By Mark Davis
It’s the second Thursday night in Shelbyville and Championship completion begins tonight with 12 outstanding classes of competition, all championships, highlighted by the Trainers’ Ride For The Roses Championship, the Youth 11 and Under Championship and the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. One could feel the excitement building in the arena prior to show time as horse show fans gathered early, taking the chance to visit with old friends, get a bite to eat from their favorite vendor and get ready for the evening’s events.

The judges for the 73rd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Jennifer Bingham of Shelbyville, Tenn., Jamie Bradshaw of Union Grove, Ala., Jamie Hankins of Paris, Ky., Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, Tenn. & Jeff Willis of Shelbyville, Tenn.

The invocation for the Thursday evening performance was given by Rev. Lloyd Doyle of First United Methodist Church, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Stephen Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The first championship of the evening’s performance was class 138, Owner-Amateur Riders 6-17 on Park Pleasure Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship. All eight of the anticipated teams worked down the hill showing their championship best as Judge Jennifer Bingham served as Call Judge for the event. When the work was complete, the famous spotlight spanned the lineup looking for a World Grand Champion. That title went to the team of Jose’s Baby Doll and Lindsey Landrum riding for Lindsey Landrum & Doris Penick of Walterboro, S.C. This team topped the Park Pleasure 12-17 Preliminary on Sunday Evening. Overpass and Ashley Diamond Pollack accepted the reserve title for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif., & Shelbyville, Tenn. Priscilla Cash and Anne Evans were third for Anne & Nancy Evans of Mechanicsville, Va.

Class 139, Novice Riders on Novice Trail Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship was up next on the schedule with all 11 of the programmed entries working the rail in hopes of their very first set of Celebration Championship roses. Judge Jamie Bradshaw called the gaits in the class. Making that sentimental journey in the spotlight into the winner’s circle for the very first time was Krysta Allen and A Wicked Bond riding for Krysta Allen & Ty Irby of Pleasonton, Calif., & Shelbyville, Tenn. I’m Manhatten and Tamara Hader pulled in for the red streamers for Tamara Hader & MacKenzie Morgan of Bainbridge, Ga., & Shelbyville, Tenn. Contemporary Jazz & Kasey Kesselring rounded out the top three for Christmas Creek Farm, LLC of Montverde, Fla., & Shelbyville, Tenn.

Headed to the performance division, class 140 featured the Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 16 of the 17 with reservations making the call to work for their chance to ride for the roses as Judge Jamie Hankins led the panel in the class. Repeating their 2010 win in the division and making their back-to-back spotlight rides was Command & Control and Sheryl Crawford riding for Crawford Colts of Carrollton, Ga. With this win, this team retired the Abb, Verna & Jimmy Walters Memorial Challenge Trophy, the Don Austin Memorial Challenge Trophy and the Gladys S. Owen Memorial Challenge Trophy. Chrome Dollar and Dr. Lynda Brogdon headed back to the Sunshine State with the reserve honors riding for Ben & Dr. Lynda Brogdon of Tallahassee, Fla. The Texas team of Terror On The Border and Nancy Groover were third, taking the honors back to Waco, Texas.

It was time to get in a western frame of mind for class 141, Owner-Amateur Riders on Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship. All three of the expected teams made the call show their best Western ways for Judge Ronnie Spears and his staff. Happy to be making the spotlight ride were Armed & Trigger Happy and Jim Nichols in the saddle for Jim & Debbie Nichols of New Market, Tenn. Taking the red streamers back out west were Dragonfire and owner/exhibitor Jim Heiting of Riverside, Calif. He’s Comin On Strong and owner/exhibitor Rufus Dale of Canton, N.C.

The young riders were up next on the program in class 142, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship. Fourteen of the 17 on the books worked down the hill, with the applause of the Thursday evening crowd, to work for their chance at the divisional roses as Judge Jeff Willis led the panel in the class. This class certainly got the crowd excited, as it seemed everyone in the crowd has their own favorite, and let the judges know it – just as we like it! It was, without a doubt, an outstanding class! However, only one team could carry home the title of Youth 11 and Under World Grand Champion and that honor went to A Cloudy Sky and Nathan Oliver riding for the Darrell Oliver family of Bowling Green, Ky. This team has had a great year and won the Youth 11 and Under on Walking Geldings preliminary on Friday Night. Really and Bailey McCormick, winners of the Novice Youth 11 and Under preliminary on Sunday evening, pulled in to the second position riding for Dru McCormick of Shelbyville, Tenn. Be Cool and Jaclyn Compton rounded out the top three in the excellent class for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va.

