The 2018 IRHA/IRHBA/NRHA Open Futurity: Fonck rides Spook Sunburst to the Level 4 Open Championship and unofficially surpasses the NRHA Two Million Dollar Mark

Bernard Fonck and Spook Sunburst Bernard Fonck and Spook Sunburst Photo by Andrea Bonaga
December 16, 2018

An amazing night of competition in front of a full house closed the Euro 647.000-added IRHA/IRHBA/NRHA Futurity. The event not only made history by offering the highest added in Europe, it also attracted the largest number of horses ever taking part in a European reining event — over 700. Yet another National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) milestone was crossed in Cremona: unofficially, NRHA Professional Bernard Fonck crossed the Two Million Dollar mark becoming the first European to do so; Cira Baeck became Europe’s first lady reiner to cross the NRHA Million Dollar Mark and the only woman open rider to join the elite club from the Old Continent.

The two professionals from Belgium also took top honors in the Euro265.000-added Level (L)4 Open Championship; Fonck claimed the Championship and Baeck the Co-reserve title.

 Fonck rode Spook Sunburst, a gelding by multiple past NRHA Open and Non Pro World Champion Great Sun Burst out of All About Spook. The duo performed to perfection; their incredible spins thrilled the crowd, as did the rest of the pattern and the fans in the stands cheered him on from the first to last maneuver. Once they closed their run, a 227.5 appeared on the score board. “This week I didn’t feel that my horse was responding the way I wanted him to, but then he started getting better and tonight he was great,” said Fonck about his horse owned by Koen Symoens and bred by Manuel Bonzano. “He is by Great Sun Burst, and reminds me a lot of his sire who I always believed would pass on his great talent. Winning the IRHA Open Futurity title this year was on my wish-list, along with claiming the individual gold at the World Equestrian Games and I have to thank my wife for being my partner in life and in business. 

What wasn’t in the plans for 2018 was surpassing the two-million-dollar mark in NRHA competition, though it has always been one of Fonck’s goals. “This evening has been amazing and I have to compliment the Italian Reining Horse Association for putting together this prestigious event,” he said.

Fonck was also the recipient of the beautiful Champion’s Ring, sponsored by MS Diamonds TX, as well as a saddle sponsored by IRHA/Serafino Repetti amongst other awards. Renowned non professional and Italian breeder Manuel Bonzano won the IRHBA (Italian Reining Horse Breeding Association) Best Stallion award.

Co-reserve L4 honors with a 226 score went to Cira Baeck and NF Shining Whiz (Colonels Shining Gun x Whowhizthispeppychic), a mare owned by David Perneel/Kim Windyand bred by David Perneel and Guglielmo Fontana on Oak Smoking Face (Pale Face Dunnit x Genuine Benito Pap),a stallion owned by Giulia Amolaroand bred by Daniel Moro.

It took a 224 and a team all about Poland to win the Euro75.000-added L3 Open Championship: Lukas Czechowicz — head trainer for Roleski Ranch, and his mount CSG Copshot (Colonels Shining Gun x Finest Copyshot), owned and bred by Katarzyna Roleska, gave it all they had laying down an amazing and powerful run. “I truly gave it all I had and risked it all tonight!” said Czechowicz. “Winning with a horse that is by a Roleski owned stallion, the great ‘Jo Jo,’ who was born at Roleski Ranch and who I broke and trained is the best thing that could ever happen. This horse is an amazing athlete with a great mind but if I had to define his best quality, it’s his heart!” Roleska also took home the IRHBA incentive program Best Breeders Award trophy. 

Taking reserve honors with a 223 was Italian Manuel Cortesi aboard PC Tinsel Whiz
(NRHA Million Dollar Sire Hollywoodstinseltown x PC Sliderina Whiz), a stallion bred and owned by the Cortesi family facility, owned and bred by Az. Agr. Piero Cortesi.

It was a great night for Gal Grahelj of Slovenia who conquered both the Euro20.000-added L2 and Euro10.000-added L1 Open Championships by scoring a 222.5 aboard Walla Whiz A Dun It, owned by Katja Zrimsek, between the reins. The stallion by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Walla Walla Whiz out of The Bun Is Dunwas bred by Susan Jones and is a Markel Insurance grad. “When we purchased this horse at the Markel Insurance Marketplace Sale in Oklahoma City and brought him back home, we knew he would be a good one yet, he surprised us all by turning out to be an incredible horse under every aspect,” said Grahelj who qualified his horse in four levels in the finals. “I broke and trained him myself and he’s always been very easy and extremely talented. Showing here at the Italian Futurity was in the plans and he was great for me from the qualifiers until tonight. I showed for the first time at the 2013 NRHA Euro Futurity so, taking home two titles in Europe’s most prestigious event is a dream come true.”

The reserve championship in the L2 Open division with a 219 score went to Call Me Lil Josie (Lil Joe Cash x Call Me N Hollywood), a mare ridden by Tomas Martinek and owned by Wolfgang Hammer.

Tying for reserve honors in the L1 Open Futurity with a 215 score were Lena-Marie Maas and her ER Custom Bleach (Custom Cash Advance x Snappy Bleach), a mare bred by Elisabetta Raviola, and Michael Saupe riding Smart N Surprising (NRHA Five Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook x Just Miss Enterprise), a stallion bred by Nuith Linthorst and owned by Daniela Saupe.