By Sadie Fowler

Right in line with the pageantry and tradition surrounding the festivities that horse enthusiasts always look forward to all year, the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association National Futurity always serves as the first chance for Celebration guests to come together for an evening performance that serves as a reminder of potential — the future. This year, the industry was seeming more excited than they have been in several years and good numbers and great quality reflected that excitement in the Calsonic Arena Aug. 21.

Starting at 6 p.m., a very full night of 21 classes began with many on the grounds anticipating some minor and well-received changes and new additions to this year’s Futurity, such as the Jackpot classes and even the spotlights for the victory passes. In general, this year serves as a starting point to bring renewed excitement and prestige to the event in the years to come.  

The evening kicked off with the mamas and babies strutting their stuff for the Mare and Foal class and it was the perfect way for the crowd to warm up as the entries were not only adorable but also eye-catching. At the end of the day, Ruby Diamond Ritz and Chattahoochee Charlie showcased their chemistry in winning fashion and earned the gold prize with Marguerite Sims and Lynn Womack serving as the official handler for Lynn Womack.

Next up honoring the future of the breed, a fine group of two and three-year-olds took the stage for their country pleasure class and here, Jennifer Bingham continued her momentum from a good start to the show from the morning session with a win on board King Mojo for Taylor and Bingham. Miss Bella Starr W and Jesse Barnes took the starring role for the reserve ribbon.

 Wowing the crowd with his cool color and walking right into the winner’s circle in the third class of the evening, the Riders’ Cup Darrah Weanlings class, Oh Holy Moly received everyone’s approval including the judges with Karen Harden handling for the entry of Teel and Lester. Dancing to the tune of the fun music Wednesday night featured, Ram Jam CTF and Hunter Fikes walked away with reserve for Chet Mills.  

The National Futurity Broodmares In Hand class came next on the agenda and the competition mirrored the heat of the hot summer night. Another fun element to this class was the guest judging component, which spectators seemed to enjoy. What’s in a name? Perhaps there was no one more suited for the blue in this class than Miss J-Lo, with Marty Warren leading the pretty mare to the unanimous victory for Denise Smith. Maybe I’m Maybelline and Roger Richards Jr. were also looking their best as they accepted reserve honors.

The babies were back in the spotlight once again for the fifth class of the evening, which was reserved for the weanling colts to strut their stuff. Backroads, a handsome youngster by Master Of Jazz, and Amanda Wright topped the field of 11 in this class for Dr. George Wright with Chattahoochee Charlie earning the reserve position with Lynn Womack handling the sharp colt for Jones and Richards.

The sixth class of the night only featured two entries but they put on a show nonetheless. It was the fillies on stage this time and Miss Dixie Flyer, the standout filly by The Dixie Lineman, edged out the victory with Jeff Laughlin in the irons for Donna Byrad. Rowdy Winemaker and Don Crum received a nice applause for their efforts and talents as well, representing owner Roderick Hutchinson. 

The first performance class of the evening had many in attendance paying attention as three entered the ring vying for the winning nod in the Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Mares class. Representing owner John Callicutt, Oh Susannah continued her young but solid career as the winner with Tyler Baucom in the saddle. Miss Master Perfection and Clay Sanderson captured the red streamers for Dr. George Wright. 

The Fall Weanlings Rider’s Cup class was another well-filled field of competition with Everybody Calls Me Sir earning the crowd’s respect with Robert Nelms continuing his busy and successful night, this time for Gus Richards. Lolita Pulido and Keegan Meadows captured the reserve streamers for Carrie Benedict, certainly no stranger to the Futurity. 

Four passed through the gate for the Amateur Trail Pleasure Two and Three-Year-Old class, the ninth class on the agenda. Master Cruiser gently cruised down victory lane with Victoria Kalosis in the saddle for Andrews and Kalosis. Mr. Bentley also delivered a smooth ride with Ashley Wadsworth for the reserve position.

