November 11, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — The Barrel Futurities of America World Championship kicked off in Guthrie, Oklahoma, at the Lazy E Arena from November 11–18, 2023, where next year’s crop of hopefuls make their long-awaited debuts and the superstar futurity and derby horses you’ve watched all year long battle it out for world title honors.

Check back here with Barrel Horse News magazine and follow along on social media @BarrelHorseNews for 2023 BFA World Championship live updates, results, stories, videos from our friends at 3-2-1 Action Video, and more from barrel racing’s capstone futurity.

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Brittany Tonozzi Goes 1-2 in 2023 BFA World Championship Futurity

Brittany Tonozzi taking BFA Award photo
Brittany Tonozzi went 1-2 at the 2023 BFA World Championships on her two homebred 2019 mares by Tres Seis, earning the Futurity World Championship for $38,126 aboard Teton Ridge-owned Tres Chasin Babe PZ, out of Babe On The Chase by Chasin Firewater, and finishing as Reserve Champion for $26,495 on her own Chitichiti Bangbang, out of Kisskiss Bangbang by Dash Ta Fame. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 18, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Brittany Tonozzi just can’t be stopped. Her total domination of both the rodeo world and futurity world in 2023 continued in Guthrie during BFA week, as she rode her two homebred and -trained 2019 Tres Seis mares Tres Chasin Babe PZ and Chitichiti Bangbang to the BFA World Championship Futurity title and Reserve Championship, respectively, just as she did at the Pink Buckle a month prior.

Brittany won the BFA World Championship Derby in 2015 aboard Kisskiss Bangbang — her 2023 futurity reserve champion mare’s dam — and has now finally added the title to her resume that all futurity trainers dream of winning.

“The BFA was one of the bigger events I ever attended when I was young. I was 14 or 15, and my parents brought me up to Oklahoma City, and I ran in the Youth and the Sweepstakes. I had my horse ‘Leroy’ (Lances Ugly Boy) I made the Finals on, and he did really well up there. Ever since going to that event, in my mind the BFA has been one of the standout events because of that,” Brittany said. “Winning the Derby world title [in 2015] and now the Futurity world title is icing on the cake. It’s one of those things I think every futurity trainer’s goal is to win.”

Tres Chasin Babe PZ, bred, raised and trained by Brittany and Garrett Tonozzi and owned by Teton Ridge, took home the title for $38,126. The mare out of Brittany’s NFR mare Babe On The Chase by Chasin Firewater out of Streakin Six Babe by Streakin Six clocked a 15.168 to come into the Finals as the third-fastest qualifiers behind Caroline Boucher’s 15.102 and Craig Brooks’ 15.160. “Rosie” locked it down in the Finals with a 15.099 for the fastest time of the entire BFA Futurity and winning average of 30.267.

“I just let her cruise to the first barrel and let her nail it, then go on from there. Not that I think she would run off, but she can just get rolling so fast, that I’m a little more careful with her,” Brittany said. “Rosie was good from the beginning; she won the first round of the Juvenile last year. I knew we were sitting on something pretty fantastic. I don’t ride for outside owners much, so Teton has been amazing. They’ve done whatever Rosie needs whenever she needs it. It’s been fun to have that partnership with them.”

Chitichiti Bangbang, owned, bred, raised and trained in the Tonozzi program and out of Brittany’s standard pattern U.S. record-holder Kisskiss Bangbang by Dash Ta Fame, finished as BFA Futurity Reserve World Champion, worth $26,495. “Maybelline” carried a 15.316 qualifying time into the Finals and ran a 15.121 as the second-to-last horse to run in the final round, clinching an average of 30.437.

“I almost didn’t send her hard enough to the first barrel. I can let her roll, so [Rosie and Maybelline] are a little different in that scenario, so I have to remind myself which one I’m on,” she explained. “Maybelline’s journey this year was a little different, but the end result was really cool with both of them. I started her to the left, she was my slot horse last year, and it just didn’t work out. She did not like going left. A week before Fort Smith [in May], I switched her to the right, and the lightbulb came on. Everybody thought I was crazy, but it wasn’t working, so something had to change.”

Brittany’s winning ways didn’t stop with the two standout mares. She also qualified 4-year-old Babe On The Prowl (Dash Ta Fame x Streakin Six Babe x Streakin Six), a full sister to her late NFR mare Ima Famous Babe (“Katniss”) who will run in 2024 as a 5-year-old futurity horse, to the BFA Futurity Finals with a 15.641 in the mare’s first week of competition. She ran a 15.408 in the Finals to finish 17th in the Futurity for $3,924.

