Reiner July 2011 : Page 58

MILLION DOLL AR SIRE Conquistador Whiz conquered the show pen and breeding shed, as well as the hearts of his riders and owners. JOHN BRASSEAUX

Conquistador Whiz

Kellie Carr

The bay stallion follows the family tradition and becomes the first third-generation NRHA Million Dollar Sire.


IT'S THE STORY THAT ALMOST NEVER WAS. CONQUISTADOR Whiz, who is now the first, third-generation NRHA Million Dollar Sire, almost never had a chance to be a sire at all. That's because as a three-year-old, the talented young stallion was a handful for his trainer, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Duane Latimer. Owned by Bob Loomis Quarter Horses, NRHA Hall of Famer Bob Loomis offered to geld the rebellious young stallion, but Latimer wasn't so sure it would be the right thing to do. Thank goodness for the world of Reining that Latimer decided to tough it out with a stallion–now that he's a sire, Conquistador Whiz is the NRHA's newest millionaire.

"Bob always said if I thought he needed to be cut, he would do it, and he left the decision up to me," Latimer says. "He was quite a handful as a young horse and not always a lot of fun to ride, but I didn't think it [gelding him] would change what it was. And he went on and was a really cool horse."

Conquistador Whiz lit up the reining pen during his derby years and was nearly unbeatable once he hit his stride. But, as it turns out, his turn in the breeding barn was even more successful than his show career, as he has sired many phenomenally talented horses, including three NRHA Futurity champions–one in the open and two in the Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity. And the many traits that made Conquistador Whiz a winner in the show pen are the same traits that have led his offspring to earn more than a million dollars in NRHA competition.

Hitting His Stride

Conquistador Whiz was bred and raised in Marietta, Oklahoma. The stallion is by Loomis' NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee Topsail Whiz and out of Sugarita Chex by Bueno Chex. Topsail Whiz is a son of Loomis' first Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee Topsail Cody. In January of his three-year-old year Latimer took the reins as his trainer, and the pair was on the path to the 1998 NRHA Futurity.

The road wasn't an easy one. When Latimer first took the reins, Conquistador Whiz was "tough-minded, spooky, and very immature," he says.

"He had all the talent there–all the potential," Latimer says. "But I didn't know if I would ever get it harnessed. The first time I showed him was in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and we ran the entire pattern on the opposite side of the arena from the judges because he wouldn't go near them."

But Latimer was able to get the stallion's talent in check by the NRHA Futurity. The pair had a good run at the NRHA Futurity, but a mistake at the end of the second go-round knocked the pair out of the finals.

"The last pattern was a back-up pattern, and he rolled back more than a quarter and got a zero," Loomis says. "That little bobble at the Futurity was the only one I can really remember him having. He blossomed as a four-year-old. He is living proof that a stallion doesn't have to win the Futurity to go on and make a sire. He is a very nice horse. I believed that in 1998, and I believe that now."

Despite the disappointment at the 1998 NRHA Futurity, Conquistador Whiz caught the eye of George Shifrin, Aspen, Colorado, who liked how the stallion moved and handled himself. Shifrin bought him, but kept him in training at Loomis's ranch with Latimer. It didn't take long for the stallion to start showing off his talent in a big way. Competing as a four-year-old, he led the first go-round of the 1999 NRHA Derby, and finished fifth in the finals. After that, Latimer and Conquistador Whiz were unbeatable. The pair won every go-round and finals they entered in 2000, including the NRBC open, the NRHA Open Derby, and the AQHA World Championship show in junior reining.

Conquistador Whiz's last shows were international in scope. NRHA Professional and Million Dollar Rider Tom McCutcheon rode the horse at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. They were part of the U.S. Gold Medal team and captured the individual Silver Medal as well. The bay stallion finished his show career with $101,523 in NRHA Lifetime Earnings.

After Conquistador Whiz hit his stride in the show pen, Shifrin decided to start a major breeding program with the stallion. While many of his get have been money-earners, KR Lil Conquistador, from the 2002 crop, was the one who put Conquistador Whiz on the map as a sire.

KR Keeps Keepin' On

KR Lil Conquistador burst onto the reining scene in 2005 under the guidance of NRHA Professional Shawn Flarida, now the sport's highest money-earner at over four million dollars. Bred and raised by owner Cheree Kirkbride and her husband Jeff, the horse, out of Smart Little Prize by Smart And Trouble, had a bright future right from the start. The pair won the first event they entered, the OVRHA Snaffle Bit Futurity in Jackson, Ohio, and also won the prestigious All American Quarter Horse Congress Reining Futurity in early October.

