by Sharon Manning

POMONA, CA - The 41st annual edition of the California Celebration was staged at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds June 21-22 under highly unusual conditions. Instead of 90+ daytime temperatures that are the norm for mid-June in Pomona, a cold front delivered heavy morning mist and chilly sweater weather for the combined Open Show and Futurity event.

The two-day, four-performance schedule offered 74 classes for all level of walking horse competition, including ten futurity halter and performance classes. Chad Williams of Shelbyville, Tenn., was selected to judge the NHSC affiliated show, with show manager Mary K. Hartmann and her well-rehearsed team on hand to attend to the details that keep things running smoothly. Erin Baseley and Nadia Moeller made the flag presentations, while photographer Debbie Uecker-Keogh once again preserved the action on film.

The show was dedicated to the late Nelgene Bourne and Harry Wilcoxen both longtime supporters of the walking horse business who passed on recently. A moment of silence to honor their memories was observed at the opening of the Saturday afternoon performance.

The West Coast premier of the new Motown Delight/Scott Benham team proved to be a tricolor experience as they marched to the Open Grand Championship with a powerful performance. The handsome red stallion is proudly sponsored by Poplar Creek Farms’ owners Charles and Julie Wharton.

The final ribbon tally found the Russ Thompson Stables entries ahead with 34 blues and tricolors, followed closely by 29 ribbons for Golden West Farms, Step Aside Stables with six and Courtesy Stables along with owner/trainer Nancy Baldock posting two blues each.

The Arthur Gordon family backed a trio of winners in their last outings before making the eastbound trip to Tennessee. The teamwork of Susan Gordon and WC/former WGC A Specialist topped the judge's card for the Amateur Specialty Stake title. She shifted to a Western mode with the multi-titled Genius Dixie Chick to claim the Lite-Shod Amateur Specialty and Open preliminary blues for the Kyle and Gordon alliance with trainer Trish Wooten later showing the mare to the divisional English Open Stake honors. Kelly Gordon made a strong showing with Simply Thrilling for the Amateur Specialty Four-Year-Old recognition to round out the family ribbon count.

Legacy Walkers' properties scored a trio of blues for the Thompson ribbon wall. Greg Bryant presented the newly purchased Jazz In Dixie to top the Gentlemen’s Open Specialty competition as well as the Open Four-Year-Old Mares and Geldings champion Oh My Gosh. Pat Harrington and WGC Walking On Thin Ice made another Amateur Specialty 15.2 victory lane ride to keep their winning record intact.

Gary and Carleen Redman were proud of their blue ribbon stock. Park Pleasure stake winner Joltin Joe DiMaggio and Carleen earned the Amateur Specialty Four-Year-Old and Amateur Specialty Stake titles while the Redman-bred and raised Mo’s Trick Or Treat bested the Amateur Specialty Four-Year-Old Mares and Geldings class with Carleen’s direction. Maggie Moore and He’s A Wrangler prevailed in the Lite-Shod Pleasure English Amateur Specialty preliminary and stake classes for the Harvey and Maggie Moore ownership.

The multi-titled Aspen Gold returned to the show ring after a long absence to claim the Park Pleasure Open Stake tricolor with Jamey Thompson in the irons for new owners 4J Land and Cattle Company. Kylee Sargenti and Time To Glo once again walked away with the Amateur Championship for the Sargenti and Reis partnership, while Ron Kascius and Million Dollar Dream added yet another Show Pleasure Amateur Specialty Stake title to their lengthy record for owners Bartlett and Kascius.

A pair of Specialist sired youngsters also scored top awards. Steven and Kelly Cook’s O So Special was named Open Weanling Champion and returned to claim the Halter Grand Championship with handler Danny Wooten doing the honors. Countess LeLe’s Specialist and handler Trish Wooten had victories in the Open Yearling and Futurity Yearling Fillies classes for breeders Don and Marilyn Schweibold.

Trail Pleasure star Silver’s True Design was awarded five blues and a tricolor sash with riders Vanessa Dobravo, Kelly Cook and Summer Shamma sharing the reins. The following single blues were added to the board by seven Thompson entries: Eva McClure’s Motown Delight and Russ Thompson took the blue in the Open 15.2 event; Park Pleasure Amateur Specialty preliminary champions Dragonfire and Noel Williams made the good ride for Noel and Roberta Williams; Sheila Mack Kyle’s Miss Spectacular and Ray Reis exited the ring with the Futurity Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings title; Society Doctor and Nelvin Parham rode to the top for Ora Levinson in the Show Pleasure Novice Championship; Time At The Ritz with Danny Wooten up for 4J Land and Cattle Company took top honors in the Park Pleasure Three-Year-Old Open; The Lady Gangster won in the Open Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings ranks with Jamey Thompson directing for Dr. George Wright; and JFK’s Cashback, who was also shown by Jamey Thompson, collected the Park Pleasure Open Specialty blue for Clanton and Sandy Dubose. Christy Coon of Hesperia, Calif., added the Equitation blue to the wall after topping the judge’s card in that category.