Back in the pleasure division, class 143 featured the Owner-Amateur English Trail Pleasure Walking Horse World Grand Championship brought all 13 of the teams with reservations to the track to show as Judge Jennifer Bingham called the gaits in the class. It was no secret who would ride away with the roses in the division, it was Pusher’s Secret Rose and Susan Coleman riding for Rachel Mercier of Shelbyville, Tenn. GiGi’s Majestic and Jordan Howell rode to the red ribbons riding for Janet Howell of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Lighting Jazz and Miles Irby were third for Sally Paulson & Miles Irby of Salem, Ore., & Shelbyville, Tenn.

Class 144 brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Show Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship entries down the hill with 16 of the 17 on the official Lions Club program making the call to work for Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his panel in this, the supreme class of the division. Riding out of the lineup in the spotlight was the team of Coin’s Black Stroke and Jean O’Brien riding to the winner’s circle with a unanimous decision of the panel for Reggie Pimentel of Bell Buckle, Tenn. Spooky Dollar and owner/exhibitor Stephanie Elliott took the reserve honors back to Tuscumbia, Ala. The American Choice and Dr. Linda Garrard rounded out the top three in the large, competitive class for Dr. Linda Garrard of Shelbyville, Tenn.

Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses, 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship, class 145, was up next on the schedule with all seven of the expected entries coming to work for Judge Jamie Hankins and his cohorts. Riding away with all the loot that comes with a World Championship title was I’m P. Diddy and Sherri Pollack up for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. I’m NRA and David Sisk, 2010 WGC in this division and 2011 Amateur 15.2 and Under Stallion preliminary winner, were reserve for Linda Sisk of Columbia, Tenn. Don Julio and Allie Napier were third for the Tim Napier Family of Verona, Ky.

Moving back to the pleasure division, class 146 featured the Country Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 14 entries taking the rail to work for their chance to ride away with the Celebration tri colors as Judge Ronnie Spears calls the gaits in the class. When the work was complete, it was A Red Ruby and Liz Gassaway making the spotlight ride for Liz Gassaway and MacKenzie Morgan of Shelbyville, Tenn. Bustline & Vicki Benjamin were reserve in the class riding for Fred & Vicki Benjamin and MacKenzie Morgan of Humboldt & Shelbyville, Tenn. Cha Cha Cha and Jordan Howell were third for Janet Howell of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Class 147, Trainers "Ride for the Roses" World Grand Championship (Riders’ Cup) was up next on the program. This was a new addition at the 2010 Celebration and was a rousing success. The class is intended for trainers & horses who have never won a World Grand Championship title. Thirteen of the 20 with reservations made their way down the hill to work for that very first moment in the spotlight under the watchful eyes of Judge Jeff Willis and his panel. Making that first spotlight ride was A Strong Need For Cash and a very happy Michael Wright making the winning ride with the approval of all five judges for Jim & Jeanne Roberts of Wildersville, Tenn. Wright tipped his hat to the cheering crowd as he stopped in at the winner’s circle. Bee Bee King and Dan Waddell were reserve in the class riding for Rachel Castaldi of Skillman, N.J. I’m Splashed and Tim Smith was third for Hillview Promotions and Lindsey Landrum of Franklin, Tenn.

Returning to the pleasure division for the final time of the evening, class 148 brought the Lite Shod Walking Horses World Grand Championship to the historic big oval with all nine of the expected duos working down the hill to work for Judge Jennifer Bingham and her panel. Making the championship ride in the division with the unanimous decision of the panel, as he has many times before, was Honor My Cash with trainer Jamey Thompson in the irons riding for Roger & Rebecca Emerick of Hillsborough, Calif. A Mountain Jazz and Jeff Laughlin pulled into the second position for Joe Laughlin of Waynesville, Mo. Lil Wayne and Bobby Richards were third for Jeff Gillespie of Tazewell, Va.

Finally, it was time for the highlight of the evening, class 149, the Three-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship. The Three-Year-Olds have been outstanding all week and this reporter doesn’t expect anything different tonight. Announcer Bobby Sands stated that this class has been much anticipated and much talked about all week and he was certainly correct in his statement. Sands was so excited about the class that he asked organist Larry Bright to pull out the "Flat Walk Boogie" for the occasion of bringing the entries down the hill. Fifteen entries made the gate call to work for the World Grand Championship honors in the division as Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as Call Judge for the final class of the night. Ah, the class certainly did not disappoint! Riding out of the lineup into the spotlight after making a truly outstanding performance was the team of Honors and Larry Edwards riding for McSwain & Weaver of Duluth, Ga., & Shelbyville, Tenn. Pro V 1 and Bill Callaway were reserve in the exciting class riding for Darrell W. Frazier of Jamestown, Tenn. I’m Innocent and Justin Harris rounded out the top three for the Darrell Oliver family of Bowling Green, Ky.

What a great first Championship night we have had tonight! Outstanding horses, an excited crowd and, of course, roses, who could ask for anything more. The championship competition will continue on Friday night with 13 more great classes of competition, 11 of which are World Grand Championships, leading up to the highlight of the evening, the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. It will be another great night. See you in Shelbyville!