and my farrier working together helped him come back around. He made his first run back in October, and it hasn’t been the easiest thing since he hasn’t been hauled much, so we’re throwing it all into this.”
Scamper Cole and Ima Epic Hustler Shatter Scoreboard to Clinch Second-Straight OKC Derby Title
DECEMBER 9, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Scamper Cole and Ima Epic Hustler claimed their second consecutive OKC Derby championship, highlighted by an incredible 15.085 in the Jim Norick Arena to win the second round by two full tenths for $5,228 and seal a winning average of 30.609 for $6,970.
“It is so hard to do that two years in a row. I felt like we had that going against us going, because being back-to-back anything is so tough,” Cole said. “The derby horses are the best of the best — they’ve come through the ranks and people entered them because they believe in them. For him to do that against horses like this field, it’s incredible.”
The pair kicked off derby competition with a 15.524 in the first go on the bottom of the ground to place sixth for $1,477. When Cole and “Hustler” drew up top of the ground in the second round, Cole knew she had to capitalize.
“I took my time in the alleyway. He stopped and looked around, and I knew when I got to that point, he was going to go. I wanted to get a good shot at it being top of the ground,” Cole said.
When the 15.085 flashed on the scoreboard, Cole admits she was overcome with emotion.
“I knew it was going to be fast, but I wasn’t expecting that. That’s the first run I’ve ever come out and had tears in my eyes, because I was so proud of him,” she said. “He’s always consistent and a hard knocker, but he’s usually not one that comes in and puts two-tenths on a thousand horses.”
Cole has trained and ridden the 2016 gelding by Epic Leader and out of Mitzi Bar None by Bar Sans Leo his entire career, and the team has racked up over $131,000 in EquiStat reported earnings together.The gelding got hurt after the 2020 Barrel Futurities of America World Championships, forcing Cole to step off him for 10 months. He came back in full force to win the 2021 OKC Derby and has since won close to $90,000 in 2022 so far.
“He’s the only horse I’ve ever had that I don’t have to picture my run or think about what I’m going to do at each barrel,” Cole said. “I guess because I trained him and he is the essence of how I want a horse to work, when I get on him, I don’t have to think. I literally run him straight at the barrel. The funnest thing about that horse is his honesty. He never disappoints me.”
The Granbury, Texas, trainer shares a special bond with Hustler and says the most rewarding part about winning is cherishing every run she gets on him.
“Before we went in, I leaned over and told him, ‘You are the best horse here. I believe in you; you can do this.’ I tell him that all the time. I know he knows,” Cole said. “I think people can get selfish about winning, because it feels so good to us, so you just want to run and run and run them. But I’ve rode so many horses in my life that I know how special horses like this are. They come around not very often. If you’re lucky, you might get one a lifetime. A horse like him is a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”
Kelsey Treharne Rides Fling A Liing to OKC Rookie Futurity First Round Win
DECEMBER 8, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — As a professional futurity trainer riding more horses in a day than many barrel racers may ride in a lifetime, Kelsey Treharne is a master of separating emotion from training. However, there’s just something about the sweet little bay roan mare Fling A Liing that’s captured her heart. Their partnership was evident with a dominating performance to win the first round of the OKC Rookie Futurity, a class that the event producers recently opened up to both coming 4- and 5-year-old horses beginning the 2023 futurity year.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever loved a horse like I love this one. She makes me tear up talking about her,” the EquiStat $1.4 million rider said. “Everything about her is genuine. She over-tries, she’s super sensitive, she wants to do right. It doesn’t take a lot — if you show her something or if she doesn’t understand, you just slow down and show her, and she wants to do it right away. You never have to force her to do something. You can’t make a horse like this; it’s just her.”
Treharne rode the 2018 mare by A Streak Of Fling and out of proven National Finals Rodeo performer and producer Dash Ta Vanila by Dash Ta Fame to a 15.486 to win the go-round for $7,745 on behalf of owner 70 Ranch Performance Horses. The Collinsville, Texas, trainer says while the run wasn’t necessarily shocking to her knowing the mare’s abilities, it was still a pleasant surprise for it to all come together at the right time.