The crowd always loves the babies, which was definitely the case in the next class, the Riders’ Cup Weanling Fillies, which followed in the Wednesday evening agenda. By the end of the class, all the royalties went to I Am The Queen with Jackson Latham directing the champion for Freddie Todd. Equally as confident, I’m Lisa Marie finished reserve with Robert Nelms handling for Gus Richards. 

Lots of fancy names added to the excitement of the evening, including Ben D’Or, who topped the Two-Year Old Stallions and Geldings Riders’ Cup class, besting a field of 14 with Jimmy McConnell doing his usual expert directing for Gus Richards. Herbert Derickson had lots of fans cheering for him when he earned the reserve award with A Ringmaster, for the G Russell Wright Family.

Wearing their game faces for sure, A-One-A and Robert Nelms topped the charts in the Darrah Yearlings class for Burks, Hopper and Tuttle. Also exciting the crowd, Chill Bumps and Leighanne Tibbs finished reserve in the field of three for Ralph Pinner. 

The heat inside the arena carried on as five entries proved the potential of the breed continues on an uptick trend while representing the 13th class of the night, Riders’ Cup Trail Pleasure Two and Three-Year-Old class, where Betrayal left the competition and headed down victory lane with Laurie Toone in the saddle for Liz Gassaway. Shaking and walking to the reserve position, Alabama Shakes and Hannah Myatt also put on a nice show for owner Dr. Carl Dieter. 

The Model Two and Three-Year Old Riders’ Cup class followed with Robert Nelms back in the winner’s circle with Back In The Saddle, for owner Lisa Teel. Ten Times Your Money got lots of attention among the impressive group of four as the reserve champions with Natalie Johnson handling for Sherrin Pittman.

Armed But Kid N and Jeff Laughlin put on a serious show in the Park Pleasure Two and Three Year Old Riders’ Cup class for Sister Milligan while Jose’s Lethal Lady and Jonathan Baskin were next in line for Rushing Creek Walkers.

Dog Gone Girl Is Mine was indeed deserving of the attention she received after being  named winner in the Yearling Fillies class with Kelly Richards doing a fine job as handler. Lots of folks in attendance will also remember Amanda Wright’s pretty entry, I’m Unforgettable, who captured reserve honors. 

Class 17 also featured some diva-worth performers, this time with The Dixie Doll earning the judges’ nod with Jeff Laughlin riding for Doris Penick. I’m On Jose’s Team put forth a good play as well and finished reserve with R.M. Kellett in the saddle for Kay Chatterton. 

Excitement reached its peak in the next class of the night, the Three-Year-Old Mares competition. It was quite a battle right until the end and each entry had their fan club, including winners Red Sparrow and Charlie Green, representing Dr. Linda Garrard. Jose’s Solid Pusher worked hard as well and the crowd noticed as they applauded their reserve finish for Wayne and Debbie Simons. 

With style and grace, once again Robert Nelms was in the winner’s circle on Wednesday night, this time with Gentlemen Black in the yearling colts competition for owners Teel and Washburn. A Mission Impossible proved everything is always possible, including a reserve finish among a nice crop of six at Wednesday’s Futurity with Marty Warren handling for Steve and Denise Smith.

The Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year Old Show Pleasure class featured four solid performers, and working hard at every pass was I’m Charlie Hustle, with Brad Beard serving as the winning trainer for Ronnie Reed. Focused for the second place ribbon, Precision Time and Jeff Green were also applauded as they exited the Calsonic, representing owner Cheryl Gruber.

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 81st annual Celebration with seven entries making the call.

Those left in the stands showed their appreciation by staying until 11 p.m., quite a bit later than last year. In the end, Most Wanted MCF and Rico Bravo indeed deserved the “Bravo” as they made the victory pass for Maple Crest Farms. Fighting their way to the finish line but finishing just shy with a strong reserve finish were I Am William Wolf and Casey Wright for Bill and Debbie Woods.