By Mark Davis

It’s Friday Night in Shelbyville and that means that we’re only a little more than 24 hours away from seeing who will be crowned the 2008 World Grand Champions!  First, however, there was a great night of World Grand Championship competition ahead tonight with 10 championships, highlighted by the Junior World Grand Championship, and two additional classes, the Walking Horse Trainers Auxiliary class and the Ladies Fine Harness, for a total of 12 classes on the evening’s program.

Those taking part in the opening ceremonies this evening included Bobby McGee of Edgemont Baptist Church, Shelbyville, Tenn., giving the invocation, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by the Edgemont Baptist Church Quartet.

The judges for the 70th edition of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Rollie Beard of Lewisburg, Tenn., Nathan Clark of Arab, Ala., Jamie Hankins of Paris, Ky., Tommy Howell of Lewisburg, Tenn., and Mack Motes of Shelbyville, Tenn.

Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness opened the evening and due to the number of entries that checked in, the decision was made to split the class.

Class 144A brought four of the five expected down to the big oval to work for the  judges, led by Call Judge Jamie Hankins, and the Friday night crowd, which was growing by the moment.  Pushing their way to the win in the section was Pushover In Dixie and Tamara Kasser in the bike for Belle Meadow Farm of Wartrace, Tenn.  Susan Coleman and Temptation By Boogie drove into the second position for Mike Floyd and Susan Coleman of Columbia, Tenn.  Touch My Way and owner/exhibitor Shelia Bullington of Franklin, Tenn., accepted third.

All five of the teams with reservations made their way down the hill for class 144B, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness.  Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge in the section.  Driving to the top of the division and taking the honors home to the Sunshine State were Flame’s Magic In Command and Tracy Pinson driving for Mr. & Mrs. James McKay of Odessa, Fla.  Trainer Ronal Young captured the Fine Harness, Division A World Championship with this entry earlier this week.  Almost hitting it out of the park, Willie Mays and Kathy Owen pulled in for the reserve for K & G Enterprise of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Rounding out the top three was Major Miss Understood and Lynn Womack at the lines for Neill, Harwell and Womack of Savannah, Manchester and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The first World Grand Championship class of the night, class 145, brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship to the track with 15 of the 21 teams in the program making their way down to show off their very best hoping to make that first ride under the spotlight of the evening as Judge Tommy Howell called the gaits in the event.  Proving they had the winning time, it was He’s On Georgia Time and Kelly Gordon making the spotlight ride and taking the honors home to the Golden State for Stonegait Farms of Orange, Calif.  Last year’s champion in the division, Santana’s Coin and John McNeely were reserve riding for McNeely and Landrum of Blowing Rock, N.C. & Franklin, Tenn.  Fog At The Ritz and Lauren Hamilton accepted the golden streamers for Sisson & Hamilton of Beech Bluff and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Kelley Gordon and He's On Georgia Time took the roses back to the sunny state of California in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. 

Up next on the schedule was class 146, the Susan Gordon Memorial Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Six of the eight entries on the program made their way to the rail to work for the opportunity to make that sentimental journey down victory lane in the event.  Judge Mack Motes led the panel in this class of championship competition.   Making the ride with the roses, with a unanimous decision of the panel, were Jazzed Up and Brenda Bramlett, winners in the Amateur Specialty Stallions preliminary, for Bramlett and Wilson of Shelbyville, Tenn.  On The Line and Suzanne Moore were named Reserve World Grand Champions in the division riding for Bud & Suzanne Moore of Catherine, Ala.  Command & Control and Sheryl Crawford rounded out the top three for Crawford Colts, LLC of Carrollton, Ga.

Stepping out of the spotlight for just a moment, class 147 featured the Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Members on Walking Horses with 10 entries making the gate call to work in the event as Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge for the section.  Making the wicked performance in the event was He’s Wild Eyed & Wicked and Stacy Blackburn riding for Eva Eddleman  of Chattanooga, Tenn.  Copy’s Touchtone and owner/exhibitor Megan Peebles of Shelbyville, Tenn., pulled in for the red streamers, while Pushin Cash and Callie Stuckey were third for Callie Stuckey and Chuck & Terry Williamson of Soddy Daisy and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Back in the pleasure division, the championship action continued once again in class 148, Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, World Grand Championship.  Nine of the 11 with reservations made their way down to the historic big oval to work for Judge Nathan Clark and his panel.  Making the elegant performance to ride away with all the honors were Mark Lambert and Elegance Of Design taking the honors way out west for Kasidy R. Petty of Riverton, Utah.  Little Dumas and Mike Kluttz were reserve for CB & Linda Daughtridge of Rocky Mount, N.C.  Drop The Hammer and Judy Leek hammered out another good performance to score third for Waldo & Leek, LLC of Cedar Creek, Texas & Shelbyville, Tenn. 

Getting in the western frame of mind, class 149, Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship.  All 17 of the entries that called ahead were ready and waiting for their chance to ride in the big oval as Judge Jamie Hankins called the gaits in the championship event.  Picking up their second set of roses in two nights, Playin’ Hooky and Liz Gassaway were riding in the spotlight once again as they carried another set of roses home to Shelbyville, Tenn.  Ms. Street Walker and Joseph Abernathy rode into the second position for Pinner-Bader-Keyser & Abernathy of Senatobia, Miss. & Wemding, Germany.  Santa Amelia and owner/exhibitor Jared Carrier of Franklin, Ky., accepted the yellow ribbon in the event.

