by Mark McGee

There were 15 floral horseshoes waiting in the middle of “The Big Oval” for world grand champions to wear them Thursday night, the first of three world grand championship nights for the 83rd annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. 

Thirteen of those horseshoes were reserved for owner-amateur classes with light shod and three-year-old walking horses closing out what proved to be a chilly evening.

As is the tradition of The Celebration, flag horse White Diamond Dollar and Ronnie Spears presented the Stars and Stripes. 

Peter Allen of Fair Haven Baptist Church gave the invocation. Gary Haile, who sang the “Star Spangled Banner” Monday night, was called back to center ring for a repeat performance and he provided another awesome rendition.

Celebration CEO Warren Wells spun the wheel and Derek Bonner called the class featuring all 11 listed entries in the Owner-Amateur Park Pleasure World Grand Championship. Making the first spotlight ride of the evening was I Walk The Walk and Carol Missildine for co-owner Russell Enterprises of Smithfield, North Carolina. They are unbeaten in three outings including the world championship the first Friday night of The Celebration in the Owner-Amateur English Park Pleasure class. Dose’ and Lisa Baum were reserve, with A Titleist Masterpiece tying third with Blake Cammack in the irons for Champion Stables.

Eight of the nine entries in the Owner-Amateur Novice Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship made the gate call with David Sisk calling the class. Making their first ever spotlight ride was Scarlett O’Hara TS and Terry Smith from Columbus, Indiana. Hannibal DSG and Freda Dean received second place honors. Olive Or Twist, with Amy Spinelli aboard, rode out with a third-place ribbon for The Spinelli Family.

For the second year in a row Meghan Hammond and Epic made the world grand championship ride in the Owner-Amateur Show Pleasure World Grand Championship class. Epic is owned by Shamrock Farms of Shelbyville, Tennessee. The pair remain unbeaten in five shows in 2021 including the Owner-Amateur Ladies Show Pleasure class on the first Thursday of The Celebration. Charlie Danger was presented to the reserve honors with Jerri Ann Hill riding for Ginger Williams. The Lonestar Legend walked out with a yellow streamer with Sister Milligan. Brent Grider called the gaits for 16 of 18 scheduled entries. 

All seventeen planned entries were in the big oval for the Owner-Amateur Youth Country Pleasure World Grand Championship. David Sisk called the class. Hey Charlene and Laci Mathews made their first ever spotlight ride for the Manis, Holt and Mathews partnership. Hey Charlene has six blues this season with multiple riders. Diamond At The Ritz with Abi Smith riding for co-owner Kimberly Walden tied second. First Knight Out left the ring with a yellow ribbon for The Brad Gregory Family.

The Owner-Amateur Novice World Grand Championship had 22 of the 23 program entries ready to show. Call judge David Sisk called for a workout with 13 entries getting one last look from the five-judge panel. It was another first ever spotlight ride, this time for All About Jose’ and Jackie Whatley from Ocala, Florida. As ring announcer Mark Farrar pointed out, Whatley has been competing at The Celebration for more than 40 years. They have blues in seven-of-eight shows this season including the world championship in the Owner-Amateur Novice Ladies on Stallions class the first Friday night of The Celebration. Miss Stone’s Cash and Noel Botsch were reserve, while Harley Quinn and Beth Collins placed third.

In the first ever Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure World Grand Championship David Sisk was the call judge with all 19 listed entries competing. IB Smokin Joe and Joel Johnson took the history-making ride for sons Tanner and Tucker Johnson of Shelbyville, Tennessee. IB Smokin Joe has nine blues in nine shows for 2021 including the Owner-Amateur All Day Pleasure World Championship last Wednesday morning with Joel aboard and the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 All Day Pleasure World Championship Friday morning with Tucker in the irons. Miss Belle Starr W and Dr. Brittany Baum were reserve for co-owner Jacob Baum. Fuego and Allison Thorson left the ring with a third-place ribbon.

Eight of 10 entries answered the gate call for Elite Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship. Brent Grider was the call judge. Mr. Heisman won the title for the third year in a row, but it was the first time Bruce MacDonald was in the saddle. The team was the unanimous selection of the judges, the first of the evening. The previous wins in 2020 and 2019 were with his wife Robin aboard. It was their third blue in a row for 2021 including the world championship the first Thursday of The Celebration in the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentlemen on Stallions class. Maroon 5 and Dr. Jim Baum rode to reserve for Luke Baum, while The Legal Tender and Sherry Bonner were the third tie for Brad Bertram.