Brittany won the 5-Year-Old Futurity Horse Incentive Side-Pot Average in the 2023 BFA Derby aboard Busby Quarter Horses-owned mare Misty Eyed Over Jet, worth $1,248. The royally bred 2018 mare by Blazin Jetolena and out of Mistys Dash Of Fame by Dash Ta Fame ran two times of 15.432 and 15.443, respectively, to place in both rounds of the Derby and qualify to the Derby Finals as well, where a 15.526 earned the pair 10th in the average for $1,797.

“She was trained by Jolene Montgomery, and she had some setbacks, so Jolene didn’t get to keep her in training for long periods of time. After the Finals last year, Andrea Busby called and asked if I’d take, so of course with the way she’s bred, how could you not?” Brittany said. “We entered her in the Ruby Buckle, since we might as well run her, she’s 5. She’s surprised all of us; she’s done well and made some spectacular runs here and there. We were super pleased she went out winning that.”

She also rode 3-year-old Addicted Ta Sucess (Dash Ta Fame x Addicted To Guys x Frenchmans Guy), a BFA Sale purchase last year, to the win in the BFA Juvenile Sale Stakes for sale graduates.

The Tonozzis’ legendary producing mare Streakin Six Babe made her mark at the BFA as well.

“Streakin Six Babe had a Derby finalist, a Futurity finalist and also a granddaughter in all the Finals at the BFA,” Brittany said of Blazin Babe Olena (Blazin Jetolena x Streakin Six Babe), who won fifth in the Derby, Babe On The Prowl and Tres Chasin Babe PZ, respectively. “I thought that was really cool. It’s a long time coming. If you think about it, it stems back to 2004 when I bought Streakin Six Babe from Charmayne James, and now Rosie is third-generation Streakin Six Babe. It takes a good producer to make a good program.”

Brittany heads to her 17th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as the No. 1 gunner in the WPRA World Standings in a little over a week and graciously thanked her husband Garrett and daughter Tinlee for their support this year.

“I’d like to thank my family. Garrett and Tinlee have had to be put on the backburner a lot this year, because I’ve been gone so much. Garrett has made everything work at home, and it’s been a true team effort to get everything accomplished this year,” Brittany said.

MJ Segers Fast Lane Clocks 14.9 on BFA Pattern with Brandon Cullins to Win 2023 BFA World Championship Derby

Brandon Cullins BFA award photo
Brandon Cullins rode 6-year-old mare MJ Segers Fast Lane (The Goodbye Lane x SKS Running Faucet x Diamond Faucet) to an incredible 14.946 in the Derby Finals to win the 2023 BFA World Championship Derby, worth $8,515 for owners Grant and Rayel Little (second from left). Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 18, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Everyone who knows what MJ Segers Fast Lane is capable of was waiting for it to happen at the BFA all week, and in the final round of the Derby the speedy black mare delivered, breaking into the sub-15-second range with jockey Brandon Cullins on board to win the 2023 BFA World Championship Derby. The title marked Cullins’ third career BFA Derby title and fifth overall BFA title.

“I remember when I started, the BFA was just the biggest and coolest thing there was, and I still love it. It’s my favorite one. I don’t know what it is, but I grew up reading about the BFA, and I remember I started going to the BFA in 2007, and I didn’t win a check until 2012. But I was there every year,” Cullins said. “It always felt like such a big deal to me, because it’s where all the great trainers and horses were.”

This year’s championship came aboard one of the most electric horses Cullins has had the opportunity to ride in his career. The duo’s 15.098 qualifying time from their first-round win was the second-fastest in the Finals field behind Kelly Bowser and Willsheluvmequik’s 15.076 that won the second round. 

“I hardly work her on the barrels at all; I just exercise her, put her on the Freestyle exerciser at home or long jog around the field. The day of the Finals, I did work her on the barrels once for my own peace of mind. I figured if it went wrong, I’d be mad at myself, so I took around the barrels in the warm-up pen and kept her easy, out and open,” he explained. 

“Seger” laid down a final-round run that had the finals crowd inside the Lazy E Arena going wild. Cullins’ expert jockeying got her across the timer’s line to a 14.946 to seal the winning average of 30.044.

“I’m still not perfect at her first barrel. She runs in so hard, and she’s super honest going to it, but my timing is not perfect, especially her second run when she’s more aggressive. When I took her to it, she buried up and I felt like I was tight, so I let her out of it and it shot me downhill a bit,” he said. “I almost chased her a hair deep at second, so it felt like she was coming over on top of it so I let go of the reins and reached down to move the barrel and push her hips out of the way so she could clear it. She turned it on her own, because I didn’t have the reins. At the third, I got her a hair big of a pocket so when she finished the turn a little tight, she let me pick my inside rein up and step around it.”

