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The Coach and Billy Gray, 2010 World Grand Champions

by Mark Davis

       It’s finally here . . .the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  Championship Saturday night at the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, and what a great night it promises to be.  The weather couldn’t be any more perfect, 70 degrees at show time, falling through the sixties as the night progresses, a far cry from the heat and humidity that Middle Tennessee has dealt with all summer.
       The evening’s schedule featured 14 classes of World Grand Championship competition highlighted by the Lead Line World Grand Championship, the Show Pleasure World Grand Championship, the Weanling World Grand Championship, the Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship and the Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship leading up to the big one, The Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.
       What about that World Grand Championship class?  Talk around the industry over the past several weeks revolved around the potential of a “surprise” entry turning up in the World Grand Championship class, whether it be a former World Grand Champion or a entry that qualified in a class other than the Aged Stallions.  However, when the entry sheets came out, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Twelve teams were entered and all qualified in the Aged Stallion competition on last Saturday night.  So, just who will it be that will make that “stand out” performance tonight.  Will it be one of the World Champions, Rowdy Rev or The Golden Sovereign?  Will it be The Coach or Sky Miles, who were both seen as leading contenders throughout the year, but had challenges on last Saturday night? Or, could a “dark horse” like John F.K.’s Pusher, Moody Star, NYPD or Showboat By Skywatch make an outstanding performance and walk away with the roses.  Soon enough, we will see.
       The judges for the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration included Spencer Benedict of Glasgow, Ky., Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn., Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tenn., Nathan Clark of Arab, Ala., and Tommy Loid of Bowling Green, Ky.
       The invocation for the Saturday night performance was given by Rev. Lloyd Doyle, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Pamela Hanes of Shelbyville, Tenn.
       As Bud Seaton and Counterfeit Dollar, The Celebration’s official flag horse exited back up the hill, it was time to call the first class of the evening to the ring, class 170, Lead Line Ponies, Riders 6 and Under World Grand Championship.  All 23 of the expected teams worked down the hill to entertain the large Saturday night crowd as Judge Spencer Benedict led the panel in the class that got the crowd excited from the very start.  When the work was complete, the teams lined up on in the south turn and extended from mid way on the east side past the turn on the west side.  As the spotlight searched, it finally landed on the team of Rascal Flatts and Storm Sims in the saddle, with Jeff Byrom at the lead for Sims & Byrom of Bell Buckle & Shelbyville, Tenn.  Shake’s Little Midnight and Abigail Lovvorn with Charles Glegorn at the lead were reserve for Charles & Joy Gleghorn of Fayetteville, Tenn.  Doblin and Tori Baxter carried the third award back to
Newport, Tenn.

       Up next on the evening’s schedule was class 171, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Ponies World Grand Championship.  Six of the 10 expected made the gate call to work for their chance at that memorable walk in the spotlight as Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the class.  Making that coveted ride for the second consecutive year was I’m Packing A Pistol and Charlene Gibson riding for Gibson & Davis of Sykesville, Md. & Charlottesville, Va.  Lined Walkin’ and Lilly Waites pulled into the second position riding for Andrew Waites Family of Hattiesburg, Miss.  ACC and Kenny Compton were third riding for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va.
       The professional trainers hit the track for class 172, Show Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship (Riders Cup) with six of the ten expected taking the rail to work for the ultimate honors in the division as Judge Mike Carpenter called the gaits for the class.  Making the ride with the roses was A Line Dancer and Bill Callaway riding for S & J Enterprises/C. Bailey of Madison, Ala.  Sky Jam and Knox Blackburn pulled into the second position for R. Bud Moore & Jan Short of Catherine, Ala., Franklin & Brentwood, Tenn.  All Cash On Demand and John Allan Callaway rounded out the top three riding for Hooper, Williamson, Wilson, Bramlett & DeWitt of Loudon, Soddy Daisy & Shelbyville, Tenn.