It was back-to-back world grand championships for Mr. Bentley and Ashley Wadsworth from Hernando, Mississippi in the Owner-Amateur Four & Five-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class. The duo won the honor in 2020. They have five blues this show season. They won the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Trail Pleasure World Championship Wednesday morning in the opening session of The Celebration. King Mojo and LaMar DePoyster worked their way to reserve. Lazaro LB and Lisa Baum were third for co-owner Dr. Jim Baum. The wheel landed on David Sisk as the call judge for the fifth time in the evening.

A crowd favorite was the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship. The class had perfect attendance with all 17 scheduled entries on the rail and working for call judge Derek Bonner. Sam I Am Jose’ earned the floral horseshoe unanimously with Dr. Ann Rea from Ellisville, Mississippi, in the irons. They have five blues in a row this show season including the world championship in Division A of the Two-Year-Old Stallions class the first Thursday night of the Celebration. I’m Charlie Black was reserve with Daila Smith-Harr riding for the Smith and Harr partnership. Jose’s Scat Cat was third with Ben Moss for Moss and Carney. 

David Sisk was the call judge for his sixth class with all eight listed entries ready for the Owner-Amateur Four & Five-Year-Old Country PleasureWorld Grand Championship. Stapleton  and Maggie Moore were crowned the winner unanimously for co-owner Jim Leek from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They have won top honors in their last five shows. Monday morning, they were named world champions in the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Country Pleasure class. Perfect Timing BC was ridden to reserve by owner Skylar Sensat. Lujoso and Amanda Manis took home a yellow streamer for Gary and Carolyn Pope and The Manis Family. 

Fifteen of 16 program entries showed in the Owner-Amateur Park Performance World Grand Championship. Brent Grider was the call judge. A Touché’ and Jannie Chapman made the spotlight ride for the third time in the class having previously had the honor in 2019 and 2017. A Touché’ has four blues this year, three with Chapman in the saddle. They won the Owner-Amateur Park Performance World Championship Sunday evening. Do Right was reserve with Dr. Jim Baum riding for Lisa Baum. Gretzky scored a yellow ribbon with Joseph Abernathy in the saddle for co-owner Allison Thorson.

Dale Watts called the gaits as eight-of-eight entries competed for the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old World Grand Championship. No strangers to making the spotlight ride at The Celebration, As I Am and Jason Myatt earned top honors for co-owner Jerry Myatt of Shelbyville, Tennessee and Alvaton, Kentucky. They won the Owner-Amateur Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2020 and the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship in 2018. Their four blues in 2021 include the Owner-Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallions World Championship Monday evening. Honor My Country received reserve with Stephanie White riding for Toni White. Ole Rocky Top was third with Lilly Riddley on board for the Alan Riddley Family.

All eight entries made the gate call for the Owner-Amateur Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. The spinning wheel once again selected David Sisk as the call judge. Machete and Susan Coleman Unionville, Tennessee, were sharp on the way to the floral horseshoe and tri-colored ribbon. It is the second world grand championship for the duo having won the class in 2019. They are undefeated this year in eight classes. Monday morning, they won the world championship in the Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure class. I’m Thunderstruck N.D.R. and Debbie Simons walked away with reserve for co-owner Wayne Simons. Blacklist tied third with Sherry Kessler. 

There were four listed entries for the Lite-Shod World Grand Championship and they all were present for call judge Brent Grider. Patrick Thomas and Big Time Bandit made the spotlight ride for owner Lisa Baum from Shelbyville, Tennessee. Big Time Bandit won the Owner-Amateur Western Lite-Shod class Monday morning with Lisa Baum riding. Big Time Bandit has won three times in a row and has five blues for 2020. The Red Falcon and Jamey Thompson took home the reserve award for Joyce Hofstee. Two Gunns LLC and Chris Zahnd tied third for Blake Cammack.

In the finale of the evening, the highly anticipated Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship was an expected crowd favorite with 10 of 12 expected entries working for call judge David Sisk. With the midnight hour minutes away and the majority of fans still in the stands, ring announcer Mark Farrar announced Kobe 24 and Chris Helton won the extremely competitive class for owner Jimbo Conner of Sevierville, Tennessee. The duo is unbeaten in five shows this year. They won the Division B of the Three-Year-Old Stallions class the first Friday night of The Celebration. Switchblade FSS and Jimmy McConnell took home reserve honors for LaRue, Ann and Bart McWaters. Honor And Remember and Dan Waddell rode away with a yellow streamer for George and Kim Lewis.