When Seger makes runs like that, Cullins said it leaves even him in awe of what she can do.

“She was running the whole time. She lays her ears back, and I just don’t think she cares about anything in the world but running barrels. She’s one of a kind, that’s for sure,” Cullins said.

The win paid $8,515 for owners Grant and Rayel Little. Seger was raised by Mark and Linda Jarvis, owners of her sire The Goodbye Lane, and is out of the family’s proven producer SKS Running Faucet by Diamond Faucet, with more than $300,000 in EquiStat produce earnings. Seger is a full sister to winning mounts Slingshot Lane and MJ Fly Bye Lane, both trained and ridden by Marcie (Jarvis) Wilson. 

Rayel trained the mare and started her futurity year campaign in 2022, and then Wilson ran her some before Cullins took the reins last fall. He’s now ridden the 6-year-old mare to titles such as the Fizz Bomb Classic Derby in September and the Pink Buckle Barrel Race Derby Championship and Ruby Buckle East Derby in October, respectively.

Cullins said everything about Seger’s upbringing has contributed to her success and put her on a different level.

“I think her try, and then she’s had everything done right. She’s made right conformationally, and she’s by The Goodbye Lane, her mother produced, she’s a full sibling to other great horses. The Jarvises obviously know how to raise horses, and Grant and Rayel know how to make great horses. Rayel trained her and did everything right; she’s super broke. Rayel had her running great, and Marcie who’s also a great trainer had her. She’s a great horse that had all the right parts — she is the opposite of a Seabiscuit story,” Cullins said with a laugh. “She’s a great horse, she’s made right, bred right, trained right, and on top of all that, she wants it probably more than we do. Her try sets her aside.”

Great owners also contribute immensely to a horse’s ability to succeed, and Cullins is incredibly grateful to ride for the Littles.

“They were there at Pink Buckle, but there was no win picture, so it was cool to get two win pictures with them — she won the derby year-end in Future Fortunes before the Derby finals, so that was the first win picture, and then she came back and won the Derby. That was pretty fun; they’re great people. Winning is always fun, but it’s even more fun when you win for great people to share it with. They’re phenomenal people,” Cullins said. “Rayel has competed at the highest level and Grant has owned horses at the highest level, so they know what it takes on both sides of it. I have had some horrible runs and some no-times on her in the early stages, even not that long ago. They never question what I’m doing or suggest trying something; they’re just like ‘You know what you’re doing,’ and Grant always says, ‘Don’t forget who you are.’ That makes it easier to win, when somebody is 100% on your side and believes in you more than you believe in yourself.”

Cullins graciously added thanks to his fiancé Emily Efurd, as well as the team who keeps Seger feeling good on the road — Jenn Evans body work, Ashley Truman’s Acuscope by Ashley, and Andrea Enzenauer’s WD Feed Equine Spa.

Scroll down to read more about Cullins and Seger and how he works the mare to keep her making winning runs.

Brian Wheeler Wins First Career BFA Juvenile Championship on Designerleaptoheaven

Brian Wheeler and Designerleaptoheaven awards at BFA
Brian Wheeler rode 2020 mare Designerleaptoheaven (Heavenly Firewater x Designer Ruby x Designer Red) for owners Mission Ranch to a 15.871 in the first round before winning the second go with a 15.425, worth $7,448. The time sealed Wheeler’s first BFA Juvenile World Championship average of 31.296 and a check for $9,950 as well as won the Future Fortunes Juvenile Sires’ Slot, worth $40,000. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 18, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Last year, he was the BFA Juvenile Reserve Champion and won the equivalent OKC Rookie Futurity on two different horses, and he’s been a BFA Derby World Champion as a youth rider in 2010. This year, Brian Wheeler finally clinched the BFA Juvenile World Championship he’s been chasing for most of his career, thanks to 2020 mare Designerleaptoheaven.

“It means the world to me. The Juvenile is something I’ve always wanted to win since I was 12 or 13 years old. It’s the one thing that’s been my goal, and for the last 10-15 years I’ve been working towards it. The Juvenile is what I wanted to get,” said Wheeler of the annual 3-year-old futurity for the following year’s 4-year-old futurity colts. “To me, it’s the only barrel race that’s even. Everybody gets a colt, breaks it, starts it and has the same amount of days to have it ready. That’s what I love about it. It’s a race to have them ready and to be there. It’s the only race that’s even — there’s no horses that have ran or won stuff before. You just have to be ready November 15.”

