by Mark Davis


            Ah, yes, it’s the Thursday night before Labor Day in Shelbyville, Tenn., and of course, that means that it’s time for championship competition to get underway at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

            Tonight’s schedule features 12 classes of championship competition highlighted by the Youth 11 & Under World Grand Championship, the Elite Riders World Grand Championship, the Owner-Amateur Riders on 15.2 & Under Horses World Grand Championship and the final class of the evening, the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship.

            Of course, promptly at 7 p.m., The Celebration’s official flag horse, Counterfeit Dollar and World Grand Champion rider Bud Seaton, made their way through the historic gates and into the big oval to present the colors for the evening.

            The invocation for the evening was given by Pastor Steve Murphree, pastor of the New Beginnings Baptist Church, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Stephen Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            The judges for the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include 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.

            Up first on the evening’s program was the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-17 Years on Park Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship. Seven of the eight with reservations made their way down the hill to work for their chance at a spotlight ride as Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the class. Taking all the symbols of supremacy back to the Show Me State was JFK’s Fancy Lady Leslie and owner/exhibitor Jesse Laughlin, champions of the Youth 11 & Under Park Pleasure division on Wednesday morning, of Waynesville, Mo. Gotham’s Dark Knight and Ashley Gordon were reserve for Kelly Gordon of Orange, Calif. In The Heat Of The Night and Anne Evans were third for Jean Fowler of Farragut, Tenn.

            All 15 of the entries expected in class 147, Novice Riders on Novice Trail Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship were up next on the evening’s schedule. Judge Mike Carpenter called the gaits in the class. Making the spotlight ride in the class and picking up their very first set of roses was the team of Good Til The Last Drop and owner/exhibitor Ashley Say of Fairview, Tenn. It’s Lady Gaga and Ty Irby pulled into the second position for Sally Paulson, Racheal Allen, Miles and Ty Irby of Salem, Ore., Pleasonton, Calif., and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Bonny Carrier and Copper’s Morning Glory rounded out the top three for Chip Carrier of Franklin, Ky.

            Opening up competition in the Performance division was class 148, Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Ten of the 15 who called ahead worked their way down the hill to compete for the ultimate honors in the division as Judge Nathan Clark served as Call Judge. Riding to the supreme honors was Command & Control and Sheryl Crawford in the irons for Crawford Colts, LLC of Carrollton, Ga. This team topped the Elite Lady Riders on Walking Stallions on Monday night. Headed back to the Lone Star state with reserve honors were Terror On The Border and Nancy Groover of Longview, Texas. The Thug and owner/exhibitor Luckey Easterling of Mize, Miss., were third.

            It was time to get in the Western frame of mind for Class 149, the Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Six of the seven expected made the gate call to work for Judge Tommy Loid and his panel. Taking the roses back to the great state of California for the second consecutive year was Dragonfire and owner/exhibitor Jim Heiting of Riverside, Calif. This win topped off a outstanding undefeated season that featured eight wins from California to Tennessee. Hello I’m Johnny Cash and owner/exhibitor Jacob Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., were reserve World Grand Champions in the division. Another California exhibitor, Patti Pollack was third with Sky Full Of Gold riding for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. and Shelbyville, Tenn.

            The young riders were back for class 150, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship. Twelve of the 14 with reservations made their way down the hill to work for the big Thursday night crowd as Judge Spencer Benedict served as Call Judge. Ah, the ride is just as sweet when it was a repeat, yes, another repeat winner as 2009 Youth 11 & Under WGC’s Moonstruck Dollar and Lake Weaver returned to the winner’s circle once again taking the honors home to Shelbyville, Tenn. Headed back to West Tennessee, Youth 11 & Under Gelding World Champions, Free To Score and owner/exhibitor Maggie Kail made a great show to take reserve honors back to Alamo, Tenn. General’s Show Stopper and Buie Williams rounded out the top of the class taking the third award for Brenda Little and Buie Williams of Spring Grove, Pa. and Shelbyville, Tenn.

