by Mark Davis

Talk about a great night for a horse show. The cool front that kept a few raindrops falling on the heads of horse show fans last evening and kept temperatures comfortable had things very cool tonight. Forecasts call for temperatures to drop into the low 60’s by mid evening. Jacket weather at The Celebration . . .you just can’t beat it.

While attendance was strong last night, with 10,903 actual attendance in the stands, an increase from 2003, entries were very strong. Last evening, 371 entries entered the big oval for a 16 class schedule, up from 279 in 2003. That breaks down to an average of over 23 entries per class..

Speaking of entries, last year, The Celebration’s Two-Year-Old Stallion division was probably the largest ever, requiring four splits. Tonight, we’ll see the Two-Year-Old Stallions hit the track once again, and while there are three splits this year, with approximately 45 in each split, the division remains very strong..

This performance marked the arrival of officials from the United States Department of Agriculture to work with the Designated Qualified Persons from the National Horse Show Commission. Reports from the inspection area throughout the evening were that things proceeded smoothly..

As always, promptly at 7 pm, the gate swings open and Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton ride to the ring with the stars and stripes. The invocation was given by the Rev. Steve Murphree, pastor of the Midland Heights Baptist Church of Shelbyville, Tenn. and a fabulous rendition of the national anthem was sung by Stacy Whited of Franklin, Tenn..

The first class on the evening’s schedule was class 94, Owner-Amateur Gentleman Drivers, Fine Harness with nine of the 13 in the program making the call. Joe Fleming served as call judge in the division. Claiming the win in the division, with a unanimous decision of the judging panel, was Genius Gold Spirit and Bob Keenan for the Robert Keenan family of Franklin, Tenn. This marked the third consecutive year that the team has topped this division, that’s dominance indeed. Reserve honors went to the many time World Champion and classic horse, On The Money with Ben Harrell on the lines for the Double Springs Farm of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Another Murfreesboro exhibitor, Jerome Cole drove to third with Pusher’s Good Fortune for Howard and Bonnie Woodman of Auburn, Ga. .

The Two-Year-Old Stallions were up next and announcer Chip Walters called 22 of the 46 entered to the ring. Tommy Loid called the gaits in the competitive division. When the work was complete, the team of PGA and John Allan Callaway, champions at Decatur, Ala.’s Alabama Ladies Auxiliary Show, the Gallatin, Tenn. Lions Club Show, Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Tony Rice Horse Show and Dickson, Tenn.’s Dickson County Horse Show, captured the blue in the division for Robert Lanier and Jimmy Bratcher of Mansfield, Ga. Worthy of note, PGA is one of the first colts by multi-titled World Champion, Seve. A Sensational Dumas and Winky Groover, champions at the Winchester, Tenn. Rotary Club Horse Show, the Spring Fun Show, the Woodbury, Tenn Lions Club Horse Show and the Wartrace, Tenn. Horse Show, were a popular reserve for Don and Lucky Collins of Ft. Myers, Fla. Card Trick and Jimmy McConnell accepted third for Ed and Carol Sims of Anaheim Hills, Calif. .

The B division of the Two-Year-Old Stallions brought 23 of the 47 scheduled to the track to work for Huck Moss and his colleagues. Making the victory pass in the division was Gold Poison and Joe Cotten making the stellar performance for Graham Holt of Lexington, Ky. The team preceded this win with a victory at Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Great Strides Horse Show and a prestigious reserve at Pulaski, Tenn.’s Red Carpet Horse Show of the South. Making a strong performance to capture the reserve honors in the division were It’s Only A Game and Chad Baucom for Charles Clark of Charlotte, NC. McMinnville, Tenn.’s Warren County Horse Show champions, On The Line and Knox Blackburn rode to the yellow streamer for R. Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala..

Twenty-two of the 45 programmed entries made the call in Class 95C, Two-Year-Old Walking Stallions with Wayne Abee calling the gaits in the division. Cashing in on a World Championship in this division was the team of Casino At The Ritz and Knox Blackburn. This talented black stallion, by 1996 WGC He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, became the talk of the winter season and quickly drew the attention of the Mike Walden family of Chattanooga, Tenn. and was purchased from the Chip Carrier family of Franklin, Ky. Shown sparingly, the duo topped Panama City, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show and drew a popular reserve at the Woodbury, Tenn. Lions Club Horse Show. Edison, Ga. and Bethesda, Tenn.’s Champion America Online and Larry Edwards accepted the reserve honors for the Paul Bryan family of Thomasville, Ga. A Flash Of Lightning and John Allan Callaway rode to the third award for C & E Miller Farms of Elberton, Ga..

The amateur riders were up next on the schedule as class 96, Show Pleasure Walking Horses, Amateur Gentleman Riders, made their way through the entry gate. Eighteen of the 36 in the program made the call as Bob Cherry and his cohorts reviewed the division. They proved that they weren’t laying down on the job as they bestowed top honors in the division, with a unanimous decision, on the multi-titled World Champion Insomnia and Keith Johnson riding for Cartwright and Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn. This team already captured top honors in 2004 at the National Trainers’ Show, Jackson, Miss.’s Mississippi State Charity Horse Show, Summertown, Tenn., Columbia, Tenn.’s Moneytree Classic, White Pine, Tenn.’s East Tennessee Classic, Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Tony Rice Horse Show and Corinth, Miss.’s Magnolia Classic. Quite an impressive resume’ indeed! Reserve in the division went to the impressive Ironworks Tin Man and Grant Jones for Ray Jones Trucking of Greenville, Ky. Midnight At The Ritz and Brett Jones accepted third for Brett and Lisa Jones of Sandy Hook, Miss..