In addition to the Open Grand Champion tricolor honors, Golden West entries made a good accounting even though trainer Manuel Rodriguez was hundreds of miles away dealing with a family emergency. Mac Benham jumped into the breach to help his dad, and with the benefit of youth and enthusiasm on his side, showed horses in a multitude of classes during the two-day show.

Tim and Tammie Schamber were pleased with the good ribbons earned by their assorted entries. A Bachelor, a Skywatch-sired weanling colt, won her Futurity class with Erin Baseley at the lead, while As Good As Elvis made his performance debut a blue ribbon affair in the Futurity Two-Year-Old Stallions class with Mac Benham in the saddle. The Schamber-owned Gen’s Masquerading scored the top ribbons in Open and Amateur Two-Year-Old Mares and Geldings classes with Mac Benham and Tim Schamber, respectively.

Donna Hughes and A Skywalker made a good ride to claim yet another Ladies Specialty title for Paul and Donna Hughes while their Noon’s Megan teamed with grandson Mac Benham for the Futurity Two-Year-Old Mares and Geldings recognition. Keeping it all in the family, Shawn Benham joined forces with Apocalypse to capture the Show Pleasure Amateur Specialty preliminary blue for the Hughes’ ownership.

Mike and Marilee Moran sponsored a pair of Pomona champions in the form of Futurity Park Pleasure Three-Year-Old winner My Advice and the Show Pleasure Open and Open Specialty star Gold’s First Paige. Both horses were under the direction of Mac Benham. Joyce Hofstee's stock also earned triple blues. The leggy Gold Ritz and Famous landed the Novice and Junior Rider Specialty titles with the Benham brothers, Mac and Luke, respectively, while Tara Beck did the honors in the Park Pleasure Amateur Three-Year-Old event with Drop It.

Double Java expanded his winner's circle record with victories in the Lite-Shod Amateur Specialty preliminary and Stake under the direction of Mac Benham and in the divisional Four-Year-Old Amateur Specialty class with Mark Drummond catch riding for medically sidelined wife and co-owner Marcy Drummond.

In the absence of her trainer, Bobbie Parady took charge and showed Ebony’s China Beach to Futurity, Open and Amateur Park Pleasure Two-Year-Old blues for the John and Bobbie Parady ownership. Frank and Linda Woodbury’s Chief Sierra also posted three top ribbons with Erin Baseley in the Spotted Saddle Horse English and Western Specialty classes and in the Rail Riders Novice event with Linda enjoying the good ride.

Stephen Bourne’s Nevada B Ranch proudly backs the flashy General Custer, who strutted to the Open Four-Year-Old Stallions recognition under Scott Benham’s direction, as well as the Bourne-bred and raised Triple Play’s Blue Moon, who stepped up for the Park Pleasure Junior Rider blue with Nadia Moeller in charge. Dual blues were earned by JFK’s Top Aide in Open and Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions competition with Scott Benham and Sally Reiley, respectively, for breeders/owners Dick and Sally Reiley.

Brita Andercheck and the family-owned Santana’s Coin made a flawless debut ride to earn the Park Pleasure Novice Specialty blue and the victory lane recognition. Steve Schell and Here Comes Double Trouble had another good Fine Harness performance to claim the class title and ribbon; the venerable gelding is leased from Poplar Creek Farms, LLC.

Trainers Sue Wittick and Dana Kansteel were proud of their Step Aside Stables entries whose efforts decorated the ribbon wall. Kathy Atwater’s The Gentleman Is Armed led the way with Lite-Shod Novice and Junior Rider recognition, as well as the Halter Two Years and Over blue with owner Atwater and Erika Solomon doing the honors.

Trainer Kansteel rode Allied Commander to the Lite-Shod Pleasure Open Stake tricolor sash award for the Thomson and Wittick partnership, while Suzette’s Midnight Mist and Brittney Ellis collected the Trail Pleasure Western title for the Ellis family. Pusher’s Eternal Flame bested a good class of Model horses with David White handling for proud owner Matt DiCambio.

Courtesy Stables entries always excel in the Regional Futurity and this year’s stars of the show were Weanling Filly champion Motown’s Diva and Yearling Colt champion Command’s Most Wanted. Both youngsters were expertly shown by trainer Raul Puentes for dedicated breeder/owner Eva McClure.

Owner/trainer Nancy Baldock and her Second Amendment landed the Lite-Shod Pleasure Western Amateur Specialty and Pleasure Driving blues to make her long trip south to Pomona a worthwhile outing.