            Back in the pleasure division, class 151 featured the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship with all 10 of the registered teams making the gate call to work for their chance in the spotlight as Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits. Walking their way to the winner’s circle was I’m Rose Walker and owner/exhibitor Lauren Hamilton of Cedar Grove, Tenn. Santa Emelia and owner/exhibitor Jared Carrier of Franklin, Ky., pulled into the second position. Lightning Jazz and Miles Irby were third riding for Sally Paulson, Miles Irby and Ty Irby of Salem, Ore. and Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            The Show Pleasure entries were on the track for class 152, Owner-Amateur Riders on Show Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. Eighteen of the 22 registered made their way down the hill to the historic big oval to work for Judge Mike Carpenter and his panel. Riding in the spotlight tonight and taking honors home to Western Kentucky with the approval of all five judges was Godfather By Ultra Copy and Courtney Luttrell riding for Alex Luttrell of Alvaton, Ky. This duo won their preliminary, the Ladies Show Pleasure division, on last Thursday evening. Zulu and Suzanne Moore were reserve riding for R. Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. Headed back Carolina way with third was I’m An Evil Rebel and Yvonna Matthis riding for Lucille Mathis of Morganton, N.C.

            Class 153 brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, 15.2 & Under World Grand Championship to the track with eight of the 11 expected taking the rail to work for a set of roses as Judge Nathan Clark handled the duties of Call Judge. Making the spotlight ride to the pinnacle of the division was I’m NRA and David Sisk riding for proud mom, Linda Sisk of Columbia, Tenn. The Phantom Menace and Thom Meek were reserve riding for Deerwood Manor of Brentwood, Tenn. Lee McGartland and The Royal Dollar collected the yellow streamers for Mike and Lee McGartland of Ft. Worth, Texas.

            Up next on the program was a brand new championship added for the 72nd Annual Celebration, the Country Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship, class 154 on the evening program. Judge Tommy Loid served as the Call Judge for the class that featured all 16 of the expected entries working to making history as the first Celebration World Grand Champion in the division. Making that spotlight ride as the first Country Pleasure World Grand Champion was A Red Ruby and Liz Gassaway riding for Mackenzie Morgan and Liz Gassaway of Bell Buckle and Shelbyville, Tenn. Headed back Kentucky way with the second award was Hallelujah In The Sky and owner/exhibitor Logan Hankins of Paris, Ky. Cowboy On Parole and Beth Sims were third for the Mike Chiappari family of Santa Rosa, Calif. and Bell Buckle, Tenn.

            Class 155 featured another new Championship on The Celebration schedule, the Trainers “Ride for the Roses” World Grand Championship. This class was designed for trainers and horses who have never won a set of Celebration roses and to qualify the horse and the trainer must have shown in at least one Performance class at the 2010 Celebration. Seventeen entries made the gate call to work for their first ever set of roses as Judge Spencer Benedict called the gaits. Picking up their first set of roses in the very entertaining and exciting class was King Of The Jungle and Charlie Green riding under the spotlight with the vocal approval of the Thursday night crowd for Nestor Stewart of McMinnville, Tenn. Jazz Country and Tim Smith were second in the class riding for Beverly McNeill of Andalusia, Ala. Absolute Proof and Bill Callaway were third riding for Ricky Young of Boaz, Ala.

            Lite-Shod Walking Horses World Grand Championship, class 156 on the schedule, was up next with all six of the expected teams working to the rail to show for Judge Jennifer Bingham and her panel. Riding with roses and tri color was Honor My Cash and Patrick Thomas riding for Mr. and Mrs. Don Parmer of Elizabethtown, Pa. This made Honor My Cash’s sixth 2010 Celebration win. Music City Jass and Laura Brandon were in the reserve spot taking honors home to Franklin, Tenn. Double Java and Beth Sims were third for Mike and Kathy Chiappari of Santa Rosa, Calif.

            It was finally time for the highlight of the night and the final class of the evening, class 157, the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Thirteen of the 17 on the program made the call to work for Judge Mike Carpenter and his panel. Call Judge Carpenter notified the entries before the work began that there would be a workout in the class. The Thursday night crowd certainly was not let down with the performances of these Three-Year-Old Stallions. The class was everything expected and more and kept the crowd on their feet throughout the class. However, only one could ride away with the roses and that team was I’m Copperfield and Knox Blackburn making the outstanding championship performance with the approval of all five judges for the Walden family of Chattanooga, Tenn. A Strong Need For Cash and Michael Wright were a popular reserve riding for Jim and Jeannie Roberts of Wildersville, Tenn. A Bruce Pearl and Jimmy McConnell rounded out the top three in the memorable class for Mike and Lee McGartland of Ft. Worth, Texas.

            What a great night of Championship competition it has certainly been! Coming to a close at 11:15 p.m., the Thursday Championship Night of the 72nd Annual Celebration certainly met all expectations. Come back and join us once again as Friday night promises to be just as great with the Junior World Grand Championship highlighting the evening. It promises to be another great night.