By Sadie Fowler

As is tradition for the first evening session during Celebration festivities each year, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association National Futurity took center stage in Calsonic Arena Wednesday night, Aug. 22 with 20 classes on the schedule. 

The evening kicked off with five pretty mamas and babies strutting their stuff for the Mare and Foal (Non-Futurity Jackpot) class, which was sponsored by Keith and Lorraine Rosbury of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. As the Rosburys attended to watch their sponsored class, they also celebrated the occasion as the owners of the winning entry Adorable Diamond (mare) and her foal Miami Ritz MCF, prepared for the show by handlers Kelly Richards and Beverly Carter. Belle Of José and The Arrow earned a respectable reserve finish in the five-horse class with Jesse Nelms and Robert Nelms directing the equine pair for owners Benedict/Piet.

Next up on the evening honoring the future of the breed, a trio of entries showed up for the Amateur Two-Year-Old Country Pleasure. The entry literally wearing number one on her back, Ann Johnson, rightfully finished as the winner of the class aboard Annie’s Silver Dream — a win that earned first place approval across the board. José’s Jaycie and George Crawford, who also owns the entry, accepted reserve, also a unanimous decision.

Dancing to the tune of a winning beat, Walkin & Jammin CTF walked right into the winner’s circle in the third class of the evening, the Riders’ Cup Darrah Yearling Class (Futurity Nominated Yearlings of Unique Color), besting a trio of competitors with Hunter Fikes at the lead for Mark and Sharon Thomas. Robert Nelms directed Pure Intimidation to reserve for Rushing Creek Walkers.

The first performance class of the evening had many in attendance paying attention as five entered the ring vying for the winning nods in the Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Mares and Geldings class. Representing sire The Dixie Lineman, The Dixie Doll received the crowd’s approval with Chad Thomas in the irons for Doris Penick. Dew Lilly, by I Am José, captured the red streamers with Michael Wright directing for Diana Cruse.

The fifth class from the Futurity competition featured an impressive field of eight entries, several that were born just after last year’s Celebration finished, in the Riders’ Cup Weanling Colts and Fillies (Foaled Sept. 1, 2017 through Feb. 28, 2018). Rythmic Jazz and Jackson Latham closed out the class in blue-ribbon style for Bruce and Linda Vaughn while I Am Bonita and Robert Nelms picked up Nelms’ third reserve of the night thus far. 

The crowd always loves the babies, which was definitely the case in class seven, the Riders’ Cup Weanling Colts (any age), which followed in the Wednesday evening agenda, skipping over class six. By the end of the class, it was no secret that the winning entry was An Undercover Agent with Amanda Wright up. By Master Of Jazz and out of Main Man’s Covergirl, the pretty colt is owned by the Dr. George Wright Family. Once again in the reserve position, Robert Nelms dutifully handled A One A (M One Jazz x Lined With Kisses) for owner Brad Tuttle. 

Rocky Top Lineman and Jeff Laughlin topped the Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year Old Lite-Shod class among two entries. This Teel/Washburn entry is sired by The Dixie Lineman and out of She’s A Night Lady. I Like Pina Coladas (Black Diamond Ritz x Diva Of Jazz) and Bill Bobo walked away wearing the red streamers for owner Frank Harbin. 

Five more entries sporting a variety of colors emerged next for the Riders’ Cup Darrah Weanlings (Futurity Nominated Weanlings of Unique Color) but no one could out do the winning entry of I’m Ms. America and Leighanne Tibbs for Lisa Teel. Royalina and Ronald Morton earned the royalties for reserve for owners Boyd/Bachert. 

The Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year-Old Park Performance class was next in the evening’s schedule with Cash Us Clay earning the winning nods with Ryan Gannon in the irons for Michael Chandler. Cash Us Clay is by Lined With Cash and out of Lady With Class. I’m Doc Brown and R.M. Kellett proudly accepted reserve honors for Austin Benedict. 

The Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year-Old Model class featured a trio of fine entries with Robert Nelms back in the saddle, this time finally making the winning ride aboard the appropriately named entry of Lisa Teel’s, Back In The Saddle Again, by I’m Copperfield and out of Coin’s Flower Child. By I’m All Jacked Up and out of Major’s Elegant Lady, Without A Warning made a nice show for the red streamers, representing proud owners Keith and Angela Hayes. 

Kool Vibes (The Confederate Blue x José’s Montego Bay) and owner/rider Lindy Holt captured the crowd’s attention as they exited the ring as champions in the Amateur Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure (Optional Tack) with Nine Yards Of Reba (The Whole Nine Yards x She’s Country) and Terry Vaught receiving respect for their solid performance as reserve champions for owners Terry and Linda Vaught. 

The excitement carried on as seven entries proved the potential of the breed continues on an uptick trend while representing the 13th class of the night, Riders’ Cup Weanling Fillies (any age). Up for her second blue of the night in as many shows, Amanda Wright again made her way to a unanimous victory guiding the Master Of Jazz baby I’m Unforgettable to the blue for the Wright/Waites team. Beginning to wrap up what was a busy night, Robert Nelms guided yet another entry, the time She Is Who She Is, to the reserve finish for Lamar/Doris Penick.
The evening’s champions came from a diverse crop of sires, and in the five entry Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Stallions and Geldings class, industry great Jimmy McConnell made his first appearance of the show in unanimous fashion on board Papacito, by José José, for William Bean. Bill Callaway directed The Gin Mine to reserve for Gleghorn/Dempsey.

The judges were on point with one another several times Wednesday night, including class 15, the Riders’ Cup Yearling Fillies class, where they named Oh Susannah and Lynn Womack champions out of an impressive crop of eight, for Jones/Richards/Womack. Keeping it all in the family, Jones/Richards also own the reserve champion from this class, Love Honor And Obey, who was handled by Beverly Carter.

As the pleasant night began to wind down, four entries made the gate call for the Riders’ Cup Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings class, with yet another decision coming to fruition in unanimous fashion. Here, A Sunday Rose, by The Coach and out of Mama Rose, proved worthy of victory with owner and rider John Allan Callaway capturing her first blue of the week. Jazz’s Lady Anne, by M One Jazz, and Scott Beaty walked out as reserve champions for owner Luanne Sigman. 

Next up, the Amateur Three-Year-Old Country Pleasure contenders took center stage, with A Bit Rowdy and Liz Gassaway capturing the roar of the crowd for Hill/Gassaway. Maggie Moore expertly guided Master Lineman to reserve for Leek/Moore.

Class 18 brought the in-hand division back in the spotlight for the Riders’ Cup Yearling Colts class, with five entries entertaining the crowd. The Dixie Lineman continued to make his presence known as a leading sire as his offspring, Exeter gave Robert Nelms another memorable walked down victory lane, this time for owner Jack Heffington. Honors’ baby Summa Cum Laude earned the red streamers with Roger Richards, Jr. handling for Jones/Richards.

The Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year Old Park Pleasure class featured a solo performance by I Walk The Walk, with Jeff Laughlin in the saddle for Russell Enterprises/Carol Missildine.

The final class of the night, the Riders’ Cup Three-Year-Old Stallions and Geldings class, closed out the first official night of what promises to be an awesome 80th annual Celebration with seven entries making the call.

The crowd showed their appreciation by enthusiastically staying until the 10 p.m. finish time and cheering on their favorites in front of judges Sam Sorrell, Leigh Stuart, Ross Campbell, Mike Hilley and David Sisk. In the end, No Mas Tequila and John Allan Callaway walked away as unanimous champions for proud owner Lisa Baum. Herbert Derickson earned the reserve award aboard Cisco Kid Friend Of Mine for his own son, owner Thomas Derickson.