By Mark Davis

The 66th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s evening sessions got underway, as usual, promptly at 7 pm with flag horse Counterfeit Dollar and World Champion rider Bud Seaton presenting the national colors. The Rev. Ron Dewitt of the First Church of the Nazarene, Shelbyville, Tenn. gave the invocation and Memarie of Nashville, Tenn. sang a fabulous rendition of the National anthem.

Celebration attendees arriving early for tonight’s show had the opportunity to stop by the Celebration Plaza and visit with personalities from WGFX-FM’s Thursday night edition of “The Sports Zone,” Nashville’s highest rated sports talk show featuring George Plaster, Willie Daunic and Darren Mc Farland. This marked the first time in several years that a Nashville talk radio show has broadcast live from the Celebration.

The first class on the evening’s schedule, as always, was the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Mares, riders 11 and Under. Twenty-one of the 24 scheduled made the gate call to work as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits. As always, the large Thursday night crowd got into the Youth division with everyone in the arena cheering on their favorite. When the work was complete, announcer Chip Walters called the many time World Champion and World Grand Champion mare Sunrise Que Sera Sera and rider Christina Butler to the winner’s circle for proud grandparents, Glen and Virgie Crutchfield of Memphis, Tenn. Reserve in the hotly contested division went to last year’s World Champion Collector’s Mindy and owner/exhibitor Amy Ann McCormick of Shelbyville, Tenn. Main Majorette and Taylor Willis captured third for Carolyn Thomas and Taylor Willis of Springfield, Mo and Shelbyville, Tenn.

Next on the evening’s agenda, the Three-Year-Old Geldings, with 20 of the 29 entered making the gate call in the A division with Judge Huck Moss serving as call. After an outstanding performance, 2003 National Futurity champion General Splash and Joe Cotten made the victory pass for Lindsey Landrum of Franklin, Tenn. Mr. BBC and Mickey McCormick pulled in reserve honors in the competitive division for Dr. Bill Russell and family of Shelbyville, Tenn. Big Star’s Pride and Jimmy McConnell accepted the yellow streamer for Gail McConnell of Union City, Tenn.

In the B division of the Three-Year-Old Geldings, again 20 of the 29 entered made the call with Judge Wayne Abee calling the gaits. Midway through the class The Delivery Man and Todd Smith suffered a minor misfortune and cast a shoe, requiring a timeout. However, farrier Louie Staton came through once again, replaced the shoe and allowed the team to complete the class. When it was all said and done, FDR and Dude Crowder picked up the Celebration blue for Stephanie Gordon of Murfreesboro, Tenn. FDR captured a World title in the Two-Year-Old Gelding division in 2003 under the ownership of Ty Irby and family and trainer Joe Cotten. Reserve went to the entry of Mr and Mrs Jamie “Red” Etheredge, I Could Command with trainer Knox Blackburn. Third in the division was captured by Dollar’s Direct Deposit and Joe Cotten for Mr. and Mrs. Harold Daniels of Lewisburg, Tenn.

The excitement was high as class 25A, Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions hit the ring with 32 of the 54 entered making the call to work for call Judge Bob Cherry and his colleagues. Blue ribbon honors in the division went to the tough team of Abel and Brenda Bramlett for Brenda Bramlett and Dr. Lana Beavers of Flat Creek, Tenn. Jose Dot Com and Beth Sims had a strong ride to capture the reserve honors for the Mike Chiappari family of Santa Rosa, Calif. and Bell Buckle, Tenn. A Flash Of Lightning and Carolyn Miller rode for the yellow streamer for C & E Miller Farms , LLC of Elberton, Ga.