Wheeler rode Designerleaptoheaven to a 15.842 in the first run of “Penny’s” career in the slot race to finish one hole out of the money. They clocked a consistent 15.871 in the first round of the Juvenile before turning on the jets in the second go to win the round with a 15.425, worth $7,448 — Wheeler’s second consecutive second-round win in the Juvenile after winning the second round last year as well on 2022 Juvenile Reserve Champion SBW Feelinthepressure.

The time sealed the deal for the winning average of 31.296 and a check for $9,950 as well as won the Future Fortunes Juvenile Sires’ Slot, worth a hefty $40,000.

“She’s been almost a little free and takes too many steps around the barrels, and I didn’t really want to try and tighten it up too much beforehand, because I didn’t know how she was going to react when I got there,” Wheeler explained. “After the first two runs, she was free and nice, so I took my reins up one hole, my curb chain up one hole, and I worked her a little tighter in the warm-up pen before I ran. That was all I changed from the first day to the end of it.”

Wheeler is an EquiStat earner of more than $750,000 and has had plenty of success at the early futurities. He says his keys to making sure his colts are ready to go for the start of the futurity year November 15 is keeping things simple and putting on the pressure before it’s time to enter up.

“Before we get there, I put the pressure on them and find out if they’re going to take it or not. I’d rather them mess up in October and me figure out how to fix it and what to do than wait for it blow up on me when the pressure is on. I don’t do anything special; I really just lope up there and go around the barrel. I keep it simple and easy. I ask them to do the same thing every single day in the exact same way so I don’t ever confuse them,” Wheeler explained. “Just start them early enough, ride them, and spend the time. I don’t go as much as a lot of people, and I don’t have as many colts as a lot of people. I spend a good amount of time on individual horses.”

While Brian also ran 2023 futurity horse SBW Feelinthepressure at the BFA, Penny is Brian’s only juvenile colt for 2024 currently competing. Owned by Wheeler’s longtime client Kim Matthews of Mission Ranch and bred by Youree-Ward Barrel Horses, Penny is by JL Dash Ta Heaven son Heavenly Firewater and out of Designer Ruby by Designer Red, who produced Kylie (Ward) Weast’s NFR mare Hell On The Red, by JL Dash Ta Heaven. 

The Mississippi-based horse trainer says earning a title like this is even more memorable because of his relationship with the owners.

“Kim’s a great owner. She was the first person to ever send me an outside colt, and now she’ll send me several every year,” said Brian, who alongside his mother Stephanie Wheeler breed, raise and train many of the horses he runs. “It felt so good to be able to do that for her.”

2023 BFA World Championships Amateur and Youth Rider Winners

November 18, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — The BFA World Championships is one of only a few aged events to offer Youth riders and Amateur riders each their own finals and chance to run against each other for championship honors. Each respective Finals take the top five Youth and Amateur riders, respectively, in the Derby who did not make the top 20 of the Derby Finals, and each Youth and Amateur Futurity Finals take the top five and top 10 outside the Futurity’s top 50 Finals, respectively. Here are this year’s champions.

2023 BFA Amateur Futurity Champion: Darci Winner and LJH Firenfame Rocks (2019 gelding, Firewaterontherocks x Guys Fame N Fortune x Frenchmans Guy)
2023 BFA Youth Futurity Champion: Jada Smith and JT Designed To A Te (2019 mare, Slick By Design x Extreme Rare Te x Rare Jet Extremes)
2023 BFA Amateur Juvenile Champion: Lauren Whitmire on Dry Shine And Glo (2020 gelding, Spark Of Heat x Sugar Dry Glo x Son Of A Dry Glo)
2023 BFA Youth Juvenile Champion: Savannah Toon on DH Wild Honey (2020 mare, Fames Greater Glory x DH Pretty Frost x PC Cline Frost)
2023 BFA Amateur Derby Champion: Hailey Stephens and Sparked A Blaze (2017 gelding, Blazin Jetolena x Flingin Sparks x Smoke N Sparks)
2023 BFA Youth Derby Champion: Gracie Kachuriak and Wantabulleve (2017 gelding, Wanta Be Famous x Bulleva x Bully Bullion)

Caroline Boucher Rides From Famous To Vegas to Fastest BFA Futurity Finals Qualifying Time in Round Two

November 17, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — From Famous To Vegas did what he does best in Round Two of BFA World Championship Futurity, making a statement with the fastest futurity horse time through two rounds of competition. Trainer Caroline Boucher rode the gelding flawlessly to a 15.102 to win the round for $4,497 for owner Lisa Cline.

