By Sadie Fowler

Veterans opened the show Friday night with a beautiful ceremony with hundreds of our nation’s beloved veterans receiving their well-deserved appreciation during opening ceremonies. 

The first class of the Friday evening session, which had 11 entertaining classes on the lineup, featured the Amateur Show Pleasure World Grand Championship. Fourteen riders converged for this class and did their best, but when the spotlight focused in on the winner, the light shined bright on He’s Starbucks and Suzanne Moore, who received a cowboy cheer from the crowd as Moore smiled and waved to her fans in recognition of their support of her winning ride. Denny Russell expertly piloted Ready To Play for a solid reserve finish. 

The next class, the Amateur Park Pleasure World Grand Championship, got serious in a hurry with the flashy white horse Dirty Sexy Money and Carol Missildine besting a field of nine for a repeat win from their win in the qualifier a week ago. Even though Missildine has been in the winner’s seat many times over her great show career, this special win Friday night served as her first world grand championship ride. The pair is also undefeated this year with wins from the Spring Fun Show, Christmas In July and FAST. Reserve went to Boston Bay and Emily Cotten for Jeff Gillespie. 

Next up, the Susan Gordon Memorial Amateur World Grand Championship featured 10 riders with their game faces on — six of which were world grand championship title holders. He’s taken a back seat to the show ring for several years prior to 2018, but Martin Cox has been on fire this year with an awesome season, culminating with a Celebration win in this fine class aboard Lester H. Burns. The second award in the class, the reserve world grand championship, went to Joe Pa and Tanya Strickland. 

Prior to the next class making their way through the ring, a special presentation was made to Kimberly Walden for her 14-time world champion and four-time world grand champion mule, Festus, to the crowd’s delight. 

Five entries had the stage to themselves for the Trail Pleasure Four and Under World Grand Championship, which marked mid-point of the evening’s performances. The class culminated with the incredible 2018 show season coming to a head as Checkpoint Charlie emerged as champion with Laurie Toone catch-riding for Tamara Hader. He’s won everywhere he’s shown this year with Tamara, including the Trainers’ Show, Cajun Classic, Alabama Ladies Auxiliary, Billie Lane King Cotton, Liberty Lions Club, Christmas In July, Belfast, Wartrace and now two wins from the Celebration, thanks to Toone’s helpful guidance. Blacklist and Carrie Martin proudly rode away with reserve honors. 

The Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Horses World Grand Championship was full of superstars — and stats, especially for Carol Missildine and Deal Me Aces, last year’s reserve finishers in the same class. Playing their hand just right, this pair topped an amazing field of 14 in the competitive class, after previously winning their qualifying class. They did it all in unanimous fashion and better yet, it was Missildine’s second win of the night! Jose’s Red Rock and Jimbo Conner teamed up for a solid reserve finish after winning last Saturday night in the gentleman’s novice class. 

The Youth 12-17 Mares and Geldings World Grand Championship featured the most entries thus far of the night, with 18 showing up for a world class performance for the upbeat crowd. Riding down the west side to claim the award, it was fitting — in honor of Veteran’s Night — for Lilly Beth Harville and The American Patriot to carry the tricolor back to Mississippi for Kimberley Wood Morrison. They also won the same class last year, won the qualifier in this class earlier in the show, and won at four other shows this year prior to the Celebration this year. José Miss Dolly and Lilly Riddley are no strangers to the top ribbons, and tonight they were proud to take home reserve in the class where many fine pairs left the ring with no ribbon at all. 

Seven showed up for the next class, the Amateur Five-Year-Old World Grand Championship, with a real showdown taking place between the top few entries in the fun class. In the end, it was Dr. Jim Baum and Maroon 5 to head out wearing the floral horse shoe. They had already won once before in the week and in fact, they’ve not lost once since becoming a pair in 2016. Maroon 5 and Dr. Baum have previous season wins at two shows prior to the Celebration, and last year wore the crown in the four-year-old version of the same class. Wearing her game face and demonstrating her fine horsemanship skills, Gayle Holcomb had her own large fan base as she rode away with the reserve world grand championship on Sisko Kid. 

The Amateur Western Country Pleasure continued another world-class evening of Celebration competition with nine entries showing up in gorgeous attire as they showed off their pretty walking horses in the western division. Slingblade and new partner Kyle Bush made a brilliant spotlight ride for their world grand championship win, after Slingblade also last won at the Celebration last year, in the four-year-old division trail pleasure. He and Kyle didn’t waste time on building their career together this year, having previously won in 2018 at FAST Spring Showcase, the Spring Fun Show, Marshall County and their preliminary class Sunday night. Diamond At The Ritz and Kimberly Walden shined bright in their reserve world championship attire.

The Walking Horse Specialty World Grand Championship helped the Celebration crowd turn the Friday night corner, getting everyone in the large attendance geared up for the evening’s final few classes. Ten entries performed their best shows. Nothing beats the sportsmanship of a good walking horse trainer, and in the end, I’m Lombardi and Gary Edwards worked hard for the top spot in true championship fashion for owners Henry and Gary Metcalf. They were just ahead of reserve world grand champions I’m Pushin N Line and Tim Smith, who’ve been winning all season long. The third place finishers also heard great support from the crowd, demonstration yet another class of quality that can only be mirrored at the Celebration. 

Twelve entries graced their presence in the Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship, the second to last class of the night. The winning rider of this class is very familiar with the winner’s circle as he retired two challenge trophies on this night. After announcer Mark Farrar called Jason Myatt and As I Am — who won their preliminary class last week after previous season wins at Christmas In July and Walking For The Children — Farrar made the win even sweeter when he informed the crowd it was Myatt’s third year in a row to win the title, on different mounts each year. Last year he won with I Am Mighty José and in 2016 he wore the roses out with equine partner Knock Down Drag Out. The reserve champion in this class was A Kingpin and Bob Adcock. 

Five were entered and four showed up for the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship (Canter), with spectators finding a favorite and letting their opinions be heard. The final world grand championship of Friday night was Star Of Ritz and Casey Wright for Herb Murrath, the horse’s first world grand championship. This talented team won their preliminary class last week and also picked up blues this season at the Spring Fun Show, Money Tree Classic and the Red Carpet Show of the South. She’s Blue As Ice and Philip Trimble gave it their all as well, accepting reserve world grand championship honors for David and Patty Wilson.