By Mark Davis


            Ah, yes! It’s Championship Friday at the 69th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  The action is expected to really heat up tonight with 14 classes of competition, including 11 divisions of World Grand Championship action concluding with the highlight of the night, the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. 

While the action has gotten hotter every night, exhibitors and spectators alike have been very fortunate that temperatures have cooled off throughout out the week with tonight’s temperatures being in the low 80’s at show time with a cool breeze blowing throughout the stands.  Much better, indeed that the 105 degree temperatures that opened the show on last Thursday evening.

            Judges for the 69th annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration include Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tenn., Allen Forman of Thomson, Ga., Justin Jenne’ of Lewisburg, Tenn., Sam Sorrell of Lexington, Ky., and Ronnie Spears of Tullahoma, Tenn.

            It was easy to tell that show time was quickly drawing near as the Friday evening crowd quickly filed into the big oval.  As always, promptly at 7 pm, The Celebration’s official flag horse, Counterfeit Dollar and WGC trainer Bud Seaton made their way to the track to get the opening ceremonies underway.  The invocation was given by the Rev. Ron DeWitt, pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene, Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Rochelle Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            Leading off the evening’s schedule was class 142A, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness.  Six of the 13 expected made their was down to the track shined up and looking their very best as Judge Ronnie Spears led the panel in the section.   Putting on the mighty fine performance, Mighty Brew and Linda Jones made the victory pass down the west side for Dr. Linda Jones and Haley Lane of Bainbridge, Ga.  This win, coupled with a 2005 win in the same division, retired The Ruby Ewing Challenge Trophy.  Touch My Wan and owner/exhibitor Sheila Bullington of Franklin, Tenn. drove in for the second award.  Major Miss Understood and Lynn Womack pulled in for the golden streamers for Neill, Harwell, West & Womack of Savannah, Manchester & Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            Class 142B, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness, brought eight of the 13 with reservations to show the ideal gaits of a Tennessee Walking Horse shown to harness as Judge Mike Carpenter called the gaits in the event.  Topping the class was It’s Gen And Tonic & Charlene Cox driving for Charlene Cox & Nancy Manning of Lexington, Ky.  I’m Medusa and Lynn Womack pulled in to pick up the red streamers for Womack Stables of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Pride’s Sharp Dressed Man and Tamara Gavin Kasser were third for Belle Meadow Farm of Wartrace, Tenn.

            On to the Championship action as class 143 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 15 of the 27 on the books beating the clock to take the track to work for their chance at the roses.  Judge Allen Forman served as Call Judge in the class.  Walking to the winner’s circle to capture the roses for the second consecutive year was the duo of Santana’s Coin and John McNeely riding for John McNeely & Lindsey Landrum of Blowing Rock, N.C. & Franklin, Tenn.  With this win, the duo retired The Generator’s Elegance Challenge Trophy and The Wonder Lady’s Delight Memorial Challenge Trophy.  I’m Big Bad John and owner/exhibitor Marty Irby were the good reserve taking the honors home to Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Gold Danger and Susannah Borg picked up the golden streamers for Susannah Borg of Ponte Vedra, Fla.

            The amateur riders were back for class 144, Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Six of the nine programmed entries made their way down to the track to work for their chance at a spotlight ride as Judge Justin Jenne’ called the gaits in the section.  Taking the roses back to the Peach State, the beautiful gray stallion, Greyline and Koni Tidwell, 2007 World Champions from the Amateur Stallion division, were impressive as they topped the division for Joey Tidwell of Rockmart, Ga.  Jazzed Up and owner/exhibitor Brenda Bramlett of Shelbyville, Tenn. pulled in for the reserve World Grand Championship.  Bold Vengeance and Heather Beard were third for Judy McDonald of Shelbyville, Tenn.

            Class 145 brought the Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Members on Walking Horses with an even dozen making the call to work in the big oval as Judge Sam Sorrell led the panel in the division.  Burning the winning path to the winner’s circle, the legendary mare, Gen’s Burning Rage teamed up with Callie Stuckey to top the event for Dan McSwain of Alpharetta, Ga.  BeBopper and Patti Gray were reserve for Evelyn Taylor of Sewanee, Tenn.  Owner/exhibitor Megan Peebles of Shelbyville, Tenn. and her Copy’s Touchtone were third.

            Adding a little variety to the evening, class 146 featured the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, World Grand Championship with 11 of the 13 entries expected making their way to the rail to work under the watchful eye of Judge Ronnie Spears and his panel.  Picking up his second championship title in two days, after topping the Western Lite Shod WGC last evening, Drop The Hammer was back in the winner’s circle again, this time with Judy Leek in the irons for Waldo & Leek, LLC of Cedar Creek, Texas and Shelbyville, Tenn.  Commanding Dakota and Dickie Scrivner pulled in for the reserve honors riding for Double Springs Farm of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Slammin Rammer and Kevin Marker accepted the yellow streamers for Dave & Joy Buck of Conroe, Texas.

            The professional trainers were back for class 147, Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship (Canter).  Seven of the nine with reservations made their way down to show off their very best under the watch of Judge Mike Carpenter and his cohorts.  Delivering a wicked performance that placed them atop the competition was the team of He’s Wild Eyed And Wicked and Knox Blackburn riding for Eva Eddleman of Chattanooga, Tenn.  Armed To Show and John Allan Callaway garnered the red streamers for Maisie McSwain of Alpharetta, Ga.  Brigand and Bill Bobo were third for George Brown of Hillsboro, Tenn.

