By Mark Davis


            After a very eventful 24 hour period, which included the postponing of all but two of the classes from the Friday evening performance and all of the Saturday morning performance due to conflicts in the inspection area, the crowds returned ready for a horse show on Saturday evening. 

            The classes from the Saturday Morning performance will be held Sunday, August 27th at 12 Noon in Calsonic Arena.  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening’s performances will now begin at 6:30 pm each evening to allow for three rescheduled classes to be added.  Sunday evening will feature Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-14 on Walking Ponies, Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings and Walking Yearling World Grand Championship.  Monday evening will have the Two-Year-Old Geldings and the Three-Year-Old Stallions.  The Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions and Four-Year-Old Geldings will show on Tuesday evening.  The Park Performance Walking Horses, Four and Under, Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares and Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses Lite Shod, Riders 18 and over will take the track on Wednesday evening.  Thursday evening’s performance will still begin at 7 pm, but will have an added class, Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses.

            There had been great speculation around Shelbyville as to whether the uncertainty around last evening and this mornings performances would affect this evening’s attendance, however, a quick look around the ring didn’t seem to show any drop off, just a lot of folks eager to see a great horse show.  And, this evening promises to be great with 13 top classes of competition, capped off by the two Aged Stallion divisions, which are the preliminaries to the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  Just what will we see coming out of those classes?  Could Joe Cotten have a chance at returning to the winner’s circle in 2006 with The Image Of Ritz, after winning it all with Main Power in 2005?  Could NYPD and amateur rider Kenny Compton have a chance at making history in 2006?  Could Jimmy McConnell come out of tonight having to decide which contender (Master Of Jazz or Dragonfly) to show back on Saturday night?  Are Private Charter and Knox Blackburn the one’s to watch?  Could a dark horse such as It’s Billy The Kid, Freedom Fighter, I’m Unarmed or The Blue Diamond change the look of the game?  We’ll know a lot more in just a few hours.

            The Celebration tradition continued promptly at 7 pm, as Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton presented the American Flag.  The invocation for the evening was given by Bobby Scott of the Gateway Church, followed by a stirring rendition of our national anthem sung by Crystal Albornoz and Eric Morris of Clarksville, Tenn.

            With that it was time for the first class on the evening’s program, class 68, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 15-17 on Walking Mares or Geldings.  Eighteen of the 30 with reservations made the gate to work for World Championship acclaim as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits.  Returning to the winner’s circle in 2006 was Daila Smith and Pushin’ That Jazz, champions at Columbia, Tenn.’s Columbia Spring Jubilee for Molly and Annabelle Smith of Manchester, Ky.  Smith topped this division in 2005 with John FK’s Diamond Delight and with this win, she retired The Barbara Shelton and N.B. Hardeman Memorial Challenge Trophies.  2005 Youth 12-17 WGC Prism Sky and Mary Beth Blessing rode to the red streamers for What A Blessing Farm of Bristol, Tenn.  Jazz Time and Jessica Adcock were third for The Mickey Adcock Family of McMinnville, Tenn.

Master Of Jazz and Jimmy McConnell
            Thirty-one of the 40 expected for class 69A, Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings took the track to work for Judge Huck Moss and his cohorts with only one thing on their mind, riding right out of the Novice division with that Celebration blue.  With such a crowd, the panel determined that additional work would be necessary to determine the champion in the event and 15 of the original 31 were asked to remain to work for the chance at that cherished victory ride.  Only one would have that honor and it would be the deserving pair of My First Dollar and George Ann Pratt, champions in 2006 at Cornersville, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show and Pulaski, Tenn.’s Red Carpet Horse Show Of The South, riding for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  What a thrill!  Close behind, but keeping that novice status for another day was the reserve duo of Straight Cash and Connie May up for Mike and Connie May of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Ritzy Zone and Carolyn Joseph were in the zone as they collected third for The Anthony Joseph Family of Columbiana, Ala.

            The B division of Owner-Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Walking Mares or Gelding brought 28 of the 39 programmed entries down the hill to work for that honor they’d always dreamed of.  Judge Ronnie Spears served as call judge in the event.  While  the judging panel looked over the entries and made their final ties, Announcer Chip Walters called attention to the north turn where Celebration Director Bailey Little presented 2005 WGC rider Joe Cotten with his official back number 1826, symbolic of it’s retirement from further use at The Celebration.  When the cards were in, it was pretty clear that one team had the edge and that pair was Crackerjack Edge and Carolyn Joseph, champions at Lewisburg, Tenn.’s Marshall County Horse Show, riding out of the novice division with a unanimous decision of the panel for The Anthony Joseph Family of Columbiana, Ala.  Secret Sky and Kelly Moore picked up the red silks for Tuck and Moore of Martin, Tenn.  Lilly Doub and Stemwinder were third for David Doub of Birmingham, Ala.

