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The Big Oval Opens!



The first round of competition Thursday evening at the 79th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration featured moments and prized storylines fit for a fairytale. Whether it was a unanimous victory or an exhibitor defending their title — such as Lily Catherine Holland or Jacob Baum — memories were made at every corner.

The setting could not have been more on the money for the debut of White Diamond on the first round of competition Thursday night in the famed Big Oval — fans had been missing the traditional marking of opening ceremonies for a couple years, after all.

Bud Seaton and the new flag horse, a mare with a unique story all her own, is known for his many years of opening the event each evening by parading the white walking — most often stallion — performance horse with flag in hand as horse show fans watch in awe.

If it’s all in a name, take note of this fancy mare’s connection to the dollar. Her predecessor in this starring role for 10 nights each August is Counterfeit Dollar, also shown by Seaton for 15-plus years prior to the horse’s retirement.

Both horses are tied to the famous walking horse Generator’s Silver Dollar bloodline — and both have the same owner. OK Walking Horse Farms in Oklahoma also owned Generator’s Silver Dollar, now deceased, as well as one of his well-known offspring, A Strong Dollar.

“We like the flag ceremony and we appreciate the fact that we have it,” said McCloy, following Celebration CEO Mike Inman’s announcement earlier this season that he’d found the perfect candidate for the job after a long and careful search. “The horse world has retained that type of ceremony and we feel that’s important.”

Proving the breed’s allure to riders of all ages, the youth competitors from ages six to 11 followed Seaton’s grand performance with their chance on center stage. Counti Green is no stranger to game of showing horses, with a family tradition that runs far and wide, and she capably rode Oh My Darlin to the Amateur Youth 6-11 victory unanimously for the second year in a row. A Beeline and Colton Trimble finished second in the crop of seven with proud owner/partner Molly Walker being proudly represented.

What’s in a name? Horse and rider equally matched up to exemplify the winner’s name — Country Gentleman — in the seven-entry Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Stallions. Robert Deutsch of Greensboro, North Carolina enjoyed the victory pass on opening night as they have for the past five consecutive years, with Play Something Country and Jeff Smith picking up the reserve.

“It’s good to be from North Carolina,” said announcer Mark Farrar as he announced the winner of the third class of the evening, the Three-Year-Old Walking Geldings (Riders’ Cup), with Tyler Baucom expertly guiding Prince Charles to the win for owner Danny Hicks, also representing the state of North Carolina. Airborne Hero and Scott Beaty picked up the reserve ribbon in the field of 14, putting the spotlight back on the state of Tennessee.

The José bloodline is certainly one that’s familiar in the walking horse industry with Wednesday evening’s Futurity proving that name is a consistent and dominant presence among champions.

Section A of the amateur two-year-old stallions brought 16 into the ring with I Am Mighty José, sired by I Am José, and Jason Myatt bringing the unanimous win back to the Bluegrass state for The Jerry Myatt Family. David Sisk directed A Shotgun Rider to reserve.

The B division title went to Dobie Gray and Kayla Baucom for Baucom & DeArmond, hailing from North and South Carolina.

A night of great storylines continued with Lily Catherine Holland earning her second world championship in a row aboard Zeta in the Youth 15-17 class in unanimous fashion. Better yet, their resumé is even more impressive if you count their win from three years ago, also in the youth division, in the class designated for riders 12-14 years old. Thomas Derickson and Benelli received the crowd’s support as well for their good effort, which landed them a reserve finish.

Fighting their way to the top for the second year in a row, Tiger Blood and Jacob Baum defended their title and added to the Baum’s collection of more than a handful of Celebration ribbons thus far in the amateur park performance division with Georgia Florida Line and Bruce MacDonald walking their way to the reserve finish in the 14-horse class.

Amateur walking stallions under 15.2 featured a small but mighty field, with each contender carrying previous world grand championship status with them into the Big Oval. It was a tough field, with He’s Made In The USA and Sheryl Jordan closing out the night with the title followed by I’m Pushin N Line and Janice Fostek.

A chance for a first-time Celebration blue came for those in the amateur novice mares and geldings class for novice lady riders, which was split into two sections. More Horsepower and Kristie Bell topped the first section with Goody Goody and JoAnn Frank in reserve.

Memories were made in the B division as well. While Bell had just earned her first Celebration blue in her very first time showing here, Diana Cruse, riding Olivia Pope, is no stranger to the Big Oval.

“While it’s certainly not her first time showing here it’s the first time for this long-time supporter of the Celebration to win here,” said Farrar, as Cruse gave her horse an emotional hug before walking toward the winner’s circle. Master’s Showgirl and Bonnie Sullivan followed in the ranks.  

Owner Amateur Four-Year-Old Stallions offered 12 for the blue-ribbon taking, with the familiar face of Dr. Jim Baum capably guiding Maroon 5 to the victory pass for the family’s quickly growing collection of blues. David Sisk earned his second reserve of the night aboard Sisko Kid.

He’s The Lady’s Man and Gary Edwards toped the 15.2 and under mares and geldings as the night began to wind down with An American Threat and Bill Callaway pushing them hard with the reserve finish.

The amateur ladies show pleasure class put the first evening of the 79th edition in the record books with classic horse (15 or older) Godfather By Ultra Copy and Courtney Luttrell show their tried and true talents followed by reserve champions He’s Starbucks and Suzanne Moore. 

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