by Mark McGee 

It was a perfect night filled with perfect performances as the first of three nights of world grand championships began Thursday night in “The Big Oval” at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. 

Lance Bennett of the Fairlane Church of Christ in Shelbyville gave the invocation. Craig Campbell from Eagleville, Tennessee, gave a strong rendition of “The National Anthem,” with Ronnie Spears and White Diamond Dollar presenting the Stars and Stripes.

Ring announcer Mark Farrar called the Owner-Amateur Park Pleasure World Grand Championship class to the ring to open the 15-class schedule with organist J. Brantley providing the musical background. Eight of nine programmed entries competed with Derek Bonner calling the class. Making the first spotlight ride of the evening were Papacito and owner-rider Karen Bean from Tomball, Texas, as the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel. It was their sixth top finish in seven classes in 2023, including the blue in the Owner-Amateur Western Park Pleasure class the first Thursday night of the Celebration. Reserve champion was Dose’ for owner-rider Lisa Baum. Both of the top two winners are by Jose’ Jose’. I Walk The Line walked to third for co-owner Carol Missildine riding for co-owner Russell Enterprises. 

Sweet Walking Matilda and owner-rider Margo Urad from Shelbyville, Tennessee, were awarded the floral horseshoe and tri-colored ribbon in the Owner-Amateur Novice Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. It was the eighth blue in 11 classes this show season for Sweet Walking Matilda including wins with Urad in the saddle in the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class the first Thursday morning, and the Owner-Amateur Novice Western Trail Pleasure class Sunday night. Silverback received reserve honors with co-owner Katy Granus aboard for co-owner Kathy Anderson. Resurgence placed third with Sarah Beth Thomas in the saddle for Sarah and Beth Thomas. It was perfect attendance with all seven listed entries making it to ‘The Big Oval”. Leah Boyd called the class.

The spinning wheel in center ring selected David Sisk as the call judge with 12 of 13 scheduled entries competing in the Owner-Amateur Youth Country Pleasure World Grand Championship. Scarlett O’Hara LLC and co-owner Harper Grider of Columbia, Kentucky, made the winning spotlight ride for co-owner Brandon Tate of Athens, Alabama. It was the fourth blue in seven classes for Scarlett O’Hara LLC this show season, and their second blue of the Celebration. They teamed for the blue in the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Country Pleasure class Friday morning. The second tie was The Tiger Lily with co-owner Caroline Stanley on board for co-owner Jordan Howell. It’s A Knight To Remember was third for co-owner Corbin Parker and  co-owners Jeff and Lisa Fisher. 

It was a three-peat spotlight ride for IB Smokin’ Joe and Joel Johnson in the Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure World Grand Championship for owners Tanner and Tucker Johnson from Shelbyville, Tennessee. They retired the IB Smokin’ Joe Challenge Trophy. It was the sixth blue in eight classes in 2023 for IB Smokin’ Joe. Wednesday morning Joel rode him to first in the Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure class. She’s Never Been Kissed and co-owner Kimberly Walden were reserve for co-owner Perry Walden. Miss Belle Starr W and co-owner Dr. Brittany Baum rode to third for co-owner Jacob Baum. Leah Boyd called the gaits with 22 of 23 expected entries competing.

Call judge David Sisk directed the gaits for 16 of 20 planned entries in the Owner-Amateur Novice World Grand Championship. Patrick Mahomes, like his namesake, is a champion, with Paul Simmons of Orangeburg, South Carolina, making his first spotlight ride for Terry Manier. They were the unanimous selection of the judges. Saturday night they teamed up for first in the Owner-Amateur Novice Gentlemen on Stallions class. Whistlin’ Dixie A.L., with Dustin Smith aboard for Suzanne Reynolds, was reserve. I’m Deuce and co-owner Marla Lovett was third for co-owner Rick Lovett.

All About Jose wore the floral horseshoe and earned the tri-colored streamer with owner-rider Jackie Whatley of Ocala, Florida, on board in the Elite Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship. They have four blues in seven classes this year. In 2021, they were the Owner-Amateur Novice World Grand Champions. Reserve honors went to We Will Rock You with co-owner Chris Hutchinson riding for co-owner Dr. Edwin Hutchinson. Twisted With Honors and owner-rider Allyson Armstrong walked out with the third place ribbon. Six of seven programmed entries were in “The Big Oval” for call judge Kenny Smith.

It was perfect attendance with all seven programmed entries performing in the Owner-Amateur Youth Ponies World Grand Championship with David Sisk calling the class. The Ultimate Honor, with Jack Haney in the saddle, made the spotlight ride for the title for The Justin Harney Family from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They are unbeaten in five classes this show season. They won the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-14 on Ponies class Saturday night. The Country Lineman and BiBi Beasley rode to reserve for Beth Beasley. Time To Tease placed third with co-owner Jessica Lawwell on board for Myers and Lawwell. 

