Spooks Gotta Whiz


Faith, Conviction, and Courage:
An NRHA Futurity Champion’s Story.


The story of Spooks Gotta Whiz aka “Baby Spooks” begins in September, 2009, when his owner, Michell Anne Kimball met his then owner, Duane Hicks (the owner of his Sire, Spooks Gotta Gun), at the High Roller Reining Classic show in Las Vegas.  In expressing her desires to find some NRHA Open Futurity prospects, Duane Hicks told her about some Spooks Gotta Gun two year olds that he had in training with John Slack.  Duane absolutely believed that these young horses had a serious chance to win the Futurity.  The icing on the cake for Michell was that both of Duane’s horses were bay and she had been looking for a bay reiner for over eight years! For Michell, finding a Bay horse had become somewhat of a joke and at one point her husband told her “wish for a unicorn and you might get a Bay horse.” Over dinner, Duane and Michell discussed the colts in greater detail after which she decided to fly out to The Hicks Ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma, the very next day. 

“I knew the minute I sat on him that he was special, that he had extraordinary talent and that he had been properly started,” Michell said.  Upon return to Las Vegas, Duane and Michell finalized the deal, Michell drafted a contract, wired the funds, and down the road went “Baby Spooks,” moving to Southern California.

Michell’s personal Futurity story starts a year earlier in November, 2009.  Approximately one month before it was time to go the Futurity, Michell was unexpectedly told by her then trainer, that her current year Futurity horse, a three year old stallion named First Class Custom, was not enough horse for the trainer to show. So, having only ridden the horse nine times, Michell decided to show him herself realizing that this was a huge undertaking given the fact that this would be her first time going to the big Futurity. Ironically, Michell had also just purchased another three year old Buckskin paint stallion, Wimpy Little Romeo which she also decided to show because he too was paid into the Futurity! “They are paid in so I’m going to go for it!” Michell later told friends. After both of her rounds on these two young stallions, Michell exclaimed, “The experience was terrifying I will admit since I am a beginning reining rider; but going in the pen and not giving up is both character building and was well-worth every nerve-wracking minute!”

From December, 2009 through the Summer of 2010, “Baby Spooks” training continued to progress and he was coming along nicely. In July, 2010, “Baby Spooks” went to his first three year old show – it was the Futurity held in Woodside, California known as Reining-By-The-Bay.  “Baby Spooks” was entered in the futurity at this show and Michell was very excited to see him show for the first time.  However, due to unforeseen circumstances, it became impossible for Michell to attend.  Anxiously waiting to hear sporadic reports of what was going on from the show (which was maddening), “Baby Spooks” ended up placing third with a beautiful round and huge crowd cheering him on.

At that show, a loyal following started for “Baby Spooks” and he was becoming well-known within the upper echelon of trainers to be a legitimate contender for the Futurity top ten.  The conversations generally concurred that he would likely finish in the ten, possibly top five, and had a shot to win.  Michell was elated about the buzz surrounding “Baby Spooks” since he was the most talented, athletic, and personable horse that she had ever owned!  “In a sea of Paints, Palominos and Red horses, a beautiful Bay always catches your eye,” says Michell.

The next major event was the High Roller Reining Classic held in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The very same show where Michell and Duane had met the year ealier and where the story of "Baby Spooks" began. This show is held in the bottom of the Southpoint Hotel and is well-known to be a very fun show for the exhibitors, spectators, and sponsors alike.  “Baby Spooks’ trainer cruised him to a strong lead with a 221.5 and there were only 15 horses left to go.  “Baby Spooks’” score held for 12 more rides until Brett Stone, rider 50 out of 53, came in riding Smokin Whiz and laid down a gorgeous run to win the Championship in all three divisions with a nice lead of 223.5.  “Baby Spooks” ended up in 2nd place with a Reserve Championship win.  Michell felt elated and she focused on the fact that “Baby Spooks” was 3rd at his first show and 2nd at his second show with the Futurity as the next event.  Although, in hindsight, Michell admits the anticipation was definitely building for the upcoming Futurity which was now less than two months away.

In early November,2010, a crisis occurred.  “Whizkers” another Futurity horse owned by Michell, was seriously injured and required urgent veterinary care.  Michell was devastated beyond her wildest imagination that Whizkers might not make the Futurity.  Extraordinary veterinary measures were taken multiple times until the night before he was to show. Sadly, “Whizkers” would ultimately not be able to show at the Futurity.  The circumstances surrounding “Whiskers” injuries compelled Michell to move “Baby Spooks” to a new location without further delay.  Michell was beside herself realizing that she now had to make extremely important decisions for both her and “Baby Spooks” immediate future.  At one desperate point, Michell thought long and hard about not sending “Baby Spooks” to the Futurity at all.

Upon contacting Jordan Larson early in the morning (California time), Michell learned that one of Jordan’s horses might not make the Futurity and that he would call her back later that day after he knew more and let her know if he had an opening.   The return call took all day and Michell waited on pins and needles to discuss all of the available options with Jordan.  Jordan and Michell decided that “Baby Spooks” deserved a chance to go prove himself and Jordan felt confident that he and “Baby Spooks” could do the job.  They agreed that it would be worth it to go even if Jordan only made the open finals.  They discussed the fact that “Baby Spooks” had all the derby years left and that the Futurity, while important, was not his last show. Moving a horse this close to Futurity is scary at best but Michell believed that it had to be done, she trusted Jordan, and most of all she believed in her horse.