       The babies of our industry hit the track for class 173, Walking Weanling World Grand Championship with all 13 of the expected teams walking to the track to show off their best looks and moves to the judging panel, led by Judge Nathan Clark in the class.  Walking down victory lane was I’m Gene Autry and Sylvester Skierkowski at the lead for Bobby Joe Jones of Manchester, Tenn.  El Nino’s Cash and Robert Nelms were reserve leading for Precious Memories Farm/Daniel Miller of Bell Buckle, Tenn.  Command Sgt. Majors and Nathan Mills were third for Hoyte Eakes of Nashville, Tenn.
       Class 174 brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship to historic big oval with 11 of the 19 on the official Lions Club program beating the clock to work for Judge Tommy Loid and his cohorts.  Riding to the winner’s circle was A High Dollar Charge and Beverly Sherman taking the floral horseshoe and all the honors home to Dallas, Texas. With this win, Sherman retired the E.L. Burgess Memorial Challenge Trophy.  It was good to see Sherman back in the Celebration winner’s circle in 2010 after she was sidelined by illness at the 2009 Celebration.  My First Dollar and George Ann Pratt were reserve riding for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  Main Majorette and Caleb Kilburn rounded out the top three for Salt Lick Farm of Salt Lick, Ky.  

       During a break in the action, it was time to take a look at the 2009 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion, Watch It Now and veteran trainer Jimmy McConnell in special exhibition.  After the presentations were made, it was time to get back to the horse show action.
       It was time to get in the western way for class 175, Western Lite Shod Walking Horses World Grand Championship as all seven of the expected teams made the call to work as Judge Spencer Benedict called the gaits in the division.  Riding down victory lane was Catastrophic and Laurie Toone riding for Laurie Toone & Liz Gassaway of Bell Buckle & Shelbyville, Tenn.  Double Java and Beth Sims were reserve riding for Mike & Kathy Chiappari of Santa Rosa, Calif.  Joanne Davis and Jose Quervo Gold rounded out the top three taking honors home to Christiana, Tenn.
       Fourteen of the 21 expected worked to the track for class 176, Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the class.  Riding away with the tri-color with the approval of all five judges was He’s Vida Blue and Kay Green riding for Dr. Jim & Kay Green of Meridian, Miss.  This duo topped the Owner/Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Div. B on Tuesday evening.  He’s 3 Under Par and Barbara Kenehan, champions of the Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Div. A, were reserve for Jay & Barbara Kenehan of Shelbyville, Tenn.  A Bruce Pearl and Lee McGartland were third riding for Mike & Lee McGartland of Ft. Worth, Texas.

       Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-17 Years English or Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship was up next, class 177 on the program with all 13 of the expected teams coming to work for their chance in the spotlight tonight as Judge Mike Carpenter led the panel in the event.  Making that ride she’ll remember forever was Kaitlyn Rippy and She’s Pretty Jazzy capturing top honors in the division for Paige Bennett & Kaitlyn Rippy of Alvaton, Ky. & Greenbrier, Tenn.  So It Is and Hunter Morgan pulled into the second position riding for Rhiannon Barker & Evan Morgan of Murfreesboro & Bell Buckle, Tenn.  Gigi’s Majestic and Claire Hankins were third riding for Leo Martin & Logan Hankins of Eldon, Mo. & Paris, Ky.
       The Larry Pickhardt Memorial Two-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Riders Cup), class 178 on the schedule was up next bringing 11 of the 18 expected to the rail to work as Judge Nathan Clark called the gaits. Riding away with the roses in the stellar class with a unanimous decision of the panel were Pro V 1 and Jimmy McConnell riding for Waterfall Farms of Shelbyville, Tenn.  This team was the winner of the A division of the Two-Year-Old Stallions on Monday night.  Dirty Sexy Money and Tim Smith, champions of the B Division of the preliminary, was reserve riding for Laura Brandon of Franklin, Tenn.  Parole’s Jail House Rock and Daniel Latham took the third award for Robert Taylor of Pearl, Miss.