Country As Cornbread and owner-ride Janice Fostek from Roanoke, Virginia, rode to the roses as the unanimous decision of the judges in the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship. They are undefeated in four classes in 2023, including a blue in Section A of the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions class the first Thursday night of the Celebration. Ohtani was ridden to the reserve award by Kenny Compton for Rick Compton. Aerosmith CL left the stage with a yellow ribbon with co-owner Courtney Luttrell aboard for co-owner Jimbo Conner. Kenny Smith directed as call judge with 15 of 17 listed entries competing. 

All five expected entries made the gate call in the Owner-Amateur Four & Five-Year-Old Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. David Sisk was the call judge. Silverback was in the silver, as well as the floral horseshoe and tri-colored streamer, with co-owner Kathy Anderson of College Grove, Tennessee, aboard for co-owner Katy Granus from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Silverback has eight blues in 12 classes this show season. At the Celebration this year, Silverback has a blue with Anderson riding in the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class the first Wednesday morning, while Hannah Myatt was aboard for first in the Trail Pleasure Four & Five-Year-Old class the first Thursday morning. Into The Badlands and co-owner Chad Spencer took reserve honors for co-owner Scarlet Spencer. Jose’s Twist Of Gin left the ring with a yellow streamer for Patti Pollack riding for S&P LLC.

For the second year in a row, Annie’s Lined With Cash and Khloe Aymett McSwain from Alpharetta, Georgia, and Shelbyville, Tennessee, made the spotlight ride in the Owner-Amateur Youth Show Pleasure World Grand Championship. It was their second blue in three shows this year. Nathan Clark was the call judge as 10 of 13 listed entries performed. Wired And Lined and owner-rider Kelsey Wright was reserve. The Night Crawler and co-owner Jackson Laughlin placed third for co-owner Jason Joseph.   

Eight of 10 programmed entries competed in the Owner-Amateur Park Performance World Grand Championship. Derek Bonner called the class. A Touche’ parried the competition to make the spotlight trip for owner-rider Jannie Chapman from Owens Cross Roads,  Alabama. It was their fifth blue in six classes in 2023. Thursday night they were the first place tie in the Owner-Amateur Park Performance Stallions class. Do Right and Dr. Jim Baum received reserve honors for Lisa Baum, while DB Cooper and owner-rider Angela Mullinax rode out with a yellow streamer.

Kenny Compton claimed the floral horseshoe and tri-colored ribbon aboard I Will Honor Thy Father for owner Della Compton of Tazewell, Virginia, in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old World Grand Championship. They are four-for-four in blues this summer including the win in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallions class Monday night. Reserve was awarded to Honored In Texas and owner-rider Bob Adcock. The top two finishers were sired by Honors. The third place ribbon went to The Great I Am with Danielle Rickert Cutshaw in the saddle for The Mark Rickert Family. Five of seven anticipated entries made their way to “The Big Oval,” with David Sisk calling the class. 

All four program entries competed in the Owner-Amateur Trail World Grand Championship for call judge Derek Bonner. Machete and owner-rider Susan Coleman made the spotlight ride in the class for the third year in a row retiring the Elizabeth Gassaway Memorial Challenge Trophy. They were the unanimous selection of the judges. For 2023, they are five-for-five in wins including the Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure class Monday morning. Blacklist was awarded reserve for owner-rider Jane Pirolo. Retribution and co-owner Rachel Teague walked out with a yellow streamer for co-owners Garold and Julie Ross.

Coachman and Patrick Thomas claimed the Lite-Shod World Grand Championship unanimously making the spotlight ride for Zach Daniel. Coachman has four blues in five classes this year including the Lite-Shod English class the first Thursday morning of the Celebration, and the Owner-Amateur Youth Lite-Shod class with Daniel. It’s Gametime placed reserve with Amber Zahnd riding for Lori Fields. The third place winner was The Master Of Ceremonies with co-owner Fount Darnell in the saddle for the Darnell and Moran partnershhip. It was perfect attendance with all five programmed entries showing. Nathan Clark was the call judge.

Leah Boyd drew call judge duties as seven of nine programmed entries made their way to “The Big Oval” for the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Honky Tonk and John Allan Callaway made some noise riding in the spotlight as the unanimous selection of the judges for Alan Riddley from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. It was their third blue in a row in four classes in 2023. They won Section A of the Three-Year-Old Stallions class Friday night. Reserve was Big John Coffey, with Justin Harris aboard, for The Kyle Insell Family. Charles Lindbergh 4G rode out with a yellow ribbon with Thomas Derickson in the saddle for Keith and Angela Hayes.