by Linda Scrivner

JACKSON, Miss. – The 78th rendition of the Mississippi State Charity Horse Show is one that will be long remembered by those who attended this year. The show was held April 10-12, at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson, Miss. Those who took a walk in the Big House were judged this year by L.M. Murphy, Bill Cantrell and Benny Johnson. Thirty-four of the 62 classes were judged unanimously, which averaged out to 55 percent. 

The classes were loaded with quality horses, many of them current, former and future world champions. If you didn’t come to participate or enjoy the horses, the Mississippi Charity Show still had plenty to offer. Each morning the arena was filled with breakfast buffets with everyone chatting and watching their competitors in their early morning workouts. The buffets were sponsored Thursday by Steve and Susan Frank of Bluff Springs Farm, Friday by Contender Farms and Master Of Jazz and Saturday by Dr. William, Jeanne and Mary Morrison of Morrison Stables. 

Following the show Friday night, Jimmy and Carol Lackey and Robert and Denise Taylor sponsored a Mexican dinner and margarita party. Friday night, everyone enjoyed cobbler and ice cream in a dessert social provided by The Walking Horse Report and Greg Cass of Cass Services. A seafood lunch on Saturday concluded the show that advertised Southern hospitality second to none! It was sponsored by Robert and Denise Taylor and Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Blankenship. 

As for the horses, it was “happening” in Jackson, Miss. World Grand Champion The Black Night Shade must have been strutting in horse heaven when two of his first offspring under saddle won four classes at this show he himself had won under Jimmy McConnell. McConnell is also the colts’ trainer. 

Mike McGartland, co-owner of 2007 World Grand Champion Master Of Jazz, saw a weanling, one of two raised by Jimmy and Gail McConnell, and purchased him because he liked his looks. This colt, He’s Slim Shady, and Lee Wall won both the Two-Year-Old Amateur class and the Two-Year-Old Amateur Championship at Jackson this year. The other colt, Dark & Shady, debuted with Jimmy McConnell riding for Molly Walters and won both the Two-Year-Old Stallion class and the Two-Year-Old Championship.
The ride that brought the house down, however, was not with the young ones or even the Stake class. Landrum Stables and Joe Cotten made Landon Phillips, a young man from Mississippi, very happy. During the morning workouts, Joe Cotten let an excited Phillips ride World Champion More Of The Major. Cotten then asked Phillips to be his partner in the Pro-Am class on Saturday night. Phillips directed the horse the first way, Cotten the second. When the horse was tied unanimously, Cotten put Phillips up to make the victory pass with a standing ovation and many from the crowd followed him outside to congratulate him. So many in fact, that his trainer had to come and drag him away from his fans to show his own horse a few classes later. 

Another exciting event at this show was the fact that the winner of the Stallion class on Thursday changed ownership before he won the Stake class on Saturday night. Jimmy McConnell made his debut Thursday night aboard Cena Martin’s stallion You Watch It. The judges tied the talented stallion unanimously with such a performance that he caught the eyes of Neal Holland and Bob Kilgore. On Saturday night the stallion showed and won under the name of Holland, Kilgore and Martin, again unanimously. On Saturday night, announcer Tommy Williams stated that the road to the Celebration begins at Jackson and then announced You Watch It and Jimmy McConnell were the 2008 Jackson Grand Champions. In past years, McConnell has won Stake classes at Jackson with Master Of Jazz and The Black Night Shade who went on to become World Grand Champions, along with many others over the past 78 years.

The blue ribbon tally at Jackson was won by Formac Stables with 17 blues, followed by David Landrum Stables with 12 blues. Watts’ Pioneer Stables claimed eight Jackson blues while Knox Blackburn Stables and Gilmers’ Falcon Ridge claimed five blues each. Mickey McCormick Stables returned home with three blues while dual blues were won by Sam Brown, Mike Overcast of Spiller Hill Farm and Swingin’ Gate Farms.
If you don’t want to miss a great horse show, you need to attend the 79th Mississippi Charity Horse Show in 2009. Complete results and judges’ cards follow and can be viewed by clicking here.