Caroline Boucher & From Famous To Vegas
Caroline Boucher rode 2019 gelding From Famous To Vegas (French Streaktovegas x Famous Aunt Martha x Dash Ta Fame) to a 15.102 to win the second round of the BFA World Championship Futurity, worth $4,497 for owner Lisa Cline. Photo by Kenneth Springer

“Duke,” a 4-year-old gelding by $2.4 million sire French Streaktovegas and out of Famous Aunt Martha by Dash Ta Fame, has won more than $177,000 this year, including the Old Fort Days Futurity championship with the fastest time a futurity colt has clocked in Fort Smith history. Bred by Carole Lampron of Ontario and formerly owned by French Canadian native Boucher in partnership with her friend Marylene Menard of Quebec, Duke sold to the Cline family in early summertime as a mount for accomplished youth jockey Caleb Cline.

The gelding is finishing out his futurity year in Boucher’s hands and comes into the BFA World Championship Futurity Finals as the high-callback Saturday evening.

Big Shoes Ta Fill Lives Up to His Name for Danyelle Campbell in BFA Juvenile Round One

Danyelle Campbell turns second barrel
Danyelle Campbell topped the first round of the 2023 BFA Juvenile (3-year-old) Futurity with a 15.541, worth $7,448, aboard her special homebred, -raised and -trained 2020 gelding Big Shoes Ta Fill (Dash Ta Fame x Gingham Dungarees x Now I Know). The duo also placed third in the SuperStakes slot race the night before with a 15.505, worth $23,000. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 16, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Big Shoes Ta Fill has a special backstory that spans many lifetimes beyond his ripe age of 3, and he’s already lived up to his name. The gelding showed up in a big way for his breeder, owner and trainer Danyelle Campbell, running a 15.505 to place third for $23,000 in the first competition run of his life in the BFA SuperStakes and backing it up the next day with a 15.541 to win the first go-round of the BFA Juvenile for $7,448.

“I just love him as a horse. He owes me nothing, and I’m just excited to run him,” Campbell said as the kind-eyed, blaze-face sorrel gelding hung his head affectionately over his stall panel at her chest. “I kept telling myself before the slot race, no matter the outcome, I have a nice horse and I’m going to love him no matter what, so now I just need to enjoy the ride.”

The 2020 gelding is by all-time leading sire Dash Ta Fame and out of Gingham Dungarees, a stakes winner and multiple stakes producer by Now I Know SI 108. Campbell previously had success on “Joaquin’s” full brother Famous Dungarees, known as “Glider,” which sent her on a quest to purchase the mare for her own program.

“I bought Glider off the track in 2012. He was plagued with a ton of injuries and only got to go to one futurity, but I always loved him. I always tried to get his mother bought and I couldn’t; she was always priced so high,” she explained. “I had the man’s number who had acquired her. One year, two days after Glider had set the arena record at Lone Star [in Stephenville], I was up at San Angelo [pro rodeo], and he called me and said he’d sell her for $5,000, and I said done deal. I ran at San Angelo, and Glider fell and broke his hip. I still have him, and he’s retired and is the life of the party.”

Campbell was training for FC Ranch at the time, and after one of their mares in foal to Dash Ta Fame lost the baby, they gave Campbell the re-breed as commission for another horse, which ultimately became Joaquin.

“I had his name picked out already, it was supposed to be Looking Ta Score. He was born one morning in June, and that night, my very first horse I went to the National Finals Rodeo on, Howlin At The Moon, died at age 32 in California at my parents’ place,” Campbell recalled. “I remember going out and looking at him and said, ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill.’ So that was his name.”

Gingham Dungarees was blessed with fertility, and Joaquin’s younger siblings coming up now also have big shoes to fill. Kassie Mowry has a 2-year-old full sister to Joaquin, and several other yearlings out of the mare are also in very capable hands — Brandon Cullins has the Epic Leader, Tyler Rivette has the Flingin Roses, Mowry has a The Goodbye Lane, and Campbell has an Aint Seen Nothin Yet, two Furyofthewinds, and a Repeat Offender.

“The whole goal of getting that mare was for a full sibling to Glider, and he’s exceeded expectations already. I had to put her down this spring, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. When Joaquin won the round, I came out and had a good cry with him for his mom. She was a really special mare,” Campbell said. “She was incredible, just to be around her. He’s only the third baby of hers to get to run barrels. Hopefully with all the others coming up and the good hands they’re in, I hope her legacy continues.”