            Getting the large Friday night crowd in the western frame of mind, class 148 brought the Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship.  Nineteen of the 20 with reservations worked the track as Judge Allen Forman called the gaits.  Working to the top of the class with a truly legendary performance were the Texas team of Gen’s Legend In Black and owner/exhibitor Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas.  Marty Irby and Lion King pulled into the second position for Kristen Williams & Marty Irby of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Headed back California way, Push N For Pleasure and Patti Pollack rode away with the golden streamers for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. & Shelbyville, Tenn. 

            The Park Performance World Grand Championship, class 149, was up next on the schedule with 15 of the 17 signed in beating the clock to work for their chance to make that memorable spotlight ride as Judge Justin Jenne’ lead the panel in the section.  Holding up the competition with a stellar performance was The Concealed Weapon and Joe Cotten, topping the division with a unanimous decision of the panel, for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. & Shelbyville, Tenn.  All American Ritz and Howard Hamilton were presented the red streamers for Cynthia Wright of Jackson, Tenn.  Silver On The Line and Spencer Benedict were third for Austin Benedict of Glasgow, Ky.

            Class 150 brought the Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Walking Horses World Grand Championship down to the big oval with 27 of the 32 expected working to the track with the hopes and dreams of riding away with their very first set of roses on this Friday night in Shelbyville.  Judge Sam Sorrell called the gaits in the section.  The panel determined that additional work would be necessary to determine who would get that chance to make their first ever spotlight ride and asked that 16 of the original 27 remain to see who would take that honor home tonight.  Making the ride that you never forget, Jazz’s Master and Buddy Stasney rode out of the Novice division for good riding to the winner’s circle for Lisa & Bryce Stasney of Lincolnton, N.C.  Mr. Kamikazi and Suzy Johnson were the popular reserve for Suzy Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Headed back to East Tennessee, Sensational Premier and Latithia Oran were third for Melton & Latithia Oran of Sweetwater, Tenn.

            The young riders took center stage for class 151, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 on Walking Mares or Geldings, World Grand Champion.  Twenty six of the 30 expected made their way to the ring to work for Judge Ronnie Spears and staff.  The panel determined once again due to the large size of the class that additional work would be necessary to tie the class and asked 14 of the original 26 to remain to work for the title of World Grand Champion.  Riding away with the roses in the outstanding division was the duo of The American General and owner/exhibitor Maisie McSwain of Alpharetta, Ga.  Pushin That Jazz and Dalia Smith accepted the red ribbon and carried it home to the Bluegrass state for Molly & Annabelle Smith of Manchester, Ky.  Another Kentuckian,  Caleb Kilburn and Main Majorette picked up the yellow streamers for Salt Lick Farms of Salt Lick, Ky.

            Getting back in the western way, class 152 featured the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship (Canter) with four of the five entries expected making their way down from Calsonic Arena to work in the division.  Judge Mike Carpenter served as Call Judge in the section.  Taking the World Grand Championship honors way out west to the Golden State, Dragonfire and Jamey Thompson dominated the division capturing the title with a unanimous decision of the panel for proud owner Jim Heiting of Riverside, Calif.  Headed back Carolina way, Color’s Clown and Mike Kluttz were second in the event for Lori Renn Abbott of Henderson, N.C.  The local team of Go Boy’s Dark Spirit and Jennifer Pendleton were third for Huckaby & Pendleton of Columbia & Shelbyville, Tenn.

            Class 153 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship with 20 of the 26 on the books beating the clock to work for the judging panel, under the leadership of Judge Allen Forman, and the extra large and fired up Friday night crowd.  Riding away with the roses were the duo of Naples Ritz and Bill Johnson riding for William B. Johnson of Atlanta, Ga.  This win, coupled with the Johnson’s 2000 win in the division, retired The Charles T. “Scope” Carney, Jr. Memorial Challenge Trophy and The Crowley Farms, Inc. Challenge Trophy.  Prodigy and Sherri Pollack rode to the reserve World Grand Championship for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. & Shelbyville, Tenn.  Jazz Time In Dixie and Stacy Blackburn were third for Louise Lyons of Obion, Tenn.

            The final class of the evening, the one most of the crowd in attendance had been waiting on all night long, was class 154, the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship.  As the nine contenders scheduled to appear made their way down to the big oval, Celebration organist Larry Bright fired up a little “Flat Walk Boogie” to get the crowd good and excited for the highlight of the evening.  Judge Justin Jenne’ served as Call Judge in the division.  After the entries worked the gaits, the panel asked for additional work prior to determining the champion in the event.  Before they took the track again, the balance of the class worked and they sure did get the crowd all shook up and ready for the top two to take the track.  Bringing the crowd to their feet with an extraordinary performance were Jose’s All Pro and Bill Bobo making the spotlight ride for Dan Rowsick of Eighty Four, Penn.  The Four –Year-Old Stallion preliminary winner, Gen On The Run and Justin Harris were a strong reserve for Michael & Ty Hart of Corbin, Ky. & Beech Grove, Tenn.  Let’s Rumble and Joel Weaver were third for Rising Star Ranch of Shelbyville, Tenn.

            From beginning to end, it was another exciting night of championship competition at the 69th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and the 21,536 cheering fans that were on hand were certainly not disappointed.  As great as tonight has been, tomorrow is the night that you WILL NOT want to miss featuring the crowning the Weanling World Grand Champion, the Two-Year-Old World Grand Champion, the Park Pleasure World Grand Champion and of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Championship.  Make sure you’re here to take in all the action and witness history in the making.