“I knew she was totally capable of this, but when they finally put it all together, it’s such a good feeling. I was thinking during the run, man, this is going to be fast,” Treharne said. “I’ve never had a horse that drags her butt as much as this horse; she runs in a smooth O-ring snaffle and is super light. Sometimes she’ll get too buried up and then won’t clock as good, because she’s not as fast in the turn, even though it’s super pretty. I’ve been working on showing her that she can drag, but she has got to keep her feet moving, so finally yesterday, she did it, and it felt so good. When I was running her home, I was thinking we’d be fine as long as she didn’t bury up too hard.”
Ever the competitor, Treharne has her game plan set to prepare the mare before the second round. Even so, she’s well aware of the ups and downs of running young horses and is simply thankful for the incredible effort Fling A Liing already gave her.
“I’m just going to try to do the same thing. I was fortunate to be first on the ground for the first round, and when I warm her up for the second round I’m going to focus on just keeping her feet moving forward, because we’ll be bottom of the ground the second round,” Treharne said. “As long as she can keep her feet moving forward, she’ll be fine. They’re babies, so anything can happen, and I’m just super fortunate that she did what she did in the first round. I know it’s all there.”
Caroline Boucher Banks $50,000 OKC Futurity Slot Race Championship
DECEMBER 7, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Caroline Boucher is the 2020 Pink Buckle Futurity champion, a three-time slot race champion in her home country of Quebec, Canada, and she can now add an OKC Futurity Slot Race championship to her impressive list of accolades as a professional futurity trainer.
On board her 2019 gelding KN Lil Bit Of Heaven (JL Dash Ta Heaven x KN Red Hot Scandle x Designer Red), Boucher rode out the Gateway of Champions alleyway inside the Jim Norick Arena on Wednesday night to a blazing 15.479 to win the $50,000 first-place check by two-tenths.
“I could not believe it,” Boucher exclaimed after the winning run. “I knew I had a nice run, but I was not expecting that fast. That was the first time we’ve gone that fast. He always wants to go fast, wanted to do the job, and he wants me to stay away from him, so I was just babysitting him until today. I didn’t know what to expect, but he is a confident horse, so I trusted him and tried to do my best.”
—> Read more: Boucher’s Buckle: Caroline Boucher’s First Big Win
Relying on her horses to do their jobs confidently when the chips are down, with minimal help from her, is a central goal of Boucher’s training program. The lifelong horse trainer says riding horses bred to do the job makes her job even easier.
“I try to leave them alone and just teach them to do their job. When I’m training them, I want to have them working by themselves. I just bring them to a spot, then leave them alone in the turn. So maybe that’s why I love the JL Dash Ta Heavens, because I feel like they like to turn, I just need to keep riding up into my spot,” Boucher said.
The gelding bred by Kimi Nichols isn’t lacking in pedigree, ability nor try. His sire JL Dash Ta Heaven’s $5 million in EquiStat offspring earnings and $208,000 in competition earnings speaks for himself. The gelding’s dam KN Red Hot Scandle was a performer as well and earned about $20,000 under Jolene Montgomery.
KN Lil Bit Of Heaven joined Boucher’s program late in his 2-year-old year when Boucher and her husband Olivier purchased him in partnership with a friend. Boucher and the gelding were a match from the very first day.
“He was born at Kimi Nichols’, and [he was broke] by Ashley Schafer, and then I bought him late 2-year-old year, starting on the pattern. The first day I trained on him, I said to Olivier he is so confident and strong,” Boucher said. “He’s the kind of horse that needs to go outside every day and needs to work every day. I never skip the riding, even it’s just going to the sandpit. He loves to work, he’s very energetic.”
To guide the gelding a year later to a slot race win at a prestigious American futurity is a lifelong accomplishment, Boucher says.
“This is such a nice, classic show that everyone enjoys. I’m very happy about it,” she said. “I’m still feeling all the emotion.”
OKC Futurity Slot Race Results
- Caroline Boucher, KN Lil Bit Of Heaven, 15.479, $50,000
- John Ressler, Nothin But Talent, 15.683, $20,000
- Whitney Godinez, TJR Dare To Go Dark, 15.943, $10,000
- James Barnes, No Apologiez, 15.967, $5,500
Hello Stella is Back, Wins First Round of OKC Derby
DECEMBER 7, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Hello Stella proved she is back in fine form, as the EquiStat All-Time Leading Futurity Horse and earner of over $550,000 carried her owner, breeder, rider and trainer Sharin Hall to win the first go-round of the OKC Derby with a 15.360, worth $5,228.