The tension grew even more as the crowd awaited the B division of the Owner- Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions. Thirty-two of the 51 in the program made the call to work for the right to make that sentimental journey down victory lane. Judge Joe Fleming served as call for the division and determined that additional work would be needed to determine the winner. Fourteen were asked to remain to work for that Celebration blue. After putting on a “shocking” performance, The Shock Jock and Becky Coleman rode to the winner’s circle for Dr. Michael and Becky Coleman of Money, Miss. The team preceded their Celebration win with wins at Winchester, Murfreesboro, Magnolia Classic and Fayetteville. With an “outrageous” performance, current Bethesda champion, Outrageous Attitude and Rhonda Holton captured the reserve title for the Thomas Holton family of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Jose’ Beam and Robby Biggs accepted the third award for the Robby Biggs family of Cottontown, Tenn.

The trainers hit the ring once again for class 26 A, Three-Year-Old Walking Mares. Thirty of the 43 programmed entries hit the track to work for call Judge Tommy Loid and staff. Again, it was determined that additional work would be necessary and thirteen of the original 30 were asked to remain for the workout. Making another “Neon Bright” performance to capture the Celebration acclaim was Neon Bright and Larry Edwards. The team already took home the TWHBEA National Futurity Three-Year-Old Mare title on Wednesday evening and was the reigning TWHBEA National Futurity Two-Year-Old Mare champion. This outstanding young mare is owned by Dr. and Mrs W.H. Hill of Powder Springs, Ga. Absolutely Flawless and John Allen Callaway were exactly that as they rode away with the red ribbon for C & C Stables, LLC of Lawrenceville, Ga. Accepting third was the strong team of Cash My Lady and Bobby Fann for Charles H Stewart of McMinnville, Tenn.

Twenty-seven of the 42 entries brought their best to display for the extra large Thursday night crowd and the judging panel, led in the division by Judge Huck Moss. Riding for the “roses” in this division was Sweepstakes Wine and Roses and Joe Cotten for Lovato and Schumann of West Jordan, Utah and Shelbyville, Tenn. This team rode to the reserve TWHBEA National Futurity title on Wednesday evening. Hosanna and Larry Edwards were close behind in the reserve position for Mr. and Mrs Louis Hawkersmith of Tullahoma, Tenn. Magenta and Allan Callaway rode to the yellow ribbon for Michael Hart of Corbin, Ky. and Bell Buckle, Tenn.

The amateur riders were back in the ring for class 27, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, 15.2 and Under. Thirty-two of the 55 in the official program made the gate call. It was obvious from the very start that this class was not only large on numbers, but deep on talent and the officials realized that as well and determined that a workout would be necessary. Fourteen were asked to remain in hopes of carrying the silver home tonight. You know, everyone tells you to watch out for that Shelbyville gossip, but it was a little different kind of gossip folks were watching tonight, Gossip and Candy Whitehead Green. The team brought the crowd to their feet as they rode to the winner’s circle and as they made the victory pass. And you can guess who was waiting for Candy when she arrived to the winner’s circle, none other than her father, longtime trainer Paul “Whitey” Whitehead and her daughter, WhitLei Green. This will truly be a night to remember for the Green and Whitehead families for many years to come. Gossip is proudly owned by Candy’s mother, Bea Whitehead of Mt. Orab, Ohio. Reserve in the very tough division went to the 2003 Elite WGC, Electrifying and owner/exhibitor Dona Griffin of Matthews N.C. Third in the division went to yet another reigning WGC, The Phantom Menace and Thom Meek, the 2003 Novice Amateur WGC, riding for Deerwood Manor of Brentwood, Tenn.

Twenty-nine of the 48 entries in the program hit the track in class 28, Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Geldings. Judge Bob Cherry served as call for the division. Two very familiar faces captured the honor of making their way back to the winner’s circle in this division, Gen’s Fire & Ice and Susan Gordon. Year after year, he keeps on going strong and keeps on taking home those Celebration blues. In 2002, he was Youth Rider WGC with Stephanie Gordon and in 2003 he was Amateur Mare and Gelding WGC with Susan Gordon. After last year’s Celebration, Susan Gordon stated that would probably be her last ride with Fire & Ice, but deep down we all really hoped he’d be back. And, indeed he was back . . .and better than ever. By the way, he captured this title with a unanimous decision of the panel. Pushin’ That Jazz and owner/exhibitor Laura Brandon of Franklin, Tenn. made an outstanding show as well to ride to the reserve title. Dumas and Renee Carlton captured third for the Keith Carlton family of Corinth, Miss.

