by Mark Davis

The final night of preliminary competition is upon us. Starting on Thursday evening, divisional World Grand Champions will begin being crowned leading up to the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship on Saturday night. Mother nature has continued to be kind to The Celebration, as temperatures remain cool, however threats of rain remain in the forecast for the rest of the week.

Those who were in attendance on last Thursday evening probably remember WGFX 104.5 FM’s “The Sports Zone”, Nashville’s number one sports talk show, broadcasting live from the Celebration Plaza prior to the show. Host George Plaster was unable to stay around for the show then, but returned on Tuesday evening to check out the festivities. Today, he opened his Wednesday afternoon show commenting in detail on how much he enjoyed his evening in Shelbyville, which was his first Celebration visit.

He thanked the Keith Baker family of Columbia, who sat in the box next to him, for helping to fill him in on what was going on and also talked about their gray mare, better known as Shout, who would be taking on the studs in the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship on Saturday night. He wished Shout, trainer Sammy Day and the Baker family the best of luck and asked those listening who would be in attendance to throw their support Shout’s way. Needless to say, Plaster was very excited about his Celebration visit. Our industry couldn’t have bought a better commercial!

As always, the evening got underway with the presentation of the colors by official flaghorse, Counterfeit Dollar and World Champion rider Bud Seaton. The invocation was given by Bryan Nerran of the United Pentecostal Church with Jessica Heim of Manchester, Tenn doing a fabulous job with the national anthem.

The first class on the evening’s schedule, class 112, Amateur Owned and Trained Walking Horses, No Professional Training within 90 Days (Canter), brought 11 of the 22 programmed entries to the ring to work in the division. Making a “starring” performance in the division was the team of Beam’s Startrek and owner/exhibitor Newton Parks of Murfreesboro, Tenn. The duo preceded this win by claiming honors at Columbia, Tenn.’s Spring Jubilee Horse Show and Hohenwald, Tenn.’s J.M. Adcox Memorial Horse Show. Reserve honors in the division went to the Bluegrass state with Times Two and Kenny Smith for Calvin Hacker of Manchester, Ky. Another Kentucky exhibitor, Sam Sorrell of Lexington, Ky. claimed third with I’m Johnny Be Good.

The amateur exhibitors remained in the spotlight in class 113A, Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Walking Mares or Geldings. Nineteen of the 43 entered made the call to work as Bob Cherry called the gaits in the division. Making a dynamic performance in the division, Cash My Lady and Rhonda Stewart Sutherland took home the win for Charles H Stewart of McMinnville, Tenn. Recent Nolensville, Tenn. Lions Club Horse Show Champion, Jose Spirit and Rita Hudgens rode for the red streamer for Frank and Rita Hudgens of Franklin, Tenn. Foolish Dollar and Wilsene Moody made a strong showing to accept the third award for O & W Moody, Ltd. Co. of Batesville, Ark.

Class 113B, Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Walking Mares or Geldings, was very strong with 31 of the 44 hitting the track to work for Joe Fleming and cohorts. The panel determined that additional work would be needed to determine the champion in the division and asked 13 of the original 31 to remain.

When the work was complete, the team of Cash & Carry’s Little Girl and owner/exhibitor Danny Rylee of Gillsville, Ga. made that memorable victory ride. Prior to riding for Celebration acclaim, this duo rode to wins at Monroe, Ga.’s Walton County Horse Show, Thomaston, Ga.’s Flint River Classic and Gainesville, Ga.’s East Hall Dugout Horse Show. Jose’s Vengeance and Jimmy Smith rode to the crowd-pleasing reserve award for JBR, Inc. of Oliver Springs, Tenn. Showboat’s Annie and Wilsene Moody got their share of the crowd as well as they rode to the yellow streamer once again for O. &. W. Moody, Ltd. Co. of Batesville, Ark.