Kelly Bowser and Willsheluvmequik Set New Fastest Time of the Week in Round Two of 2023 BFA Derby

Kelly Bowser turns second barrel
Kelly Bowser rode 2017 mare Willsheluvmequik (Willie B Firewater x Quik Six N The Straw x Quicksstraw) for owner Katie McGrain to an impressive 15.076 to win the second round of the 2023 BFA Derby, worth $2,081. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Elaina McKinney Wins $100,000 BFA SuperStakes

Elaina McKinney runs home at BFA
22-year-old Elaina McKinney earned her first career slot race win, worth a hefty $100,000, in the 2023 BFA SuperStakes, riding her home-trained 2020 gelding TJR Malibu Eddie (Eddie Stinson x Lil Miss Firewater x Fire Water Flit) to a fast 15.481 in the colt’s first competitive run of his life. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 15, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Elaina McKinney’s name was one to be feared during her days as a top youth competitor, and now she’s proven she also deserves a place among the futurity industry’s top competitors as well. The 22-year-old Carbondale, Illinois, native took home $100,000 for the fastest time in the 2023 BFA SuperStakes slot race for 3-year-olds making their first compeittion run, clocking a 15.481 aboard 2020 gelding TJR Malibu Eddie (Eddie Stinson x Lil Miss Firewater x Fire Water Flit).

“I was in tears. I was bawling my eyes out,” said Elaina, an EquiStat earner in excess of $360,000 and 2020 All American Youth 1D Champion. “I’ve never won anything on this kind of level. My old horse, WRS Kool Memories, I’ve won a bunch on him, but in the futurity side of things, I’ve never won anything near like this on this type of stage. I was in shock. I was hoping to place if I could get a good run. When I came out and saw the time, I was in tears over the whole thing. It was full circle — whenever I got here, everything was going bad, and I was trusting God to turn this around. We were praying, like we are desperate, we need help here really bad. For Him to turn everything around is crazy.”

Upon arriving in Guthrie, Elaina walked out to her stall after their first night at the Lazy E to find “Malibu’s” stall walls covered in blood. The gelding had somehow cut the inside of his mouth and was too tender to even take a bit in his mouth. A visit to Dr. Greg Ford, DVM, helped get him fast-tracked for the slot race with some medication for his mouth as well as a chiropractic adjustment to his shoulders. Elaina also wrapped Malbu’s bit thick with VetWrap to help ease the pressure. 

“I wrapped my bit like crazy. Everything else that could have gone wrong was going wrong. It was like ‘Why are we even here?’ None of my horses were working right, we’d spent all this money to come all the way out here, and we just prayed like crazy. Overnight, his mouth healed up a lot better; God worked miracles. I rode him that morning after the shoulder adjustment, and he was a complete different horse,” said Elaina, who made the trip south to Oklahoma with her mother, Kim McKinney.

Elaina had confidence in her gelding after over a year of hauling and exhibitions on him, but nothing could replicate the environment that awaited her first BFA SuperStakes that night. 

“My stomach was in knots. I’ve never been in a slot race with that much pressure,” she admitted. “I was freaking out on the inside and just so nervous, because that’s a lot of money. I knew I had the horse that would go in and work, because I’ve been hauling him all year and he’s had so many hours. I didn’t know if the run would be there. He’s been clocking competitively compared to other colts in exhibitions, but you don’t ever really know until you ask them.”

The McKinney family purchased Malibu as a weanling from his breeders Twisted J Ranch, who also own sire Eddie Stinson. Elaina put the first rides on him and trained him herself, along with advice from two generations of successful barrel racers — her father Rick McKinney and grandfather Bob McKinney. The family owns McKinney’s Western Store, which has been in business over 30 years. Elaina works part-time at the store in addition to riding, and her grandfather’s barn and arena where she rides is right behind the store. Everything is a family affair for the McKinneys, and Elaina wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That was a big part of this win being so emotional. Me and my dad have been the only people on him. He was handful when we started him, but we worked through it together and my dad helped me a lot. Malibu was always my grandpa’s pick,” Elaina said with a smile. “He’s 86 and still rides; I ride with him every day. He always says ‘Remember who you are.’ He’s not a man of many words, but I called him late at night after the slot race and told him the whole story and was crying, and he always leaves off with ‘Remember who you are.’ My grandpa is the building block of everything. I soak it all in, having him here every day. I want to absorb everything he says. It’s pretty special.”

