By Sadie Fowler

The Monday evening session at the 80th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration kicked off with an ideal setting. Each night, in fact, has opened with gorgeous weather, with some evenings even cooler than normal; traditional nostalgia with things like prayer and the singing of the National Anthem and the presentation of the flag horse; and then of course, the opening class of the show. The crowd remained steady Monday night, even for it being a Monday night following the busy weekend, with incentives such as dollar night drawing in a decent number of local supporters as well as the tried and true horse show fans who showed up for a great night of 12 classes that wrapped up before 10:30 p.m. 

As holds true with the Monday night tradition each year, fine harness candidates kicked the entertainment off for the session and last year’s winners, and reserve from the year before that, In Ted’s Image and Ron Lawrence held on tightly to their winning position for the repeat world championship. Really having grown together as a powerhouse name over the last few years, this team isn’t going to give it up easy in their quest for the best, and part of their winning strategy can be credited to the expertise of their trainers at Callaway Stables. Cruising into a solid reserve finish, Alex Rea and Paroled From San Quenton stayed the course and left with the red streamers. 
They may be ponies but they sure were mighty on Monday night … entries in the Amateur Walking Ponies Mares and Geldings class, that is. Already having turned head’s this week, Pappy Van Winkle showed up for more tonight and this time Kim Butler was in the driver’s seat while seasoned equestrian Patti Pollack played her role just fine and landed the reserve ribbon with her sidekick appropriately named Be My Baby.

Nine paved their way into Maverick Arena to take center stage in the third class of the night, the Walking Mares Five and Over class. Tyler Baucom kept his family tradition at its peak while masterfully maneuvering She’s Salsarita to beat the heated crop of talent for Delores Griffith. Riding hard for the blue but graciously settling for reserve in the tough class as anyone would, Philip Trimble and She’s Blue As Ice froze their spot in the reserve position for David and Patty Wilson. 

One of the highlights of the night according to the crowd’s excitement came in the 13-entry Amateur Five-Year-Old Stallions class where the competition is always nothing short of incredible. The top ribbons in this class are always on the A-list and this year was no different as Knock Down Drag Out and Jason Myatt fought until the finished and then truly enjoyed the glory as they entertained their fans while walking away as the new world champions. On their heels for reserve, Carol Missildine kept her name right up there among the amateur elite as she positioned Von Miller like a professional and sealed the deal for reserve. 

The first of three sections of the two-year-old stallions, the evening’s highlight, came together for round one in the next class and the crowd went wild when Mark Farrar announced Tua MCF as champions for hometown owners Keith and Lorraine Rosbury, who were cheering the loudest among all of the rowdy fans. Well over a dozen contenders performed up to the high expectations of Celebration goers and Shelbyville was not disappointed as another local favorite, Herbert Derickson, put in the performance fans have come to expect as he piloted Mr. Magnifico to a performance that lived up to his name for the reserve in the A section. 

In between the stallions sections, other classes were held for logistical purposes and before the B group of two year-olds matched up the Amateur Gentleman Show Pleasure horses came together for their turn in the spotlight. As has been a common trend in this year’s show, another new team secured this win and it was well deserved at that as The Night Crawler made the night even more exciting, proving anything is possible with a good blend of chemistry. Part of that good partnership included a good ride delivered by Jason Joseph and a supportive owner in Sister Milligan. On their heels for reserve in the nine-entry class, Benelli and Blake Cammack walked away with a nice round of applause representing Champion Stables. 

Speaking of chemistry being important in any type of winning partnership, perhaps there’s no better example than the team that emerged victorious in the section B match up for the two-year-old stallions. Loyal and supportive owner Sarah Coffee Burks never lost sight of the potential she saw in Mountain Voodoo and trainer Nick Price, and on Monday night everyone else saw that potential come to fruition as they walked away with the big blue finish. It was hard enough to be seen in this class, much less finish in the top two, but Holyfield’s My Papa and Hayden Burks did just that as they pushed hard for reserve, making owner Robert Hill more than proud. 

It was a wide open stage of talent when the gate opened up for the Elite Amateur Ladies Stallions class but there was something about the way Robin MacDonald and Mr. Heisman confidently entertained the ring and never lost a beat of persistency and consistency as they delivered a performance that lived up to expectations and then some for the world championship. The winners weren’t the only team in the ring prepared to deliver, and Jimmer Fredette and Carole Baxter were among the fine crop of contenders working hard for the Celebration and they were rewarded for their solid go with reserve.

It can often be a long road to the top and a tough climb at times, but there’s few trainers with the tenacious spirt of Tyler Baucom, who’s fire continues to get brighter with each passing season. This year, he continued to walk down the road to success and in the C division of the two-year-old there was no one better suited for the winning destination than Dixie Road, the young star making a delightful name for himself for owners Mary Dell Kilgore and Joe Barnes. Sometimes less is more, and that could fairly describe Kong, with Rocky McCoy up, who put in a power-punching finish to earn the votes that put him in the reserve spot. 

Sweeping the competition in the next round, the Park Performance Five and Under, Chris Helton bested yet another great field of Celebration-quality as he rode Sweepin’ José to the Celebration blue for Jimbo Conner and Lexie Stinnet. Always a consistent fan favorite, Georgia Florida Line always puts every bit of his talent on the line and tonight he partnered up with Justin Harris for his usual pristine performance but he fell just shy of the win as he wore out red for owners Bruce and Robin MacDonald, who were cheering him on at every step. 

Bruce MacDonald didn’t have much time to cheer, however, as he put his focus on his contender in the next class, the Amateur Mares and Geldings stage, where he also put forth yet another top two performance for what’s been an incredible week thus far for the MacDonalds, this time on board Greenspan to claim the reserve finish. Zeta and Robert Deutsch were laser focused from start to finish and left with the top position on the judges’ cards. 

As the Celebration approaches mid-week, clear themes and standouts start to become more clear, and at the 2019 Celebration, there’s no doubt Tim Smith is on the short list of those pros who are right in their sweet spot. His team has been consistently at the top of the ribbon ranks all week long with several of those performances being right in line with what it means to be among the Celebration elite, including Smith’s ride in the climax of the Monday session, when he road I’m Pushin’ N Line hard to win the race in the 15.2 and under class for industry veterans, the Fostek family. Monday was also magnificent for crowd favorite He’s Made In The USA, who again starred in the top ranks of a great class, this time with Bill Callaway making an impression for reserve.