By Mark McGee

Something classic and unchanged that is as good now as it was then earns the “timeless” label. David Williams, owner of Sugar Creek Farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee, doesn’t lightly use the phrase to describe the stallions in his breeding barn. But, when he talks about I Am Jose’, the three-time World Grand Champion, timeless is the adjective he uses.

“There are stallions I call timeless,” Williams said. ”They can win in any generation. I Am Jose’ is one of those timeless horses.“

He has been back in his stall here for eight years. He turned 14 in October. But, you could put the shoes back on I Am Jose’ and he could go back and compete with the best right now.”

Williams puts I Am Jose’ in the same category as The Pusher, the 1981 World Grand Champion.

“To me, The Pusher was timeless. The Pusher is as animated and mechanically sound and exciting as any horse showing today. Look back at video of him in the early 80s and he could still easily win today.

“I stand many world grand champions. The one I am most sure of, and this isn’t a negative to any of the others, is I Am Jose’. Twenty years from now you can look at videos of I Am Jose’, and no matter how far this breed has progressed, you will say he could still compete and win.”

Debbie Woods, who owns I Am Jose’ with her husband Bill appreciates Williams’ willingness to promote I Am Jose’.

“David is a good promoter for him,” Debbie said. “Even though he is older, you can still see that spark in him. He has that turn me loose look. David says all the time he could still show.”


In his show ring career, I Am Jose’ made history. Casey Wright rode him to the World Grand Championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He is only the second horse to win the big stake three times. Steve Hill rode Talk Of The Town to the world title in 1951, 1952 and 1953 for owners L.A. Chernell and E.P. Riley.

I Am Jose’ was the Two-Year-Old Stallions World Champion and the Two-Year-Old World Grand Champion in 2011. After winning Division A of the Three-Year-Old Stallions World Champion in 2012, Casey guided I Am Jose’ to reserve in the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

In 2013, the pair bounced back in a big way with the Four-Year-Old Stallions World Championship. It was then decided to place the young stallion in the World Grand Championship despite his youthful age.

Debbie admits the decisions to show I Am Jose’ for the world titles were emotional rollercoaster rides.

“The first time I was a bit naïve,” Debbie said. “When he won the four-year-old stallion class, they started on us to bump him up in the big stake. I told Casey to bump him up if he wanted to do it.

“Casey and Michael decided to take a chance on him. It wasn’t that bad the first time for us. Billy and I just thought we would see how he would do. It was wonderful when he won. We were shocked and very happy.”

Only five horses had repeated as the World Grand Champion before Casey and I Am Jose’ returned for their second try. Since I Am Jose’s wins, Justified Honors and John Allan Callaway have won back-to-back in 2021 and 2022 for owners Dr. Jim and Lisa Baum. Justified Honors also won his first big stake as a four-year-old.

Debbie knew it was unusual for a horse to repeat as the World Grand Champion. The last time it had happened with in 1956 and 1957 when Winston Wiser guided Go Boy’s Shadow to top honors. “The second time it was sheer terror,” Debbie said. “It was like, ‘Are we sure you want to do this again?’

“It was not because of the horse’s ability. It was just concerns about putting him back out there and letting him compete. You don’t want your horse to get beat once it has won the World Grand Championship. That was the thing. All of those thoughts raced through your mind.”

When the decision was made to take I Am Jose’ out of the breeding barn and prepare him for a third Celebration big stake appearance, the Woods took it all in stride.

“We were like, ‘Okay, I don’t know why we are doing this, but we will try him one more time,’”
Debbie said. “Three times was the charm.

“It worked out. It was history making.”

She points out that Casey went through similar emotional ups and downs.

“The first time Casey was nervous going into the World Grand Championship with a four-year-old,” Debbie said. “Even though you’ve got confidence, you realize you are the young guy out there with a young horse.

“The second time he felt a little better and a little more confident because I Am Jose’ had aged another year.”