The C division of Class 113, found 19 of the 44 making the call to work for World Championship honors in the division. Tommy Loid served as call judge in the division. Reigning Two-Year-Old Amateur WGC Witch’s Jazz, purchased after Celebration 2003 by Floyd Sherman of Dallas, Texas, made an outstanding performance with Beverly Sherman to accept the divisional acclaim. High Jacked and owner/exhibitor Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn. proudly accepted the red streamers. FDR and owner/exhibitor Stephanie Gordon of Murfreesboro, Tenn. rode to the third award.

The trainers were up next for class 114, Walking Geldings, Five-Years and Over, Over 15.2 (Canter). Fourteen of the 34 with reservations made the gate to work for Huck Moss and his colleagues. Reigning Gulf Coast Charity Celebration champion Cheatin’ Danger and Joe Cotten made the striking performance to capture the division for Trish Harrison of Nashville, Tenn. This win comes on the heels of Trish’s reserve performance in the Owner/Amateur Mare and Gelding division. They Call Me Sir and Jimmy McConnell commanded respect, as always, garnering reserve honors for Bob and Mary Medina of Skillman, NJ. Tennessee Gen and John Allan Callaway accepted the yellow streamer for Michael Hart of Corbin, Ky. and Bell Buckle, Tenn.

A special group of Amateurs took the track in class 115, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Riders 70 Years and Over. This division was one of the popular additions of the last few years, and once again tonight it was well received with 17 of the 24 programmed entries making the call to work for Wayne Abee and staff. Many of these riders have been supporting our industry and competing in Celebration competition for 30, 40 or possibly even 50 years and certainly deserve our appreciation. Topping this special division was the team of Gen’s Master Pusher and Joe Christmas for the Joe Christmas family of Mason, Tenn. Reserve in the division went to owner/exhibitor Bill Harlin of Franklin, Tenn. and The Revelation. Jorge’ and Guy Findley rode to the third award for Guy and Murlene Findley of Buford, Ga.

Adding variety and class to the evening, Class 116A, Fine Harness, brought 14 of the 22 scheduled to the ring to work as Bob Cherry called the gaits in the popular division. Shooting down the competition and making the stellar performance, was the team of Hal’s Six Shooter and Wayne Dean making the winning drive for Floyd & Coleman of Columbia and Unionville, Tenn. “Shooter” drove to the winner’s circle prior to this win at the Murfreesboro, Tenn. Exchange Club Horse Show and Lewisburg, Tenn.’s Marshall County Horse Show. Classic horse, On The Money and Scott Beaty accepted the red ribbon for Double Springs Farm of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Touch My Way and Chad Way drove to third for Shelia Hunter of Ashland City,Tenn.

Fourteen of the 21 entered in the B division of class 116, Fine Harness, made the call for Joe Fleming and his colleagues. Driving to the win in the event was the team of General Custer and Scott Benham for Steven Bourne, Nevada B Ranch of Minden, Nev. This team topped the A division in 2003 and with this win, they retire the Sam Caldwell Memorial Challenge Trophy. Pulling in for reserve, with the support of the crowd, was Genius Gold Spirit and Ramsey Bullington for the Robert Keenan family of Franklin, Tenn. Catin’ Around and Ronal Young were a strong third for Jimmy and Carol Lackey of Forest, Miss.

Another special addition to the schedule, the Owner/Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, Classic Horses 15 Years and Over was up next on the bill as 14 of the 22 scheduled made the call to work as Tommy Loid called the gaits. Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their longevity in the show ring and this class continues to prove that fact to be true. Claiming the honor of being the best of the classics was many time World Champion Network and owner/exhibitor Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn. Past WGC Final’s Eb Tide and Sherri Pollack rode to reserve honors in the division for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. and Shelbyville, Tenn. Another past WGC My Midnight Caller and Carolyn Joseph picked up the yellow streamer for the Anthony Joseph family of Columbiana, Ala.

Speaking of the Joseph family, the next class, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, Five-Years and Over, Over 15.2 (Canter) must be hard for them to watch because it was the division their beloved horse, The Snowatch would have been showing had it not been for his untimely death shortly after his crowd pleasing performance at the Belfast, Tenn. Horse Show in early August. The Snowatch, campaigned by Ashley Joseph, was a leading contender in the division, and his death certainly left this division wide open.

