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Championship Weekend Under Way!

Championship Weekend Under Way!

By Melissa R. Stevens

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - The second Thursday night of the 65th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration brought the first full night of championship classes. A full schedule featured talented contenders in every class. A large crowd of 18,608 filled Celebration Arena for the start of championship weekend and they were not disappointed with what they saw. The paid attendance was 24,524.

The evening's classes started off with a bang as ten 15.2 and Under Walking Horse World Grand Champion contenders entered the ring. Mike Carpenter started the evening off as the call judge. With a quick decision by the judges, Private Charter and Knox Blackburn took to the ring under the championship spotlight to collect the tricolor ribbon and floral horse shoe as the 2003 15.2 and Under World Grand Champions for owner R. Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. Blackburn and Private Charter have made a name for themselves this year with wins at Woodbury, Spring Fun Show and Jackson, Miss. This team also took the blue in the Walking Stallions, 15.2 and Under Canter preliminary on Monday night. Tipping his hat to the roaring crowd as he graciously accepted the reserve honors was Sammy Day riding Gen's Johnny Walker Red for John and Gary LeGate of Orlando, Fla., and Shelbyville, Tenn. Day and Gen's Johnny Walker Red were also reserve to Blackburn and Private Charter in the preliminary Monday night. They have taken the blue home from Jackson, Miss., Gulf Coast Charity, Spring Fun Show and Lewisburg. Leaving the ring with the yellow streamer was the team of Steel Connection and Buddy Dick for JoAnn Dowell of Canton, Ohio.

Twenty-one hopeful Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Ponies, 60" and Under contenders entered the ring. Gene Carswell was the judge for this large championship class. For the second year in a row, Thad Way and Silver Design rode away as the Owner-Amateur Youth Rider on Walking Ponies, 60" and Under World Grand Champions. The J.R. Partnership of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Franklin, Mich., is the proud owner of this championship team. Way and Silver Design have garnered blues this year at Jackson, Miss., Spring Fun Show and McMinnville. This team also won the blue in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Ponies, 60" and Under qualifier for riders ages 15-17. The Reserve World Grand Champions were Late Night Jazz and owner/exhibitor Jacob Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn. Baum and Late Night Jazz were reserve in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Ponies, 60" and Under preliminary for riders 14 years and under last Friday night. They have won blues this year at the Children's Classic, the Money Tree Classic and Tony Rice. The third place award went to Skywalk and Seth Stanfill for owner Billy Stanfill of Lexington, Tenn.

The Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 11 Years and Under on Walking Mares and Geldings World Grand Championship featured 19 young exhibitors. Jamie Hankins was selected as the call judge. Pusher's Clown and Tyler Baucom were crowned this year's Owner-Amateur Youth Rider, 11 and Under World Grand Champions for owners Baucom, Warner and Blake of Monroe, N.C., and Raleigh, N.C. Baucom and Pusher's Clown were the winners of Section A of Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Geldings qualifier for riders 11 and under last Friday night. They won the blue this year at the Tazewell County Classic. The Reserve Grand Champion was Collector's Mindy ridden by owner/exhibitor Amy Ann McCormick of Shelbyville, Tenn. This talented team was the blue ribbon winner in the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Mares qualifier for riders 11 and under last Thursday night. Gen's Burning Rage and Maisie McSwain received the third place award for the Dan McSwain family of Atlanta, Ga. This team has had a busy year winning blues at the Trainers Show, Cloverleaf Classic, Gulf Coast Charity, Carrollton, Ga., and Tony Rice.

Seventeen entries made the gate call for the Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Paul Watlington was the call judge. Electrifying and owner/exhibitor Dona Griffin of Monroe, N.C., were called to make the spotlight ride as the 2003 Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Champions. The Reserve World Grand Champions were Pride's Sundance Star and Kay Green for Jim and Kay Green of Meridian, Miss. Walkin All Over and owner/exhibitor Bob Medina of Skillman, N.J., were third.

A small group of seven entries answered the gate call for the Lite-Shod Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. This was a canter class and was called by Laura Brandon. Double Java and Scott Benham were crowned the 2003 World Grand Champions in this division for Mark and Marcy Drummond of Norco, Calif. Double Java and Mac Benham won both the Lite-Shod Plantation Pleasure Walking Mares and Geldings qualifier for riders 17 and under last Friday morning and the Lite-Shod Plantation Pleasure Four-Year-Old Walking Horse qualifier Monday morning. Pusher's Beaming Pride and Howard Hamilton were the reserve world grand champions for Debbie and Jim Nichols of New Market, Tenn. This proud team took the unanimous win in the Lite-Shod Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses qualifying class for riders 18 and over last Thursday morning. The third place honors went to Starstruck By JFK and Clint Dixon for owners Randall and Gloria Dixon and Red Eagle Farms of Dacula, Ga. This team was reserve in the Lite-Shod Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses qualifier for amateur riders on Monday morning.