Suzanne Littell, Bud Moore, Mike, Taylor and Amy Walden after the Aged Stallion victory with Private Charter and Knox Blackburn

            The big Saturday night crowd got a look at the western way of life in class 70, Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses, Canter as 13 of the 17 on the class sheets worked to the track to work for Judge Jamie Bradshaw and his cohorts.  Riding to the winner’s circle with to the pleasure of the crowd was the reigning divisional WGC, Armed And Trigger Happy and Patrick Thomas riding for Jim and Debbie Nichols of New Market, Tenn.  This beautiful sorrel, flaxen mane & tail horse delivered 2006 wins at Brownsville, Tenn.’s Haywood County Horse Show, Jackson, Tenn.’s Mid South Horse Show, Co Jamey Thompson and Dragonfire blew into the reserve position for Riverside Summit Ranch of Riverside, Calif.  Jennifer Pendleton and Go Boy’s Dark Spirit collected the yellow silks for Huckaby and Pendleton of Columbia and Shelbyville, Tenn.

            Class 71A brought 26 of the 30 expected to the ring to work in the Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders 12-17 on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings.  Judge Wink Groover served as Call Judge in the division.  Riding out of the novice division and keeping up with her mom, were the duo of Mary Morrison and Watch And Bedazzled scoring the blue for Andrew Morrison of Hattiesburg, Miss.  TWHBEA Youth Medallion champions You’re In Command and Matthew McMurtrey were a popular reserve for Diane McMurtrey of Winter Garden, Fla., and Shelbyville, Tenn.  Kacie Frankino and The Family Jewels rode for the third position for the Robert Frankino Family of Texas.

Dalia and Kenny Smith with Pushin That Jazz

      Twenty-Two of the 30 on the books for Class 71B, Owner-Amateur Novice Youth Riders 12-17 on Novice Walking Mares or Geldings hit the track for their chance for moment in the Celebration winner’s circle as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits.  Topping the competitive division was the duo of Express’s Frosty Girl and Clay Sanderson riding for Barrow and Carla Brown of Columbia, Tenn.  Cutting up the competition, Dr, Dangerous and Jacob Baum collected the red silks for dad, Dr. Jim Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Silky Silhouette and owner/exhibitor Taylor Sanders carried third back to their West Tennessee home of Atoka, Tenn.

            The professional trainers were back on the rail in class 72A, Two-Year-Old Walking Mares, with 26 of the 45 programmed entries working the track for Judge Huck Moss and staff.  Topping the class was the TWHBEA National Futurity champions, Victoria’s Secret and Larry Edwards, riding for Chester and Lynda Stokes of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.  This win was preceded by 2006 wins at Edison, Ga.’s King Cotton Horse Show, Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Spring Fun Show and Woodbury, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show.  Dancing to reserve was JFK’s Tiny Dancer and Chad Baucom up for Dottie Boone of Mint Hill, N.C.  Jackie McConnell and Evil In The Sky captured the yellow silks for Stan Wilcoxen of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

            Class 72B, Two-Year-Old Walking Mares brought 25 of the 47 with reservations down the hill to work for World Championship acclaim under the watchful eye of Judge Ronnie Spears and staff.  Walking her way to The Celebration’s winner’s circle was Ms. Jose Walks and trainer Dick Peebles, 2006 champions at Panama City Beach, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Celebration and Wartrace, Tenn.’s Horse Show, riding for Tommy and Sister Milligan of Panama City, Fla.   One Bad Witch and John Allan Callaway picked up the red streamers for Mike Young of Boaz, Ala.  Jose Miss USA and Joel Weaver were third for Rising Star Ranch of Shelbyville, Tenn.

Arthur and Stephanie Gordon, Olympic Power, Kelly and Ashley Gordon
            Owner Amateur Riders on Walking Ponies, Stallions, class 73 A, was up next with ten of the 20 on the sheets making it in the ring before the gate swung closed.  Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as Call Judge in the event.  This division may not have been the largest of the night, but was certainly very deep with talent.  Topping the event with a unanimous decision of the panel was Olympic Power and owner/exhibitor Stephanie Gordon of Orange, Calif.  This duo had been in the winner’s circle this year at Shelbyville, Tenn.’s National Trainers’ Show, Wartrace, Tenn.’s Walk For Charity and Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Spring Fun Show.  Former WGC Gossip and Candy Whitehead-Green captured the red silks for Whitey Whitehead of Mt. Orab, Ohio.  Look Who’s In Command and Jaclyn Smith tied third for Donald Smith of Sandyville, W.V. 

            Class 73B, Owner Amateur Riders on Walking Ponies, Stallions, saw 16 of the 22 expected hit the track to show their stuff for Judge Wink Groover and his colleagues.  This class proved to be just as tough, but not too tough for Jacked Up and Lee Wall.  The team made a terrific showing for Lee Wall and Mike McGartland of Jackson, Miss., and Ft. Worth, Texas.  Former World Champion Skywalk and Seth Stanfill were in the reserve position for Billy Stanfill of Lexington, Tenn.  Another former World Champion, Mama’s Almighty Dollar and Michael Coleman picked up third for Michael Coleman of Money, Miss.