Playin' Hookie and liz Gassaway claimed their second set of roses at the 2008 Celebration, and blue ribbon number 5.

Class 150 featured the Park Performance Walking Horse World Grand Championship with 13 of the 14 programmed entries working down the hill to work for their moment in time as Judge Tommy Howell served as Call Judge in the class.  As Celebration Organist Larry Bright played “California Here I Come”, The Concealed Weapon and Joe Cotten were making the ride to the winner’s circle for the Robert Pollack family of Saratoga, Calif. & Shelbyville, Tenn.  All American Ritz and Howard Hamilton were reserve for Cynthia Wright of Jackson, Tenn.  Rounding out the top three was Pzazz Marks and Tim Smith in the irons for McNeil & Adkins of Andalusia, Ala. & Shelbyville, Tenn.

Class 151 brought a big class of 22 to the rail to work in the Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Yes, all of these riders were riding down the hill hoping all of their dreams would come true tonight as they could maybe, just maybe make their first ever ride under the spotlight in Shelbyville tonight.  Judge Mack Motes led the panel in the very competitive division.  As the spotlight roamed the line up, announcer Chip Walters called the team of Outta Line and Kelly Peevy of Decatur, Ala., into the winner’s circle and out of the Novice division.   This team had already picked up two 2008 Celebration blues in the Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Stallions division and in the Three-Year-Old Amateur Stallions preliminary.  Gen’s Major Event and Julie Alford pulled in to pick up the red ribbon for John Alford of Buffalo, Mo.  The Who and Molly Walters were third for the Molly Walters family of Southlake, Texas.

The young riders were up next in class 152, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship with 22 of the 23 with reservations making the call to ride hard for their moment in time as Judge Rollie Beard called the gaits in the event.  Once the work was complete, it was time to turn on the spotlight once again and search for the World Grand Champion in the division.  The spotlight landed on the team of FDR and Amy Nesius who rode to the honor for the Rick Nesius family of Chapel Hill, Tenn.  The duo picked up the win with a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  This marked Nesius’ second set of roses from the 2008 Celebration as she had already won the Equitation World Grand Championship on Monday Morning.  Watch N Bedazzled and Mary Morrison were second in the large class for Andrew Morrison of Hattiesburg, Miss.  She’s Push In Command and Lindsay Hess accepted the golden streamers for CM, Connie & Lindsay Hess of Harrisonburg, Va.

It was time to get back in the western way for class 153, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Ten of the 11 expected in the class shined up their silver and put on their fanciest duds and finest hats to come work for the chance to add a tri-colored ribbon to their bridle.  Judge Nathan Clark served as Call Judge in the class.  Riding away with the win and all the honors in the division was Armed Red Baron and owner/exhibitor Joe Dixon of Dacula, Ga.  Dragonfire and owner/exhibitor Jim Heiting of Riverside, Calif., pulled in for the reserve honors, while Armed And Trigger Happy and Jim Nichols were a very popular third for Debbie and Jim Nichols of New Market, Tenn.

Class 154 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 19 of the 22 entered making their way down from the warm up ring to work for the judges and the crowd.  Judge Jamie Hankins led the panel in the event.  Proving they had the winning line, The Dixie Lineman and Gail Walling put on a stellar performance to impress the judges and the crowd and ride away with the World Grand Championship title with a unanimous decision of the judging panel for McDonald & Walling of Tullahoma and Wartrace, Tenn.  The duo topped the Amateur Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions, Div. A preliminary earlier in the show. He’s Slim Shady and Lee Wall pulled in for the second award for Lee Wall & Mike McGartland of Jackson, Miss. & Ft. Worth, Texas.  Paroled In Texas and Holly Coggin rounded out the top three for the Coggin & Whittenburg families of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Closing out the evening’s performance, after a quick drag of the track, was class 155, the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter).  As Larry Bright played the “Flat Walk Boogie”, announcer Chip Walters called the class to the ring.  Ten of the 14 entries on the books made their way down to the big oval to work for Call Judge Tommy Howell and his esteemed panel.  Taking home all the honors, with a unanimous decision of the panel, were The Coach and Joel Weaver, riding for Holland, Kilgore & Barnes of Decatur & Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.  Ozone’s Cut Above All and John Allan Callaway were reserve in the very competitive class for Mark and Sharon Thomas of Columbus, N.C.  Victoria’s Secret and Gary Edwards were third for Chester & Lynda Stokes of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Joel Weaver and The Coach made Alabamba proud as they were crowned the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Champions.

What a great night it has been once again!  While rain was in the air earlier in the day, none was to be found throughout the show and what a great show there was.  The classes were large and very competitive, the weather was crisp and almost cool and the crowd was vocal and enthusiastic throughout the evening.  What more could one ask for? 

It will still get better on tomorrow evening as we’ll get to see 11 more divisional World Grand Champions being crowded leading up to the granddaddy of them all, the pinnacle of the industry, the best of the best, The Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  It promises to be one outstanding night that you won’t want to miss.  Make plans to see history in the making at the 70th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration!