And the crowd goes wild...

Championship winners and contenders set Celebration Arena on fire

By Melissa R. Stevens

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - Attendance for the first Saturday night of the 65th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was 23,891, an increase of 4,278 from the same night last year. Paid attendance was 24,916, up 1,880 from this night last year. The mood was set for competition and hopes of better weather after last night's stormy night. The weather held out and competition was that only seen at a show like the Celebration -- fierce.

The first class of the evening was the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Mares and Geldings, Riders 15 to 17 class featuring 18 entries. Jamie Hankins was the call judge for the class. A time out was called to search for a lost action device, which was quickly found allowing the class to resume. The unanimous choice for first was Pusher's Special Design ridden by Kathryn Ramsbottom for Bob Ramsbottom of Norris, Tenn. This win puts Kathyrn Ramsbottom and Pusher's Special Design in second place on the Walking Horse Report's Highpoint Report. This talented team has garnered wins this year at Gallatin, Harriman, Money Tree Classic, Woodbury and Pulaski. Second in the class was Hytone's Buster Brown with Tyler Herndon in the irons for Tim Herndon of Jackson, Tenn. The third place tie went to I'm Cruella De Vil and owner/exhibitor Joel Johnston of Shelbyville, Tenn. This team was reserve in this class in 2002.

The Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares and Geldings class was split into two sections due to the extremely large number of entries. Section A of the class featured 33 of the 50 entries listed in the program. Paul Watlington was the call judge. There was a bit of a scare just after the class was called to order, when Pride's Turn To Push unexpectedly bolted around the ring nearly throwing rider Kristi Hamilton. The class was halted until the horse could be caught and excused from the ring. When the class resumed 13 entries were asked to remain for further rail work. My Bright Star and owner/exhibitor Ann Callicutt of Shelbyville were called to the winner's circle. Cash Is My Choice and Sharon Lessard were reserve in the class for owner Christian Lessard of Great Falls, W. Va., followed by Gen's All Colors and Carol Smith for George and Carol Smith of Wiggins, Miss., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Section B of the class also featured 33 entries. Forty-seven teams were listed on the program. Laura Brandon was selected as the call judge. An additional workout was called for 14 of the entries. Taking the first place tie was Pusher's Black Jewel and Ashley Joseph for Joseph & Shoemaker of Columbiana, Ala., and Childersburg, Ala. Second in the class was Mark's Pushing Lady and Karen Rector for Steel Friends, LLC of Gordonsville, Va. Gen's Impressive Lady ridden by Carol Shelton was third for Steve and Carol Shelton of Mason, Tenn.

Eleven entries made the gate call for the Western Park Pleasure Canter class. Mike Carpenter was the call judge. Strike It Rich was ridden to the blue by Howard Hamilton for Randall and Gloria Dixon of Red Eagle Farms in Dacula, Ga. Double Your Money and Leigh Bennett were reserve for Dwight and Elizabeth Ottman of Owensboro, Ky., followed by WHAM! and Mike Anasis for Kevin Smith of Yorktown, Ind.

The Two-Year-Old Walking Mares class was split into two divisions. Section A of the class featured 28 entries. Fifty-seven teams were listed on the program. Gene Carswell was the call judge for the class. Crimson Lady and Bill Cantrell rode to the blue for the Bob Kilgore family of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Neon Bright has a bright new red ribbon to add to her collection. Larry Edwards was in the irons for Dr. and Mrs. W.H. Hill of Powder Springs, Ga. A Tad Bad and Knox Blackburn took the third place for Mike, Amy and Taylor Waldon of Ooltewah, Tenn.

Thirty-seven entries packed the ring for Section B of the Two-Year-Old Mares class. Jamie Hankins was the call judge for this section of the class. A workout was called for 14 of the entries. A Private Benjamin and Joel Weaver were called to the winner's circle for owner James Sigman of Nashville, Tenn. This was a special win for Joel Weaver; this was his first ever blue ribbon at the Celebration. Weaver has helped several of his customers win Celebration blues, but this is his very first! Congratulations Joel! Silver Dollar Angel and Tim Gray rode to the reserve tie to thunderous applause. Shannon Snodgrass of Charleston, W. Va., is the proud owner. She's A Pistol Pusher and Jackie McConnell were chosen for the third place tie for owners Steve and Carol Shelton of Mason, Tenn.

