Stephanie Wheeler got an early Mother’s Day gift from her son Brian and their homebred, 4-year-old mare SBW Heavenly Peach (“Bonnie”) with dual futurities in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Lucky Dog event, held March 5-8 at the Agricenter Farms Showplace Arena.
A $5,510 victory in the 98-entry, $10,000-added Lucky Dog Futurity, a $5,052 Breeders Challenge Futurity qualifier title, plus $2,027 in open and adult carryover earnings sent the Wheelers home to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with $12,562.
Bonnie, who won the Jingle Bell Classic Futurity this past December, is the first futurity champion the Wheelers have raised out of their second-generation champion SX Dr Peacharita (“Peach”).
“Peach has just been a blessing to us,” said Stephanie. “She’s kept giving even after becoming a momma. We’re very fortunate.”
When Brian followed his mother into the barrel racing arena, she knew that it was going to be expensive to keep him in competitive finished horses, so she opted to raise and train their own.
“Once Brian got into it, you just couldn’t buy a horse,” Stephanie said. “They were so expensive. We just started raising them. We never bought (a finished) one that’s panned out for us; it’s always been something we’ve raised.”
Her quest to raise and train their own led her to the industry leading Myers Performance Horse Sale in South Dakota where she purchased MS Frenchmans Bully. She later purchased SX Frenchmans Mocha, who was bred by the Shearer family. As the two families became friends, Stephanie partnered with Carisa Shearer on SX Frenchmans Peach, a multiple aged event and rodeo winner.
SX Frenchmans Peach produced numerous winners with earnings nearing half a million including Kelly Carrington French’s Southeastern Circuit Champion Slice Of PeachFame and 2021 futurity standout Peachy And Juicy. The Wheeler’s brightest star SX Dr Peacharita, by the legendary WPRA World Champion Sire Dr Nick Bar.
The now 17-year-old mare carried Brian to numerous youth and aged event championships to the tune of more than $110,000 before retiring to broodmare duty. She’s had four foals go to the arena with two already on their way to stardom.
“We’ve had bad luck with them getting hurt,” Stephanie said. “Her momma did me the same way. We’ve had two good ones out of her and we’ve got the rest of them on the ground, so hopefully the rest of them won’t get hurt.”
Peach’s oldest SBW Peach Margarita, by Nik Dell, debuted in the money at the BFA Juvenile, but had an injury cut her career short. She just foaled an RR Mistakelly recently.
Her second foal to the arena, SBW Copy Cat, by Blazin Jetolena, was the 2020 Old Fort Days Futurity Reserve Champion and now is running and winning for her new owner and Brian’s girlfriend, Blaise Bercegeay.
Last year’s futurity horse, SBW Peach Senorita, by Famous Bugs, was injured in a fall after a strong juvenile debut. Thankfully, they’re starting to ride her again.
All of Peach’s babies have been started and trained by the Wheelers. Brian said most of them have been very different horses.
“They all look different and run differently,” he said. “I’ve ridden them all in different headgear. It’s really kind of surprising. Most of their styles have been different, but they’ve all had the talent.”
Bonnie, who is by aged event standout and IPRA Barrel Racing World Champion Heavenly Firewater, is most like Peach, he said.
“She’s very honest and tries really hard,” said Brian, who splits his time between shoeing and training barrel horses. “The others seem to take more after the studs they’re by. To me she knows when she needs to be fast. You can tell when you warm her up. She’s more keyed in and wants to try harder. The first round she seemed lazy almost and that was more like her momma. With her momma, the first go was always slower everywhere you went. She just got faster with each run.”
Brian said that’s exactly what Bonnie did in Memphis too. After being a little “looky” in the first round, Bonnie won the second to win the aggregate.
“I can remember going to Memphis in 2009 and winning the open on Bonnie’s mom,” he said. “Now all these years later, I’m riding a baby out of her and doing the same thing. It’s kind of cool.”
The Wheelers have several more Peach babies in the pipeline, including another Heavenly Firewater—Kim Mathews has one as well, one by The Goodbye Lane, and another by Furyofthewind. Brian is also riding Epic Nic, Peach’s Epic Leader colt, that Bercegeay purchased as the high seller at the 2020 BFA Sale.
Stephanie said the Peach line of horses have just fit their style.
“They’re our style and want to fit us,” she said. “They want to turn. They’re really turny horses and Brian likes to run a turner. They just fit him.”
The Breeders Challenge qualifying sidepots at the Lucky Dog Race in Memphis, Tennessee, awarded $160,827.
READ: Mission Accomplished
Horses by eligible stallions pay a one-time nomination fee that’s good for the life of the horse. Contestants then must qualify for The Breeders Challenge Finale, which is scheduled for Will Rogers Coliseum, September 14-17, in Fort Worth, Texas, this year.
The six qualifiers are held as sidepots to major events across the country and offer several categories—futurity, amateur futurity, derby, amateur derby, open 4D, senior and youth.
Even though SBW Heavenly Peach had already qualified at the Kinder Cup the mare was able to pick up bonus earnings of $5,052 in Memphis.
Those earnings were split between the horse owner, stallion owner and nominator. The Mathews family’s Mission ranch accepted $1,516 of those earnings as the owners of Heavenly Firewater, SBW Heavenly Peach’s sire. The $3,031 owner’s share and $505 nominator’s share went to Stephanie and Brian Wheeler, who owned, raised and nominated the mare.