“We were top of the ground, so I felt like we needed to go for it being top of the ground here, and she did her thing. I feel like she’s back finally,” Hall said. “Her hind feet are pushing, both front feet are pulling, and that’s why that mare is so phenomenal — she just pulls and pushes at the same time.”
Life for Hall the last few months has been solely focused on making choices for “Stella’s” best interests as she works to bring the mare back to the competition arena after the 2017 mare by The Goodbye Lane and out of Go Go Fame by Dash Ta Fame sustained an injury in late June.
“We’ve been rehabbing her, slowly coming back, and making decisions based on what’s best for her. I started bringing her back in October, and her first run I literally drove all the way up to Gillette, Wyoming, to the Fizz Bomb and qualified her for the Breeders Challenge. That took a lot of trust to go that far,” the Pilot Point, Texas, barrel racer said. “I don’t have to run her. She wants to run, and who wouldn’t want to run her? But I’m only going to do it when it’s best for her.”
—> Read more: Taking Care of Hello Stella: Therapy and Care
Brade Rutledge Claims First Round of OKC Futurity
DECEMBER 7, 2022 — OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Aboard homebred BLR Sorry Not Sorry, dental hygienist Brade Rutledge took care of business in the first go-round of the OKC Futurity. The pair clocked a fast 15.546 to outgun 261 futurity competitors and earn the win for $3,919.
“I was just trying to make a solid run and stay out of his way,” Brade said. “I’ve been really focusing on letting him just do his thing and riding him up into the turns. I knew he was making a run, but he’s very deceiving.”
The 2017 black gelding is by Slick By Design and out of Mucho Firewater by Fire Water Flit. “Zorro” is a homebred product for Brade and her mother Deanna Rutledge’s breeding program.
“I ran his dam “Nikki,” whom my mom trained, at the youth, junior high and high school rodeos where we had a lot of success. Nikki was tough and gritty, with the biggest heart and try,” the 27-year-old Aubrey, Texas, resident said. “Zorro is a pleaser and has always wanted to do his job right. He has a huge personality and can be very naughty!”
The Rutledges’ neighbor Roger Daly broke Zorro late in his 2-year-old year before Deanna took the reins for barrel training. Both Deanna and Brade rely heavily on the knowledge of renowned barrel trainers Martha (formerly Wright) Tompkins Jordan and the late Ed Wright, to whom Brade credits much of her family’s program’s success.
“My mom Deanna trained him and has trained all the horses I’ve been on excluding a select few. Mom loves the babies. She gets them going, and then I’ll usually step on when they are ready to go on,” Brade said. “We rode with Ed and Martha Wright for many years, my whole life actually. My mom had clinics at the house for 20-plus years. I know a lot of our foundation and training comes from our knowledge from Ed and Martha. We still pick Martha’s brain all the time, and we are thankful for that.”
Brade ran Zorro for the first part of his futurity year and did well, placing almost everywhere she entered, but with the responsibilities of a full-time job, she knew the talented gelding deserved to go to more than what she could commit.
She chose the talented hands of futurity trainer Ryann Pedone to jockey him, and he placed at every futurity in which Pedone ran him except one. Zorro and Pedone finished seventh in the average and banked $26,520 total at the Royal Crown in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and then finished reserve at the Ruby Buckle Futurity in August for total event earnings of over $31,000.
Currently, Zorro’s EquiStat reported earnings stand at more than $80,500 between Brade and Pedone.
“Since he was running so well, we decided he needed to go to those bigger futurities over the summer, and I couldn’t take off that much work, so we wanted Ryann to take him. We felt he deserved the opportunity,” Brade said. “It was so fun to watch.”
Brade is also running Zorro’s full sister, BLR Black Pearl. The two are the same age and only a month apart, and “Pearl” also competed in OKC this week, clocking a 15.958 with Brade in the first go of the OKC Futurity.
“I’m here this week to have fun on both my horses. It’s been really fun running two full siblings, the same age. Never in a million years did we imagine we would have this kind of year,” Brade said. “We all hope, pray, and dream that our homegrown babies would do so well, and to have had the year we have had is a true blessing. Both Zorro and Pearl are truly exceptional.”