            Class 74, the Yearling World Grand Championship was rescheduled to be held Sunday evening, after the Yearling preliminaries are held Sunday afternoon, therefore Class 75, Owner-Amateur Novice Gentleman Riders on Novice Walking Stallions with 21 of the 36 programmed entries came to show off with hopes of making that first sentimental journey down victory lane, right on out of the Novice division.  Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits in the division.  It was a very special evening for A Special Ultra Copy and Bobby Mixon as the picked up that very first Celebration blue, after dominating the Georgia circuit all year with wins at Dawson, Ga.’s Cloverleaf Classic, Carrollton, Ga.’s Oak Mountain Classic, Monroe, Ga.’s Walton County Horse Show, Edison, Ga.’s King Cotton Classic, Yatesville, Ga., and Gainesville, Ga.’s East Hall Dugout Show, for Bobby and Linda Mixon of McIntyre, Ga.  I’m Mr. Threat and Bruce Vaughn were reserve for Linda Vaughn of Valley City, Ohio.  Double Overtime and owner/exhibitor Wade Huntley were third taking the honors home to Rutherfordton, N.C.

            Ah, it was finally the time everyone had waited for all evening, the Aged Stallion preliminaries.  It was time to really see what our World Grand Championship contenders were made of.

George Ann and Don Pratt after My First Dollar's win

            Class 76A, Walking Stallions, Five Years and Over, Over 15.2 (Canter) brought 11 of the 22 with reservations to the ring to show their very best as Judge Ronnie Spears called the gaits.  Ah, yes, the class was everything that it was expected to be and the crowd made their favorites known throughout the class, but the question still remained, Would the judges and the crowd see things the same way?  In this case, they saw things exactly the same as the championship honors went to the National Trainers’ Show, Mississippi Charity and Spring Fun Show Champions, Master Of Jazz and Jimmy McConnell showing for Lee Wall and Mike McGartland of Jackson, Miss., and Ft. Worth, Texas.  Oh, and by the way, it was a unanimous decision of the judging panel and received a standing ovation from the crowd as well.  Pulling in a very competitive reserve was multi-titled West Coast Champion, I’m Billy The Kid and Russ Thompson receiving a loud cheer of their own for Brassy and Doobrovo of Chino Hills, California.  A Strong Dollar and Link Webb were right in the middle of things themselves pulling in the yellow streamers for  Curtice McCloy of Norman, Okla.

            But, don’t think the excitement was over just yet.  Oh, no.  Class 76B, Walking Stallions, Five Years and Over, Over 15.2 (Canter) offered 16 more outstanding contenders working for that ultimate prize as Judge Jamie Bradshaw called the gaits and the panel watched as intently as ever.  After that final running walk was called and complete, the ringmasters walked the line up as the final decisions were made, could history be made tonight, we would just have to wait and see.  Repeating on his 2005 Aged Stallion win and reserve World Grand Championship, Private Charter and Knox Blackburn, who picked up 2006 wins at the Gallatin, Tenn. Lions Club Horse Show, Columbia, Tenn.’s Money Tree Classic and Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Tony Rice Horse Show, for Walden and Moore of Catherine, Ala., and Ooltewah, Tenn. Another very solid reserve honor went to Joe Cotten and The Image Of Ritz, champions at Panama City Beach, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Celebration and McMinnville, Tenn.’s Warren County Horse Show for The Dan McSwain Family of Alpharetta, Ga.  Receiving a roar of applause from the crowd NYPD and amateur exhibitor Kenny Compton, winners at Harriman, Tenn.’s Smoky Mountain Classic, Lewisburg, Tenn.’s Marshall County Horse Show and Tazewell, Va.’s Tazewell County Classic, accepted the yellow silks for Rick Compton of North Tazewell, Va.

            Well, well, well.  We have a lot to look forward to over the next week leading up to the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  Will Jimmy McConnell pick up his second title in three years?  Could Joe Cotten score back to back titles? Could Russ Thompson take the win home to the Golden State once again? Could an amateur take the roses home for the first time in almost four decades?  It’s almost too much, but we will have to wait, but it should be very exciting, possibly the best we’ve seen in the last five years.

            After a disappointing and frustrating evening last night, the Saturday night action was some of the very best.  A very vocal crowd of 21,532 (actual attendance) got very involved and let everyone know they were proud to see a horse show.

            Don’t forget, the Sunday schedule now includes an afternoon performance at 12 Noon in Calsonic Arena, the WHT Ladies’ Auxiliary Dog Show will move to Champions Arena and be held at 1:30 pm and the barns taking part in the Stable Decorating Contest will be judged around 3 pm.

            Remember, the show will begin Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 6:30 pm and the Sunday evening performance, which was already strong with the Four-Year-Old Stallions, Youth Riders 15-17 On Walking Ponies and Youth Riders 12-14 highlighting the schedule, now includes the Youth Riders 6-14 on Walking Ponies, Elite Gentleman Riders on Mares or Geldings from Friday Night and the Yearling World Grand Championship from Saturday night.  It promises to be an outstanding night of horse show.  Make sure you’re here, so you don’t miss a minute.