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Former WGC's Qualify For Big Stake



 

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – A new invitation could add a little spice to the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship® class at the 69th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, TN. Beginning with the 2007 Celebration, any former World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse® that has not been retired at The Celebration® will be automatically eligible to enter the show’s penultimate competition without showing in a preliminary class.

“These are the great horses the fans remember,” said Celebration CEO Ron Thomas. “Ask any walking horse enthusiast and they’ll have a favorite former World Grand Champion. What we’re making available is no different from a golfer getting a sponsor’s exemption on the PGA Tour or a driver on the Nextel Cup Circuit taking an owner’s exemption. This small group of horses that have already grabbed the brass ring once have earned this type of respect.”

There’s always a great deal of speculation after a horse wins the title if the owners and trainers will decide to come back and try to defend their championship. The last horse to win two titles was Go Boy’s Shadow, with Winston Wiser aboard, in 1955-56. Haynes Peacock (1940-41), Midnight Sun (1945-46), and Merry Go Boy (1947-48) were also two-time winners of the big stake. Talk of the Town (1951, 52, 53) was the only three-time winner with iconic rider Steve Hill in the saddle.

In the modern era, only two big stake winners have come back into the championship class to try and win a second title. 1988 World Grand Champion® Doc’s High Tribute returned to the big oval for the final class in 1989, but finished fourth. 1966 WGC Shaker’s Shocker also competed in the 1967 championship class but was defeated by Go Boy’s Sundust. In addition, two former World Grand Champions® have returned for preliminary competition. 1996 WGC He’s Puttin’ on The Ritz came back a year later while 1999 WGC RPM also entered the ring for an aged stallion class the next year. 2000 WGC Cash for Keeps returned to the Celebration ring in flat-shod competition in 2006, a testament to the versatility of this breed.

Every horse to wear the roses since 1954 has been a stallion and has moved on to the breeding barn following their championship. Thomas says modern technology could allow the great breeding stallions to also continue their career in the ring.

“Artificial insemination allows several mares to be bred from a single collection,” said Thomas. “This could allow their book to be closed earlier and remain in training. We’ve seen several of our past champions on exhibition in recent years, and they still look pretty good out there. I don’t necessarily expect the ring to be filled with former champions, but the possibility of even one of our breed’s superstars coming back could sure make things interesting and very exciting for the loyal fans of our show.”

The age of the horse is not a big concern since many Tennessee Walking Horses continue to compete effectively well into their teens and beyond.

“We have a special listing in our program for horses competing that are 15 years of age and above,” Thomas added. “We call them ‘Classic Horses’ and normally have between 40-60 entries that fall into that age category.”

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