On the long drive to Texas, Michell had jokingly commented to many of her friends that “Baby Spooks” was a “Secretariat” story.  “Baby Spooks” had a huge heart, tons of try, and a great demeanor.  He does not get ruffled or nervous at shows, when travelling, or even when there was a lot of commotion around him. Knowing this about his demeanor and disposition, Michell followed her belief in his ability and her convictions. Along the way and during the two weeks leading up to the finals, Michell would still remark to friends and fans that “this is a ‘Secretariat’ story.”  Many people agreed based on the events that had transpired following the win in Las Vegas.  Offers ensued and numerous big-time trainers had been asking for the horse.  Michell refused to sell him even after analyzing the potential risks involved; anything can happen along the road to Futurity.  The main point was, it did not matter to Michell if “Baby Spooks” ended up a trail horse – she absolutely loved him.

It normally takes a long time for a horse and rider to become “one” so to speak.  However, when Jordan received the horse on November 22nd he patiently rode him and tried to figure out the buttons.  At the end of the ride, after two gorgeous stops, the smile on his face said it all. Without a doubt moving "Baby Spooks" to Jordan was the right decision in Michell’s mind. Two days after arriving at Jordan’s barn, the two headed off to Oklahoma City for the Futurity.  Four days after “Baby Spooks” arrived at Jordan’s barn; he and “Baby Spooks” marked a 221.0 in the first go round.  The score was promising for both the horse and talented showman, Jordan Larson.  Just three days later, and seven days after the pair got together, they marked a 225.0 in the second go round.  They led the composite for most of that day until Mike McEntire, riding Red Strip Spook, edged above their score.  The chatter and buzz surrounding the top contenders was amazing! However, the pressure and tension for all the finalists was building for the final round.  The NRHA's daily report sheets and posting of the top daily run videos on the NRHA website really added to the excitement. 

Then, it finally came time for the draw party held in the early morning the day before the finals. The draw is very important as only 33 horses ended up in the finals.  With faith, strength, and good fortune at hand, “Baby Spooks” drew 29th. The stars were coming into perfect alignment for “Baby Spooks” for several key reasons: his runs had been improving, he was getting rest, eating well, enjoying cold-therapy baths, visiting with fans, and seemingly remaining very calm and relaxed despite the ever-increasing commotion and attention that was now focused in and around him.

   Then came finals night and all the anticipation, tension, nervousness, worry, impatience, energy, and excitement that goes with it! The coliseum filled up with an enormous crowd and there were 28 horses ahead of “Baby Spooks.”  Michell could not stay seated - her friends accross the coliseum said she could be seen getting up and down repeatedly, leaving and coming back to her seat over and over again. Several people remarked “it was more fun to watch Michell on the other side of the arena than to watch some of the runs.”  The anticipation for the Futurity outcome built by a significant magnitude when Mike McEntire riding Red Stripe Spook took the lead with a 226.5 about half-way through the draw...and the two top reining riders, Shawn Flarida and Andrea Fappani both went just before “Baby Spooks.” The crowds incredible energy could be both heard and felt as “Baby Spooks” calmly entered the arena and walked toward center. The whisteling started as soon as he could be seen - the feeling was simply elecric.   As soon as he loped off the cheering of the crowd was deafening making the experience amazing to both listen to and watch.  With each precisely and elegantly completed maneuver the cheering and whisteling escalated - the crowd just kept getting louder and louder with fans yelling “Go Jordan, Go Jordan!”  When the run was over and Jordan was walking out of the arena, the score announcer took his sweet time in order to build excitement – then one could hear “thhhhe scoooooore iiis”... and then Jordan humbly tipped his hat. At that point, Jordan knew that had the new high score and the crowd went crazy when it was announced.  Although everyone started to congratulate Jordan for winning the Futurity, he cautioned his faithful fans, “We don’t count on it ‘til the last horse goes.” In just a few more runs the Championship would be decided . . . 4, 3, 2, 1 - JORDAN LARSON and SPOOKS GOTTA WHIZ became the 2010 NRHA OPEN FUTURITY CHAMPIONS with a score of 227.0!!

The finals ceremony had fans of Jordan and “Baby Spooks” in tears of joy. Michell was in shock and still jumping up and down with excitement and boundless energy. Everyone close to the family, friends, and "Baby Spooks" was in a fog.  There were pictures to be taken and interviews to be given for both Jordan and Michell. The whole ceremony was amazing to say the least with champagne flowing, fans gathering, and photographers everywhere. Both Jordan and Michell were reminded by those close to them that “the celebration has just begun;” The two suddenly realized that their futures were forever changed by the dreams realized and stated to each other "we have so much to be grateful for and to enjoy."

As Jordan came out of the arena and up the ramp following the closing ceremony and picture sessions, Michell took hold of “Baby Spooks” reins, gazed long and hard at the blanket of roses hanging across his neck, looked around the developing ceremony and could be overheard saying, “THIS TRULY IS A ‘SECRETARIAT’ MOMENT!”







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