Reiner February 2011 : Page 68

MILLION DOLL AR RIDER Shawn Flarida is the NRHA’s first and only Four Million Dollar Rider. KELLIE CARR

Million Dollar Rider–Shawn Flarida

Karen Shedlauskas

SHAWN FLARIDA

MILLIONS, MILLIONS, MILLIONS AND MORE MILLIONS.

DURING THE COURSE OF THE LAST DECADE IT was hard to attend a major NRHA event, really any reining event, and not hear the name Shawn Flarida at the top of the class or near the top. In fact, in the last few years, Flarida has made a habit of placing first, second, and sometimes third, in the same class. The key? His methodical work ethic, laser-like focus and modest attitude are usually the items that have been pointed out over the years. But his fourth million has also been a product of the horses that have carried Flarida to this historic milestone.

Flarida reached the first Million Dollar milestone in 2003 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, a nationally known regional event that has a special place in Flarida's heart. He is a born and bred Ohio boy and winning at home is always special. Flarida has won a remarkable nine Congress open reining futurity championships over the years. "I was really excited about hitting that first million," he said. "But the closer I got, the harder it seemed to get over the hump. But once I did, I never looked back. The first time I was always checking my earnings and I think it hurt me. I haven't looked since then!"

The green-shirted reining superstar surpassed the two million dollar mark in 2006 aboard Tinsel Nic at the FEI World Reining Masters event in Denver, Colorado. At that time, Flarida identified a long list of clients, owners, and friends who invested in his career. "Right now I think I've got some of the greatest owners there are," he explained in the March 2009 issue of the NRHA Reiner. "I've always had great owners, but now I'm getting even better horses. The horses are improving, and, as they improve, I improve as a horse trainer."

The move from two million to three million was largely due to one incredible horse. "Wimpys Little Chic is the best horse I ever rode," he said many times. It's hard to argue when she has the statistics to back it up. She was the first NRHA Open Futurity champion sired by an NRHA Open Futurity champion. She became the first horse to win the NRHA Futurity, the NRBC, and the NRHA Derby consecutively and she became the first horse in NRHA history to earn over $400,000. In 2010 she went over the $500,000 mark in earnings, another first. She certainly contributed a huge chunk to Flarida's third million.

Although there were several horses that put money in the bank, two of the most significant contributors in addition to Wimpys Little Chic were RC Fancy Step and Gunnatrashya. RC Fancy Step has been a steady player for the last four years. He was an NRHA Futurity finalist and finished near the top of the standings at the NRBC every year. In 2009, Shawn rode him to the NRHA Open Derby championship and he anchored Team USA to the Gold Medal at the 2010 Alltech® FEI World Equestrian Games. This stallion currently has earnings of $343,802.

At the 2009 NRHA Futurity Flarida was a winner again, this time aboard the fancy Gunnatrashya. This was Shawn's fifth NRHA Open Futurity championship and Gunnatrashya was definitely a trainer and fan favorite. An unfortunate bobble in the first go at the 2010 NRBC kept the blaze-faced stallion out of the finals, but redemption was his as he marked an incredible 235 to win the 2010 NRHA Open Derby.

As the 2010 show season wore on, the NRHA Professional moved closer to the four million dollar mark. By the time he rolled into Oklahoma City for the start of NRHA Futurity, he was within $90,000 of reaching that mark. "I didn't even think about it," he said. "I know Michelle was keeping track, but I put it out of mind. I had three nice Futurity horses and two good open horses, so I figured it would take care of itself." He showed Wimpys Little Chic to a tie for third place in the $100,000 NRHA World Championship Shootout and placed seventh aboard Wimpys Tonnob, which added $19,766 to the total. Flarida led the Futurity composite aboard Shine Chic Shine and was sitting eighth on Quistador going into the finals. However, nothing is written in stone when you have a clean-slate finals.

Flarida worked early in the finals on Shine Chic Shine and things did not go as they had in the first two go-rounds. Not to worry, he still had another bullet in his gun. He moved into second place aboard Quistador, and they eventually finished third. "Once I was done showing, all we could do was wait," he said. Third place put $89,426 in the bank and pushed Flarida over the four million dollar mark, making him NRHA's first and only Four Million Dollar Rider. Let the countdown to five million begin!


Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.sheridan.com/article/Million+Dollar+Rider%E2%80%93Shawn+Flarida/625762/59314/article.html.

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