The first championship class of the 65th annual Celebration was the Walking Yearling World Grand Championship. Seventeen entries chose to show back in the championship. Paul Watlington was selected to call the class. The Texas Lexus, and handler Lynn Womack, made the spotlight walk after being crowned the 2003 World Grand Champion Yearling. Dr. Roger Richards of Hendersonville, Tenn., is the proud owner of the new world grand champion. With this win Dr. Richards retired two memorial trophies, the Jack C. Stafford Memorial Challenge Trophy and the Scott Edwards Memorial Challenge Trophy. Dr. Richards also owns the third place entry, High Altitude with handler Chris Richards. Encore's Magic Lady and Nathan Mills were named the Reserve World Grand Champions for Hoyte Eakes of Nashville, Tenn. Mills and Encore's Magic Lady placed first in the Yearling Fillies and Geldings preliminary class earlier today.

The Owner-Amateur Novice Gentlemen Riders on Novice Walking Stallions class was split into two sections. Section A brought 21 entries to the ring to compete for their first Celebration blue. Laura Brandon was the call judge. A short time-out was called at the beginning of the class to allow a groom to assist an entry. When the action resumed The Ultra Doc and owner/exhibitor Dr. Jim Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., were announced as the winners of Section A. Sleeper's Tycoon and Michael Patterson were reserve in the class for the Michael Patterson family of Rockvale, Tenn., followed by A Black Market Pusher and Ronnie Stanfill for Ruby Stanfill of Lexington, Tenn.

Section B of the Owner-Amateur Novice Gentlemen Riders on Novice Walking Stallions featured 21 entries. Mike Carpenter was selected as the call judge. The Phantom Menace and Thom Meek were selected unanimously to wear the blue ribbon from the ring for Deerwood Manor LLC of Brentwood, Tenn. Owner/exhibitor Dr. Jim Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., was back in Section B with ADA2D. Baum and ADA2D took the reserve honors. Market Street and Mike Waldon rounded out the top three spots for Mike, Amy and Taylor Waldon of Ooltewah, Tenn.

The moment everyone had been waiting for finally arrived as the gate call for the Walking Stallions, Five-Years and Over, Over 15.2 Canter class was announced. Fifteen hopeful entries made their way to the ring to compete for a spot in the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship. The crowd erupted in a thunderous applause as The Whole Nine Yards and Bill Bobo were announced as the unanimous winner of Section A for owners Bob and Luanne Sigman of Canal Winchester, Ohio. This championship contender has received blues this year at the Trainers Show and the Columbia Spring Jubilee. Pushover's Powerstroke and Ronnie Spears were called for the reserve spot. Glen and Virgie Crutchfield of Memphis, Tenn., are the proud owners. Pushover's Powerstroke won the blue at the Putnam County Horse Show this year. Cash's All Star and Larry Edwards finished third for owner Herb Murrath of Stone Mountain, Ga. All Star claimed several wins this season including Tony Rice and Carrolton, Ga.

Section B of the championship qualifier was just as exciting as the first with 19 entries making the gate call. The judges' choice across the board for the first place tie in this class was The Black Night Shade and Jimmy McConnell for proud owners Tom and Judy Waite of Milton, Fla. The Black Night Shade has wins this year at Gallatin Lions Club, Bethesda, Magnolia Classic and Belfast. The American General and Larry Edwards received the reserve honors in the class for the Dan McSwain family of Atlanta, Ga. This entry has a long list of wins as well. The American General has received blues at the Trainers Show, Carrollton, Ga., and the Georgia Ladies Auxiliary. The Snowatch and Dick Peebles were third in the class for the Anthony Joseph family of Columbiana, Ala., and Shelbyville, Tenn. He has wins this year from Texas Bluebonnet Classic and the Gulf Coast Charity.

The first Saturday night of the 65th Celebration was one for the scrapbooks. The excitement of the first championship class and the qualifiers for the World Grand Championship pushed the crowd to its limit as they cheered loud and long for their favorites. I can only imagine the sounds that will be heard from Celebration Arena next Saturday when the 2003 World Grand Champion is crowned.