The next stop was the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City. Flarida was hunting his third open Futurity title, and was also the 2004 defending champion. The two finished second in the first go-round and won the second go. In the finals, the pair was unstoppable, and KR Lil Conquistador became the 2005 NRHA Open Futurity Champion.

But the pair didn't stop there. KR Lil Conquistador went on to win the 2006 NRHA Derby reserve championship, the 2008 NRBC Intermediate Open (with Robin Schoeller), and many, many more titles along the way, both in the open and non pro divisions. And at age nine, "KR," as he is known around Flarida's barn, is still going strong. Sometimes, the gelding even competes with Flarida in the open division and Jeff Kirkbride in the non pro division at the same show–a rarity in Reining.

"KR is consistent as heck, and his longevity is unbelievable. He's like a little energizer bunny that keeps on going and going," Flarida says. "KR is just my buddy. He can be like a little kid at times, but he is a tremendous horse."

At press time, KR Lil Conquistador has earned $421,195 in the reining pen, making him the highest money-earning offspring of Conquistador Whiz, earning nearly half of the money it took to put the stallion over the Million Dollar mark, and the second highest money-earning horse in the NRHA.

"I think his athletic ability and his longevity are his best traits," Jeff says of KR Lil Conquistador. "He's got a great work ethic, and he might even be better than he was a couple years ago. I don't think he's peaked in the non pro yet–I have trouble staying out of his way and letting him do his job. But we're gonna keep trying!"

The second-highest money-earning offspring for Conquistador Whiz is another horse in Flarida's fleet–Quistador, a four-year-old out of Miss N Becky by Okie Paul Quixote, owned by Gus and Gaynia Revenberg. The pair has won $128,049 in just five shows, and Flarida is pleased to see several of the Conquistador Whiz's winning traits passing on to many of his offspring.

"All of them can really stop," Flarida remarks. "Conquistador Whiz was a tremendous stopper himself, and about all of his babies that I've ridden are big stoppers. I really like them. They aren't always easy to train, but they are tremendous horses, and they are good ones."

Bred for Excellence

When Shifrin started breeding Conquistador Whiz, he wanted to be sure to breed quality mares that would help pass on the stallion's best traits.

"We were very conscious of getting mares with pretty heads because Conquistador has a bit of a Roman nose. I didn't really care what he looked like–he was winning. But we were conscious of the marketplace, and careful of the mares we picked. And almost all of the babies we bred have pretty heads."

But pretty wasn't all his offspring had to offer. Most of them inherited their sire's tremendous ability to stop–a hallmark of every successful reining horse today.

"They all are monster stoppers, every one of them," says NRHA Professional Luke Gagnon, who worked for Shifrin and trained many of the Conquistador Whiz offspring that were raised on Shifrin's Cache Ranch in Colorado. "We worked really hard to get some nice mares bred to him, and it's paying off pretty good right now. He is a pretty special horse for sure."

Trainers and showmen alike have all praised the ability of Conquistador Whiz offspring to stop big, and overall, their physicality keeps them in the show pen, winning big and small events all over the country.

"His biggest thing is that he was a really big stopper," Tish Fappani said of her 2010 Cinch NRHA Futurity Level 4 Non Pro Division Champion Litn Up Conquistador. "That was one of the biggest things Andrea liked about him. He came to his peak at the show. He went in there and showed for me, and it all came together that night."

From a training perspective, the Conquistador Whiz get have a reputation for being "tough," but like their sire, that, according to NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider and NRHA Professional Andrea Fappani, is what makes them great show horses.

"They are extremely talented horses. Litn Up Conquistador was a little more challenging to train. You have to work a little more, but I'd rather ride a horse like that because I know I have a lot of horse, and I'm not going to run out when it matters," Fappani explains. "Horses like that, they take the pressure. Those are the type of horses you need because you aren't going to run out of steam in the middle of a run. They don't say 'No.' Most of the best show horses I've had have been tougher horses to train, but I'd rather ride one like that."