Fifteen top competitors made the call to work in the division as Huck Moss served as call judge for the division. Dabora President David L. Howard made note in this evenings paper of a unique set of circumstances involving Ken Wulff and his daughters, Candace Wulff and Caresse Mills. On Sept. 1, 1975, Ken rode Mr. Magic in the Amateur Championship at the age of 22. On Sept. 1, 1984, Candace Wulff won the Youth 11 and Under World Grand Championship at the age of five on Ebony Go Boy’s Dream and tonight on Sept. 1, 2004, Caresse Mills rode Generator’s Champion in the Amateur Stallion Preliminary Class. It appears to be destiny in the making because 2004 Bethesda, Tenn. champion, Generator’s Champion and Caresse Mills made a striking performance to top the division for the second consecutive year, retiring the Carroll & Ellen Lawrence Memorial Challenge Trophy. Reserve in the very competitive division went to The Golden Sovereign and Keith McSwain riding for the Dan McSwain family of Atlanta, Ga. Third went to Mr. Pushbutton and Candie Butler for Glenn and Virgie Crutchfield of Memphis, Tenn.

The mamas and the babies hit the track 14 strong for class 117, Mare & Foal. One entry caught attention around the ring, Wicked Wanda, because she had twin foals, Alley Oop and Oop’s Here It Is. Walking away with top honors in the division was the team of Stormy’s Miss Delightful and Five Star Lady with Wendy Boyd and Karen McGee handling for James Washburn of Fayetteville, Tenn. The red ribbon went to Gen’s If Looks Could Kill and Look Who’s Taking Command with Hoyte Eakes and Nathan Mills handling for Hoyte Eakes and Carole Hargett of Nashville and Shelbyville, Tenn. An Elegant Storm and Texaco captured third with Howard Hamilton and Carlyle Johnson handling for Howard and Clarenita Hamilton of Cedar Grove, Tenn.

Class 120 brought another division that has become a crowd favorite, the Retired Trainers Over 55 on Walking Horses, to the ring with seven of the 18 scheduled making the track. Again, the cheers came from around the ring as longtime favorites like Wink Groover, Bud Seaton, Bob Adkisson, Billy Morgan, Ken Willis, HT Derickson and Tex Smith worked as hard as ever for that Celebration blue. That honor went to the classic trainer Wink Groover and multi-titled WGC Generator’s Man Of Magic. Groover,who trained notables such as WGC Ace’s Sensation,WGC Motown Motion, Lite and Lively Too and too many others to note, recently noted that he’d been attending The Celebration since 1947. Generator’s Man of Magic is proudly owned by William B. and Sandra Johnson of Atlanta, Ga. and Shelbyville, Tenn. Reserve in the division went to Push To Start and long time Alabama trainer Tex Smith riding for Sarah Nichols of Shelbyville, Tenn. Another Alabama trainer, Billy Morgan rode to third with Gads O’ Cash, owned by Jerry and Donna Cash of Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

The final class of the performance, class 121, was the Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Two-Years-Old. Nine of the 31 entries made the call as Joe Fleming called the gaits in the division. After topping the amateur division with Sandra Reid, Tex-R-Us and Doug Barnes returned to dominate the event for Barnes & Reid of Wartrace, Tenn. with a unanimous decision of the panel. He’s Lynnard Skynnard and Mike Anasis rode to reserve honors for Carl Duncan and Carol Baker of Union, Ky. Freeze Frame and Jeremy Carlton captured third for Bernie Duncan of Altamonte Springs, Fla.

And with that, the Wednesday evening performance and all of the preliminary events of the 2004 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration are now complete. By the way, the evening crowd of 11,432 was the largest in Celebration history for a Wednesday evening performance. Thursday evening’s schedule features 11 classes of Championship competition, which should mean some of the season’s toughest competition yet.