A large championship class of 20 entries made the gate call for the Walking Weanling World Grand Championship. Mike Carpenter was the call judge. Our American Idol and handler Karen McGee made the spotlight walk for the MTSU Foundation of Murfreesboro, Tenn. This adorable little weanling won the Mare and Foal class last night with proud mom Blue Nun. Blue's Lady Pusher and Valton Rummage were the reserve world grand champions for Ronnie Rummage of Columbia, Tenn. This happy team was the winner of the Weanling Fillies of 2003 Foal qualifier on Monday morning. So U Wish and Bobby Richards wore the third place ribbon from the ring for Sue and Ty Irby of Mobile, Ala. Richards and So U Wish took the blue Monday morning in the Weanling Colts of 2003 Foal qualifier.

A flashy group of ten Lite-Shod Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horse Grand Championship contenders took to the ring in hopes of riding out with the floral horse shoe. Gene Carswell was the call judge. Expertly riding without a bridle, Trish Wooten and Genius' Dixie Chick were crowned the 2003 Lite-Shod Western Plantation Pleasure World Grand Champions for Stone Gait Farm of Orange, Calif. A Common Denominator and Laurie Toone were awarded the reserve grand championship for Doug Toone of Spangle, Wash. The third place honors were given to Fiddlin At Sunrise and Mike Anasis for Bob and Grace Hawkins of Plainfield, Ind.

The Show Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship for amateur riders brought 26 entries to the ring. Jamie Hankins was selected as the call judge. Thirteen entries were asked to remain for further work in the class. This was the first additional workout of the evening. When the winner was announced, Coin Maker and Suzanne Littell were seen riding in the championship spotlight for proud owners Moore & Littell of Catherine, Ala. The reserve grand champions were Keith Johnson and Insomnia for Cartwright & Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn. The third place ribbon was presented to I'm Armed And Lethal and Lee Wall for Dr. and Mrs. Rosser Wall of Raymond, Miss.

Eleven entries came to compete for the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship. Only one entry could be chosen, however and this year it was John F K's Delight ridden by Sandra Johnson for William B. and Sandra Johnson and Waterfall Farms of Atlanta, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn. Gen's Color Me In and Kim Trumble were chosen as the reserve world grand champions for the G.R. Trumble family of Walton, Ky. Capone and Mitzi Hooper received the third place honors for Mike Hooper of Loudon, Tenn.

The Park Pleasure Walking Horse World Grand Championship also featured 11 entries. Laura Brandon was the call judge. The unanimous choice of the judges for the Park Pleasure World Grand Championship was Lit Up's Double Time ridden by Howard Hamilton for Randall and Gloria Dixon and Red Eagle farms of Dacula, Ga. The reserve choice was Senor Generator and Doug Barnes for Stuart and Pam Gibbs of Broken Arrow, Okla. Push My Score and Jeff Byrom were third for Jeanette Kuszlyk of Naples, Fla.

The final class of the evening was the Three-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship. The crowd was on its feet to welcome the ten contenders to the ring. Four entries were asked to park in while the remaining entries took to the track one more time. When they had completed their workout, the original four entries were asked to go to the track once again. After a good workout by all of the entries, the line up was called. The unanimous choice of the judges to be crowned the 2003 Three-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Champion was NYPD ridden by Tim Gray for Neal Holland and Gus King of Decatur and Arab, Ala. NYPD and Gray made the spotlight ride with their tricolor ribbon and floral horse shoe to the thunderous applause of a jubilant crowd. Congratulations guys! NYPD has won blues this year at the Columbia Spring Jubilee and Pulaski. This talented entry was also the winner of Section C of the Three-Year-Old Stallions qualifier last Friday night. The Reserve Three-Year-Old World Grand Champion was Dragonfly with Jimmy McConnell up for Mary Medina of Skillman, N.J. Dragonfly has won blues this year at Grinder's Switch and Gulf Coast Charity. Ted Williams was third with Joe Cotton up for Dr. and Mrs. Jim Green of Meridian, Miss. This team has taken the blue at Jackson, Miss., Bethesda and Section B of the Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions preliminary last Friday night.

The first night of championship classes was definitely an exciting one with quality entries in every class. You can feel the excitement growing as Saturday night's crowning of the 2003 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion draws nearer. If tonight's performances were any indication, great things are on the way!

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