Before the third trip into The Big Oval on the last Saturday night, she sensed Casey’s nerves were on edge.

“What is funny is the third time I think Casey was nervous,” Debbie said. “He would never admit it. I can still see him walking out of the inspection yard and saying, ‘We got in,’ as he took I Am Jose’ up the hill. You hold your beath to make sure you are in.”

Every world grand championship win by I Am Jose’ has been special for the Woods. They know that any time a horse enters the show ring success is never guaranteed.

“Time kind of slows down,” Debbie said. “You can’t breathe while you are waiting. I put my head down and I don’t look until I hear my horse’s number called. Then I am okay.

“You sit there and you can’t get too excited. I sweat it out. It takes a pretty good while between the time the horses line up and when the numbers are called out. You try to compose yourself and get ready if they do or do not call your horse’s number out. I go back and forth between emotions.”


Debbie points to the number three as always being lucky for I Am Jose’. He was the third horse the Woods purchased, and he was owned by a group of three at the time.

It was in February when the Woods first saw I Am Jose’ under saddle. Since it was close to Valentine’s Day, it was appropriate Debbie instantly fell in love with the black stallion.

“I Am Jose’ has always been a thrill from the first time we laid eyes on him out in the field,” Debbie said. “He was something special. You could see that. He was just beautiful the day we went to look at him.

“That was my Valentine’s present from Billy that year. However, I really think it was probably Casey’s Valentine’s present, but Billy said it was mine.”

The Woods first watched I Am Jose’ at David Landrum Stables in Franklin, Tennessee. Tim Smith put the young stallion through his paces.

“Casey had heard about I Am Jose’,” Debbie said. “He told us he wanted us to go and take a look at this colt and see what we thought about him. We fell in love with him.

“We loved the way he moved. He had a big step then, even for a colt. He was just real fluid. He is a beautiful black stallion. I have always had a love for black stallions. I said, ‘Yeah, that is what I want.’”

It was love at first sight, but the Woods watched Smith ride I Am Jose’ twice before finalizing the deal.

“We knew he was what we wanted,” Debbie said. “And, he has never disappointedus. There were a couple of bumps in the road, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t live with.”

Debbie also had another reason for wanting a second look. She couldn’t shake a weird dream she had about I Am Jose’

“I asked them to take his tail brace down to let me see his real tail,” she said. “I had a dream about him, and he didn’t have a tail. They took it down and he had a beautiful black tail. It was one of those weird dreams you have.”


I Am Jose’ has been as successful in the breeding barn as he was in the show ring. “His first foals were born the fall of 2014,” Williams said. “We breed right around 100 mares a year to him. We don’t really want to get above that because we want to be able to get them in foal and make the owner happy, so he will breed again the next year.

“I can go on and on about his accolades. I can talk about him for hours.”

I Am Jose’s original name was Tarheel’s Jose’. Bob Rollins, named a Master Breeder this year by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, was the breeder for I Am Jose’.

“Bob names everything Tarheel’s something,” Williams said. “That is his brand.”

Rollins bred Prides Angelique to Jose’ Jose’. Angelique was sired by Prides Generator. Williams sees more of a Generator influence in both I Am Jose’s build and temperament.

“I Am Jose’ is more like Generator than Jose’ Jose’,” Williams said. “We have his stablemate, Jose’ Revival, also owned by the Woods, and he is more of a copy of Jose’ Jose’.

“I Am Jose’ is more like Generator in his build. I Am Jose’ has a lot more of his mother’s physical attributes than he does his sire. And, he has a lot of fire to him. Jose’ Jose’ is a little more laid back. Generator had a lot of fire to him.”