       The Stars Of The Future presentation was up next on the program, which brought all of the World Grand Champions from the youth division to the ring.  All of the champions had to opportunity to return to the big oval and show off their talents for the extra large Saturday night crowd.
       Next, it was time for class 179, Owner-Amateur Riders on Lite Shod Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Eight of the 12 expected made the call to work for the top honors of the division.  Riding in the spotlight with the approval of all five judges to the tune of the “Pennsylvania Polka”, played by Larry Bright, was Honor My Cash and Deborah Parmer riding for Mr. & Mrs. Don Parmer of Elizabethtown, Pa.  With this win, coupled with a win 2008, this team retired the Lying Low Farm Challenge Trophy & the Ray Baldwin Memorial Challenge Trophy.  Reserve honors went to the team of Jose Quervo Gold and owner/exhibitor Joanne Davis of Christiana, Tenn.  Confederate Jazz and Kyle Elliot were third for Jana Anderson of Shelbyville, Tenn.
       Back in the performance division, class 180 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 15 of the 23 on the books working their way down from Calsonic Arena to work for the divisional roses as Judge Spencer Benedict led the panel in the class.  Walking the winning line to the winner’s circle was The Dixie Lineman and Gail Walling riding for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn.  This team captured the preliminary win in the Owner/Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Div. A on Thursday night.  He’s A Jazz Thing and owner/exhibitor Kelly Sherman of Boulder, Co., pulled into the second position.  Play Something Country and owner/exhibitor Jeff Smith headed back to Greer, S.C. with the third award.

       The final pleasure class of the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was class 181, the Park Pleasure Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  Eight of the 10 on the program beat the time clock to work for the premier position in the division as Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the class.  You should never count out Darden Gladney because you just never know where he might turn up.  Tonight, he and Jose’s No Counting Me Out made a stellar performance to ride to the winner’s circle for Gladney Farms of Homer, La.  Yao Ming and Bruce Hankins were reserve riding for Nicole Coffey of Lewisburg, Tenn.  Cash For A Good Time and Howard Hamilton were third for Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Merrill of Walnut Hill, Ill.
       In a break in the action, premier showman Jimmy McConnell of Union City, Tenn., was honored as 2010 Walking Horse Trainers’ Association Trainer Of The Year.
       Class 182 brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter) to the track with seven of the 10 entered making the gate call to work for Judge Mike Carpenter and his panel.  Riding to the winner’s circle in the division with a tip of the hat was the team of Strolling Thru The Ritz and Brian Reece riding for The Jimmy Reece Family of Pikeville, Tenn.  The team captured this win with a unanimous decision of the panel.  Matador and Tim Brooks were reserve riding for Mr. & Mrs. Tim Brooks of Hot Springs, Ark.  I’m Redeemed and Kenny Compton were third riding for Della Compton of Tazewell, Va.

       Of course, Announcer Bobby Sands asked if the Saturday night crowd was ready for what was next . . .the Big Orange Kubota tractor, to drag the track and get it ready for the class everyone has been waiting for, the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.
       Once the dragging of the track was complete, it was finally time for what everyone has waited for all year long, class 183, the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  As always, they were called out individually by Announcer Bobby Sands and asked to come and show their very best for the Saturday night crowd.  Once everyone was in, Announcer Sands notified the entries that there would be a workout requested.  Judge Nathan Clark served as Call Judge for the ultimate class of the show.  Once the initial work was complete, the participants were asked to line up and remove the saddles for conformation judging.  
Once this was complete, it was time to replace the saddles and head back to the track once again and get the final decision made.  Four entries were asked to park in for the workout: The Coach, Rowdy Rev, Moody Star & The Golden Sovereign, while the remaining entries were put back on the track first.  When all the work was done, the entries were asked to line up on the south grass for final judging and to await the announcement of the judges’ decision.  Finally, Announcer Sands called the number 323, The Coach and Billy Gray to the winner’s circle as 2010 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion for owners Holland, Kilgore & Barnes of Decatur & Tuscaloosa, Ala. & Pigeon Forge, Tenn.  This makes Gray’s fourth trip to the World Grand Championship winner’s circle on four different horses, a feat accomplished by no other trainer.  Reserve honors in the class, with the vocal approval of the crowd, went to Moody Star & Chad Baucom riding for Wilsene Moody of Shelbyville, Tenn.  The
Golden Sovereign and Tim Smith were third for Evergreen Walking Horse Farm of Shelbyville, Tenn.

With a final victory pass, the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was in the history books and what a great Celebration it has been!  Great weather, exciting horses, excited crowds.  Altogether, it truly makes The Celebration the world’s greatest horse show!

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