Conquistador Whiz is currently owned by Michael and Michelle Miola's Silver Spurs Equine, Cave Creek, Arizona. Miola summed it up like this:

"They are extremely intelligent and extremely athletic. And because they are that, you have to be a good trainer to train a Conquistador. You have to make it interesting for the horse. Shawn [Flarida], Andrea [Fappani], Duane [Latimer], Craig [Schmersal], they know how to do that because they understand what makes these horses tick. They show the horse what they want it to do, and then they let the horse figure out how he or she wants to do it. They keep it interesting for the horse. And as long as they keep it interesting, that horse is going to perform unlike any other horse in the world. It's a different mindset, and you have to train them differently. But when you do it, then you get a Quistador, a KR Lil Conquistador, or another winner like that."

Another common trait Fappani and Flarida, along with many others have found is that the Conquistador Whiz offspring are sound and have long show careers because of it.

"One thing I've noticed is that they are really sound and really correct," Fappani says. "Conquistador Whiz was a sound horse when he was showing, and he's thrown it to the babies, which is great. Having correct legs is also a very important thing these days, and he definitely gives them correct legs, too. Sometimes people start breeding just for looks, but they don't think about correctness–that's very important, especially with the level of competition out there today."

The Next Chapter

At the NRHA Futurity in 2008, Michael and Michelle Miola's Silver Spurs Equine bought Conquistador Whiz from Shifrin and added him to their roster of exceptional stallions.

"He is by Topsail Whiz on the top and Bueno Chex on the bottom. That's what we were looking for, especially to cross on our daughters of (Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee) Boomernic," Michael Miola explains. "He's the first-ever third-generation NRHA Million Dollar Sire, and I think he clearly represents the best of the Topsail Whiz line. He is representing his daddy very, very well."

Through his careful and meticulous research, Miola has found that Conquistador Whiz crosses best on mares by Four Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee Smart Chic Olena, Million Dollar Sire Grays Starlight, Six Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee Hollywood Dun It, and Two Million Dollar Sire and Hall of Fame inductee Custom Crome. The Boomernic crosses that Miola is so excited about will hit the show pen in two years.

"It's a great cross for him on the Boomernic mares, and we're really excited to get the Conquistador Whiz colts and fillies out in the show pen," Miola says. "The oldest are only yearlings and they look absolutely magnificent–we can't wait to start training and showing them!"

And while Miola is looking forward to getting his own Conquistador Whiz babies in the show pen, the ones who already are show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

"Do you know what is marvelous about a Conquistador? They are winning every week," Miola says proudly. "There are so many out there that are in the hands of non pros, and they are always out there winning, having fun, and loving them. He became a Million Dollar Sire certainly because of the winnings of horses like KR Lil Conquistador, Quistador, JD Conquista Anna, and Litn Up Conquistador, but there are all these other horses out there winning $4,000, $5,000 every weekend for non pros. And that's really important, too."

And his offspring are even making a name for themselves outside the reining pen. CR Bradley, an AQHA World Champion roper and son on NRHA Hall of Famer Clark Bradley, currently has Conquista Berry in training. Clark showed the horse in the NRHA as a four-year-old, and now CR is preparing her for the AQHA World Show in both heading and heeling.

"She's incredible–absolutely incredible. I've been team roping on her since the beginning of the year, and she's doing fantastic," Bradley says. "She can really turn around, and she stops every time. We've shown her twice, and she placed at both of those shows. We're going to try to win the [AQHA] World on her. I think she'll have a good chance–she's very talented."

With all the newly bred young horses coming up, and the older ones with no plans to slow down, it's a safe bet that Conquistador Whiz won't stop at the Million Dollar Sire milestone. And, no matter how successful he is as a sire, Conquistador Whiz will always hold a special place in the hearts of both his current and former owners.

"From day one, he made money for me. I love him–he's a great horse," Shifrin says. "I go visit him at Silver Spurs, and he knows my voice, and he comes to me right away. And he's not that old, so he's going to have some really good crops to come. I believe in him. We're riding them, and I think we're going to be seeing even more great open horses out there by him, as well as non pro horses.

Michael and Michelle Miola couldn't agree more.

"We're really proud of him. We love him to death, and he has become such an integral part of the Silver Spurs family," Michael says. "I can't imagine driving through the gates of Silver Spurs Equine without him there. He is a child at heart. He loves to play. He is truly my buddy, he really is."


Kellie Carr grew up roping, riding, and rodeoing on her family's ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills. She is the owner of Plus-One Productions, specializing in freelance writing, photography, web design, and marketing for equine professionals.

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