This Guy Was Flying in Round One of 2023 BFA World Championship Futurity

November 15, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — This Guys Flying lived up to his name in the first round of the 2023 BFA World Championship Futurity, posting a 15.160 to win the round for $4,497 under trainer and rider Craig Brooks for owners Mike and Kellie Sokol, who also own the gelding’s sire Guys Canyon Moon.

“I knew if I could leave the barrels up, he’d be pretty fast. He got a little bogged down at the first, but he is super fast across the pen, and the backside of the second scared me pretty bad. He was tight leaving the second,” the Eastanollee, Georgia, trainer said. “He has a lot of speed, so you hope the wheels don’t fall off. When they’re running that hard, it’s tough for little bobbles not to become big bobbles. Most of all, when a horse has got that kind of talent, you just really want to showcase his talent and have him be known for the horse that he is. I want to get it accomplished for him and for his owners.”

Craig Brooks turns barrel at BFA
Craig Brooks and 2019 gelding This Guys Flying (Guys Canyon Moon x Regal Flying x Dash Ta Fame) clocked a 15.160 to win the first go-round of the 2023 BFA World Championship Futurity, worth $4,497 for owners Mike and Kellie Sokol. Photo by Kenneth Springer

The round win added to the impressive resume of the 4-year-old gelding out of Regal Flying by Dash Ta Fame. “Tucker” has garnered about $100,000 in earnings so far his futurity year, which includes the Indiana Barrel Futurity championship, a reserve championship the Ardmore Barrel Futurity/Blue Collar Breeders Futurity, and multiple Open 1D wins such as the Aloha Acres Open Finals fastest time over the summer.

—> Read more: Training Tucker — An Inside Look at Craig Brooks’ Program

Brooks has frequently mentioned that Tucker takes after the great Grandiose Guy, an earner of more than $242,000 in EquiStat reported earnings that Brooks trained and jockeyed to multiple aged-event and Open wins as well as several Final Four qualifications at The American Rodeo. While bred differently yet similarly — both geldings are by sons of Frenchmans Guy and out of Dash Ta Fame mares, with Grandiose Guy sired by BHR Frenchies Socks and out of For The Fame by Dash Ta Fame — Brooks says it’s their styles around a barrel that work for the way he rides. 

“They’ve got a little higher headset where I can just shove the rein into their neck around the turn and they’ll stay on the outside of that rein going around the barrel. They always stay pulling forward, and that’s a big deal to try and leave the barrels up,” Brooks explained. 

Grandiose Guy also taught the EquiStat $1.4 million rider an important lesson as a trainer and jockey in riding to win, and he’s still carrying that mindset forward with Tucker, especially this week in Guthrie.

“With Grandiose Guy, I got in a little trouble because he won the year-end with the BFA and I was so worried about keeping barrels up that I feel like I could have won more money on him. I’ve learned from that, and the experience helped me with this one — go fast, and if it falls, it falls,” Brooks quipped.

Brandon Cullins and MJ Segers Fast Lane Set the Pace in First Go of 2023 BFA Derby

Brandon Cullins turns second barrel at BFA
Riding for Grant and Rayel Little, Brandon Cullins and 2017 mare MJ Segers Fast Lane (The Goodbye Lane x SKS Running Faucet x Diamond Faucet) clocked a 15.098 to win the first go of the 2023 BFA Derby for $2,081 and carried over to top the High Rollers Open for $5,829. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 14, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Brandon Cullins and 6-year-old mare MJ Segers Fast Lane (The Goodbye Lane x SKS Running Faucet x Diamond Faucet) rode their recent hot streak into the 2023 BFA World Championships, taking the first round of the Derby in convincing fashion with a 15.098, worth $2,081, plus carrying over to win the High Rollers Open for $5,829.

The pair has won over $120,000 in the last two months and is fresh off Derby average championships at the Fizz Bomb Classic in September and Pink Buckle Barrel Race and Ruby Buckle East in October, respectively.

The mare is owned by Grant and Rayel Little and was trained by Rayel. “Seger” ran as a 5-year-old futurity horse in 2022 with both Rayel and Marcie Wilson, daughter of Mark and Linda Jarvis, who own Seger’s sire The Goodbye Lane.

Seger joined Cullins’ program in the fall of 2022 after the Pink Buckle event.

“I had never met Grant and Rayel before. Brad Lieblong, who I ride some for, had done some horse dealings with them. They moved to Eastland, which is like 45 minutes from us,” said Cullins, a Maryland native who now lives in Dublin, Texas. “Brad wanted to meet them and was here with a couple horses riding, so we went over there one day. We stayed there that evening and just talked a while and hung out. That’s how I got to know them. Grant just asked me to ride her after that. She was trained and had everything there. It was more just figuring out what worked for the two of us; keeping her opened up and moving forward. I do a lot of long jogging, keeping her reaching with her front foot, keeping her ribs open and reaching out is all I do with her now.”