I Am Jose’ is passing along huge, very athletic back ends. That is kind of his signature trait. They wave their legs good. I Am Jose’ is producing horses that are winning at a young age. At the 2022 Celebration alone, I Am Jose’ was the sire of the Two-Year-Old Mare World Champion I Am Sweet Maggie May, the Two-Year-Old Lite-Shod World Champion Kiss The Girl, the Two-Year-Old Park Pleasure World Champion I Am Splish Splash T.H.F. and Look Who I Am was crowned World Grand Champion TwoYear-Old. That’s just two-year-olds for this year!

“I think with every crop of colts he has had, he has sired a world champion,” Williams said.

“His first crop had a champion weanling. He had three Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Champions in a row. It is unheard of for any stallion to be that dominant. He has five or six world champion two-year-old mares.

The thoroughbred people call horses that come out and do well as two-year-olds precocious. They excel early. I Am Jose’ colts are like that and most of his offspring continue to win throughout their show ring career.”

When Look Who I Am and Casey won the Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship, the Woods were ecstatic.

“I almost fell out of my chair when they called his number,” Debbie said. “I knew he had made a good show, but the weather was a mess.

“It was even more special to us because he was sired by I Am Jose’. That made it even more sweet.”

Watching the offspring of I Am Jose’ win is just as thrilling to the Woods as winning three World Grand Championships in a row.

“I tell you what, is wonderful now is to see his babies out there,” Debbie said. “I will settle for just watching his babies win whether we own them or someone else owns them.”


I Am Jose’ shares barn space with his father and Jose’ Revival, another Woods stallion. Revival won both the Two-Year-Old Stallions World Championship and the Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2018, the Three-Year-Old Stallions World Championship and Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2019 and the Four-Year-Old Stallions World Championship and the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2020.
“Jose’ Revival is more like Jose’ Jose’ himself,” Williams said. “We expect big things from him.”

Debbie calls I Am Jose’ “the horse of a lifetime”, but she can’t say enough about Jose’ Revival, especially when she compares the two.

“Jose’ Revival is just a totally different personality than I Am Jose’,” Debbie said. “I Am Jose’ is like, ‘I am going to do my thing.’ He is still that way. He is more aloof.

“Jose’ Revival is like a big puppy dog. He loves people and wants to be around people. David is lucky to have them both. It has meant a lot to us.”

The presence of both horses has meant a lot to Williams as well, especially I Am Jose’.

“The Woods were looking for a place for him to stand and we were lucky enough to get him here,” Williams said. “I knew he was young. When you get a four-year-old they really haven’t hit their
peak or their maturity level in the showring.

“We always look for the next generation here…the one who is going to one day replace the one we have in front of us like Jose’ Jose’. It is something we are familiar with. We like our lines. The ones we have had high success with are the ones we stay with.”

Williams is also always on the lookout for other stallions to add to the breeding list.

“We will bring on outside lines we are intrigued by,” Williams said. “I Am Jose’ was heir apparent to Jose’ Jose’. I tell people I Am Jose’ has many differences when compared to his sire. He is an entity unto himself.

“His attributes are different than his sire. He is not in the shadow of his sire at all. He has more fire to him than most Jose’s. He has more of a Generator build to him.”

Williams promotes all his stallions, but the proof is what the offspring do in the show ring. He likes the quality being produced by I Am Jose’.

“You can be confident about a horse, but that confidence is not going to spread to the rest of the breeding world until his offspring are successful,” Williams said. “I am always second guessed until the colts go in the ring.

“If they win, they are going to say you knew what you were talking about. I Am Jose’ has proven the predictions we have had for him.”

I Am Jose’ is keeping Sugar Creek Farm and the owners of his offspring happy. “The weanlings and yearlings bring a premium,” Williams said. “The trainers seek them out. If you have an I Am Jose’ weanling or yearling in your field, you don’t have to worry about trying to sell him whether it is a stud or a filly.”

Debbie agrees with Williams that I Am Jose’ is a truly special horse.

“It has been great,” Debbie said. “I Am Jose’ has been a wonderful horse. We couldn’t have asked for anymore.