During a break in the action, the new Walking Seat Equitation Championship rider Alex Bumpus displayed her talents with her mount Settle The Score. This is the team’s second consecutive win in the division, allowing her to retire the Alice Eve Klein-Senator’s Big Glory Challenge Trophy. She is instructed by Faye Lynn Coffey of Murfreesboro and Settle The Score is prepared by Dickie Scrivner of Tan View Farm, Murfreesboro, Tenn. .

Another of the evening’s highlights, the Walking Stallions, 15.2 and Under (Canter) took the track with 23 of 50 with reservations in the division made the gate call as Joe Fleming called the gaits in the division. Due to the deep talent in the division, the panel decided that additional work would be needed to determine the champion in the event. When the work was finally complete, the reigning 15.2 and Under WGC Private Charter, with trainer Knox Blackburn, was called to the winner’s circle for R. Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. The team captured 2004 wins in the Walking Horse Championship’s at the Columbia, Tenn. Moneytree Classic and McMinnville, Tenn’s Warren County Horse Show. The National Trainers’ Show, Panama City, Fla. Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show and Owingsville, Ky. champion Gen’s Johnny Walker Red and Sammy Day were riding hard to the cheers of the crowd for the red ribbon for owners, the John and Gary LeGate families of Brentwood and Shelbyville, Tenn. Past 15.2 and Under WGC London Rain and trainer Chad Baucom claimed the yellow streamer for Charles Clark of Charlotte, NC..

The amateur riders were back for class 98, Elite Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Stallions. Fourteen of the 29 scheduled made the call to work for Tommy Loid and his staff. Hitting it out of the park, John F K’s Pusher and Robin MacDonald made an outstanding performance to deliver the win for Bruce and Robin MacDonald of Lake City, Ga. The team came into the 2004 Celebration with a impressive list of wins including the National Trainers’ Show, Clemson, SC’s South Carolina Ladies Auxiliary Horse Show, Panama City, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Celebration, Gallatin, Tenn. Lions Club Horse Show, the Spring Fun Show and Bethesda, Tenn. Reserve in the deep class went to a previous World Champion in this division and 1995 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion, Pride’s Sundance Star and Kay Green for Dr. Jim and Kay Green of Meridian, Miss. JFK Again and Jeanine Gullett rode the the third award for Ronnie Gullett of Duluth, Ga..

The trainers again took the track for class 99, Walking Mares, 15.2 and Under (Canter). Thirteen of the 19 in the division made the call to work for Huck Moss and his colleagues. With a delightful performance in the division, the team of Pusher’s Delightful Star and Joe Martin delivered the win in the class for the Mike Chiappari family of Santa Rosa, Calif. With this win, the team retired the Floyd and Olive Carothers Memorial Challenge Trophy. Reserve went to another past World Champion in the division, Lady’s Ebony Ace and Jimmy McConnell for Ronald and Donna Beltz of Energy, Ill. The latest purchase of John Furline of Athens, Ala., The Key To My Heart and trainer Brock Tillman rode to the third award..

It was the amateur riders taking their turn once again in class 100, Owner/Amateur Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings. Twenty entries made the call to work in the division as Wayne Abee called the gaits. Erin Graf definitely had the winning spirit tonight! She and her World Champion mare, Silverado Spirit put on a performance to remember to top the division for David and Erin Graf of South Portsmouth, Ky., making their second consecutive win in the event. This win made the third of the evening for the Franklin, Tenn. based team from Knox Blackburn Stables and two of the three wins were repeats from the 2003 Celebration. Pulaski, Tenn.’s Red Carpet Horse Show of the South Champion Cheatin’ Danger and Trish Harrison of Nashville, Tenn. accepted the reserve honors. The third award was accepted by Rankin County and Kelly Garrett for Floyd Sherman of Dallas, Texas..

Fifteen of the 24 programmed entries hit the track for class 101, Amateur Western Trail Pleasure, Riders 18 and Over (Canter) as Bob Cherry and colleagues watched over the division. After claiming top ribbons all week, the team of Papa’s Showgirl and Karla Massey moved into the winner’s circle tonight with a top performance for James Nichols of Oxford, Miss. Reserve in the division went to Nite Winds Bum and owner/exhibitor Sarena Westenhaver of Arlington. Wa. Another exhibitor from Washington state, Michelle Hodne, captured third with Perfect Cents..

The final class of the schedule was class 102, Park Pleasure Walking Horse, Four Years Old, Amateur Riders. Eighteen of the 28 entered made the call to work for Joe Fleming and his colleagues. When the work was complete, the World title in the division went to the team of Gold Danger and Nancy Groover for Rusty and Beverly Greer of El Dorado, Ark. Reserve in the division went to the two-time 2004 World Champion, Chill and Sandra Reid riding for daughter, Danielle Reid of Shelbyville, Tenn. Mr. Jingles and owner/exhibitor Don Hancock of Princeton, Ky. accepted third in the tough division..

The eleven class schedule meant the session was over a little sooner than in previous nights, but it certainly didn’t hold back any talent. Just think, tonight horse show fans cheered on winners such as Genius Gold Spirit, Private Charter, Insomnia, John F K’s Pusher and Pusher’s Delightful Star, all multi-titled World Champions and World Grand Champions as well as three divisions of outstanding competition in the Two-Year-Old Stallion division. Certainly, another night of competition at its best..