Cullins continues that the biggest key to getting with the mare to make consistent winning runs was learning how to ride her in a way that works for each of their styles together, along with mellowing out Seger’s intense nature on the pattern.

“I hardly ever work the barrels on her. It’s more riding her out in the field,” the EquiStat $1.6 million rider said. “She’s pretty honest with how she rides and how she runs. You know what she’s going to do loping circles. She knows the barrel pattern, it’s more just keeping her up and moving around and just keeping her relaxed at her spots and not letting her get too aggressive. I don’t work her too much, because I don’t want to drill on her and make her anxious at those spots. I mostly just ride around the field and the arena. If I do work her, I just keep her out and open and relaxed around the barrels.”

Cheryl Kennedy and Papagaio Show Out on Second Day of BFA Open Race

Cheryl Kennedy turns barrel on Papagaio
With a 15.133, Cheryl Kennedy rode 8-year-old Papagaio (Tres Seis x Miss Lucky Lucky x Dash Ta Fame) to win the second day of Open 4D competition for $1,722 at the 2023 BFA World Championships. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 12, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — With a blazing 15.133 on the BFA pattern inside the Lazy E Arena, Cheryl Kennedy smoked a run on Papagaio (Tres Seis x Miss Lucky Lucky x Dash Ta Fame) to win the second day of Open 4D competition for $1,722 at the 38th Annual BFA World Championships.

Bred and raised by Cheryl and her husband Bill Kennedy of Smoke Creek Quarter Horses, 8-year-old Papagaio was trained and ridden to futurity success by Cody Bauserman and then Andre Coelho. He placed in both the SuperStakes slot race and Juvenile with Bauserman as a 3-year-old at the 2018 BFA in Oklahoma City. The duo also won both slot races as well as both average championships at the two BRN4D Arizona futurities, the MVP and Greg Olson, in January 2019. He went on with Coelho over the summer to place at futurities such as the Glen Wood Memorial and Colorado Classic as well as finish the year full circle, placing in the 2019 BFA World Championship Futurity average.

Papagaio is back in action and boasts a total of more than $155,000 in EquiStat reported earnings, with Cheryl now at the reins adding to that total.

In Junior competition, Merrick Moyer rode 2015 ApHC gelding Hiccup (MP Jet To The Sun x Miss Patricia N (AP) x Brisco County Jr) to a 15.409 to win the Junior race Sunday for $963 and finish third in the Open for $1,220.

Merrick Moyer rode 2015 ApHC gelding Hiccup (MP Jet To The Sun x Miss Patricia N (AP) x Brisco County Jr) to a 15.409 to win the Junior race Sunday at the 2023 BFA for $963 and finish third in the Open for $1,220. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Ceeli Pinkston Dominates First Day of Youth, Open Competition

Photo and update by Kenneth Springer

Ceeli Pinkston turns second barrel
Ceeli Pinkston clocked a flawless 15.286 aboard 2018 stallion Hes So Epic (Epic Leader x Maddie Ross x Dash Ta Fame) to kick off the BFA World Championships in the Junior Race sponsored by XN Ranch, worth $1,019. Her time rolled to win the Saturday Open 4D for $1,571 for a total $2,590 payday. Photo by Kenneth Springer

November 11, 2023 — GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — Ceeli Pinkston kicked off the 38th annual Barrel Futurities of America World Championships at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with a double win Saturday afternoon. Clocking a flawless 15.286 aboard 2018 stallion Hes So Epic (Epic Leader x Maddie Ross x Dash Ta Fame) in the Junior Race sponsored by XN Ranch, the win paid $1,019. Opting to roll her time over to the Saturday Open 4D proved a wise decision and drew her an even larger first-place check of $1,571 for a total $2,590 payday. 

The standout young stallion began his career in the capable hands of trainer Stefanie Duke before the Pinkston family acquired him during his 2022 futurity year. He’s gone on to win more than $157,000 in EquiStat reported earnings, mostly with young Ceeli at the reins.

Competition at the 2023 BFA World Championships, one of the longest-running barrel racing events in the nation, continues Sunday with more Open and Junior rider action before the Futurity, Derby, Juvenile and SuperStakes slot race action begins and runs through November 18.


Blanche Schaefer is an avid barrel racer and managing editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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