Another highlight of the evening was the Owner/Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Stallions. The A division found 29 entries out of the 36 entered making the call to work for Celebration acclaim. Judge Joe Fleming served as call judge for the division. Riding for the silver tonight was the reigning Three-Year-Old Amateur WGC I’m Silver Too with owner/exhibitor Rusty Hyneman making the great ride and taking the honors back to Memphis, Tenn. Ebony’s Diamond Cutter and Sherri Pollack took the reserve honors in the extra tough class for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. and Shelbyville, Tenn. Third in the division went to Hard Mountain Cash and owner/exhibitor Jane Hardy Meredith of Roswell, Ga.

The B division of the Owner/Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Walking Stallions found 25 of the 35 entries hitting the track to work for Celebration honors. Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits for the division. Taking command of the tough division was the team of Boomer In Command and Andy Adkins riding for his grandfather, John Sharp of Ethridge. Tenn. Reserve in the outstanding class was Sky Jam and Suzanne Littell riding for Bud Moore and Suzanne Littell of Catherine, Ala. Secretive and Brooke Baker claimed third for the Keith Baker family of Columbia, Tenn.

It was the trainers’ turn once again as the Walking Geldings, 15.2 and Under (Canter) took the ring with 18 of the 25 entered making the call to work for Judge Huck Moss and staff. Riding to the winner’s circle in the division was another familiar face to horse show fans everywhere, Gen’s Color Me In and Rodney Dick. His color was definitely blue tonight as he captured the divisional win with an across the board, unanimous selection for the G.R. Trumble family of Walton, Ky. Command At Sunrise and John Allan Callaway took home the reserve honors in the division for C & E Miller Farms, LLC of Elberton, Ga. Taking third was Pushover’s Infiniti and Knox Blackburn riding for his wife, Stacy Blackburn of Franklin, Tenn.

Next on the evening’s agenda, Show Pleasure Walking Horses, Amateur Lady Riders. Fifty-six entries were scheduled for the class and when 40 actually checked in the inspection station, the decision was made by Celebration management to split the class, with twenty in each division. Judge Wayne Abee called the gaits for both divisions.

In the A division, Coin’s Black Stroke and owner/exhibitor Ashley Compton made an outstanding performance to capture that Celebration blue and take it home to Murfreesboro, Tenn. Reserve in the division went to the team of The Concealed Weapon and Patti Pollack for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, California and Shelbyville, Tenn. Dark Illusion and Jennifer Wilhelm rode to third for Jeff Green of Shelbyville, Tenn.

In the B division, it was another true Celebration favorite, Coinmaker and Suzanne Littell capturing yet another Celebration blue for Bud Moore and Suzanne Littell of Catherine, Ala. Major Player and Courtney Luttrell made a “major play” in the division to capture the reserve title for the James Griffith family of Paris, Ky. Third went to the team of I’m Armed and Lethal and Lee Wall for Dr. Rosser Wall of Raymond, Miss.

The final class of the evening brought the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders of Walking Stallions to the ring. Twenty-four of the 34 entered made the call as Bob Cherry called the gaits. When the work was complete, it was the team of Jazz King and Ed Breedlove riding to the winner’s circle for Keith Breedlove of Buford, Ga. Reserve in the tough division went to Pushover’s Cashflow and Larry Davis riding for Greystone Group, LLC of Charlottesville, Va. The yellow streamer was captured by Walking All Over and Bob Medina for Bob and Mary Medina of Skillman, NJ.

And with that, the evening was complete . . .even if it’s now morning! I’m sure Bobby Sands’ old Celebration Diehards club got some new members tonight. Make sure to return on Friday night to see the Youth 11 and Under Geldings, Three Year Old Stallions and much more. You won’t want to miss it!