by Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

It was the second night of world grand championship competition at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, but it was an even more special evening as it was “Red, White and Blue Ribbon Night” in appreciation of members of the military and first responders. Gold Star Families were also honored with exhibitors riding in honor of a fallen soldier. Appropriately, flags were fluttering on a breezy, but pleasant evening.
Reverend Jim Moran of First Presbyterian Church in Shelbyville gave the invocation. American tenor Ben Gulley sang a rousing and outstanding “National Anthem”.

Following opening ceremonies, center ring announcer Mark Farrar and organist J. Brantley welcomed fans and exhibitors to “The Big Oval”.  

A special guest for the evening was United States Congressman Scott DesJarlais from Tennessee, who is a strong supporter of the breed.

The Owner-Amateur Fine Harness World Grand Championship opened the 15-class schedule. Seven of eight programmed entries competed with Derek Bonner calling the class. American Titliest made the spotlight ride for the title with co-owner Rollie Beard from Lewisburg, Tennessee, driving for co-owner Marla Lovett of Mobile, Alabama. It was the fourth blue in a row in six classes for American Titliest, and the first world grand championship ever for Rollie Beard. Lovett was the driver on the first Friday night winning the Owner-Amateur Ladies Fine Harness class with American Titliest. In Ted’s Image was reserve for owner-driver Ron Lawrence. Lt. Horatio Cane and Alex Blackburn were the third place tie for Stacy Blackburn.

History will show that the winner of the inaugural Owner-Amateur Youth All Day Pleasure World Grand Championship was Betrayal and owner-rider Harper Grider of Columbia, Kentucky; the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel. They remain undefeated in seven classes in 2023, including the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 All Day Pleasure class the first Friday morning of the Celebration. Reserve was IB Smokin Joe with co-owner Tanner Johnson aboard for co-owner Tucker Johnson. The yellow streamer went to Score Diamond In The Ruff with co-owner Cheyanne Gardner for co-owner Dakoda Gardner. Derek Bonner was again the call judge with 13 of 14 listed entries participating.

The spinning wheel in the center ring landed on Leah Boyd to serve as the call judge for seven of eight expected entries in the Owner-Amateur Three & Under Country Pleasure World Grand Championship. Making the spotlight ride was Quesadilla, with Sherri Pollack in the saddle, for S&P LLC of Saratoga, California. Joe Lester rode to top honors in the Country Pleasure Two & Three-Year-Old class Monday morning. Riding to reserve honors was the team of Crypto and Kaitlyn Rippy for owner Andy Rippy, while Cobra Kai walked out with a yellow streamer with Amy Spinelli riding for The  Spinelli Family.  

Simply Timeless and handler Robert Nelms were simply outstanding as the unanimous selection in the Weanlings World  Grand Championship for owners Link, Teel and Washburn from Mt. Juliet and Fayetteville, Tennessee. Sired by Walk Time Charlie, all four of their blues have been during the Celebration, with two firsts in the National Futurity Spring Weanling class the first Wednesday night, and the Weanling Fillies class Monday morning. Ring Girl CTF was reserve with Hunter Fikes leading the young entry for John Fikes. Choo Tobacco Choo Tobacco received  the third award with Chris Richards leading for Bobby Joe Jones. Leah Boyd called the class with all 13 listed entries competing for the title.

Nathan Clark was the call judge as three of four scheduled entries were in the ring for the Three & Under Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. Imagine Dragons and Hannah Myatt wore the floral horseshoe and the tri-colored ribbon as the unanimous pick of the five-judge panel for Jordan Howell and Southridge Farm of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They also won the Trail Pleasure Three-Year-Old class the first Wednesday morning of the Celebration. They are undefeated in five classes this year, and are eight-for-eight with three wins in 2022. Diva By Daddy and Claire Hankins were reserve for Maddie Grace McMorrow, while Parking Lot Party and Joe Lester placed third for Karen Doss and Emma Carter.

Ten of 12 expected entries made the gate call for the Two-Year-Old Mares World Grand Championship with David Sisk calling the class. Making the spotlight ride was Gimme A Redneck Girl, with Jimmy McConnell in the irons, for Brandy Zeis of Wartrace, Tennessee. They have two blues in four classes this show season. Haute Couture was a stylish reserve with Tanner Burks in the saddle for Noel and Lynda Botsch. Ladies Privilege THF rode away with a yellow streamer with Thomas Derickson riding for Maria Bobo.

Dark Rain and Taylor Walters earned the floral horseshoe and tri-colored ribbon in the Owner-Amateur Ponies World Grand Championship for The Molly Walters Family from Rancho Mirage, California. It was their fifth blue in six classes in 2023 with four in a row. The first Thursday night of the Celebration they won the Owner-Amateur Pony Stallions class. Pappy Van Winkle was the reserve champion with co-owner Kim Butler riding for co-owner Bruce Butler. As I Am was the third tie for owner-rider Dr. Ann Rea. Nathan Clark directed the class with five of six listed entries performing. 

The Owner-Amateur World Grand Championship class was put through the paces by call judge David Sisk with all eight programmed entries making it to “The Big Oval”. The Iron Door shut out the competition with owner-rider Sarah Coffee Burks making the spotlight ride. In six classes this year, they have won top honors three times. A Gin To Win placed reserve with Kyndra Myers riding for Sherry Roberts, while third place was awarded to Jose’s Power Broker, with co-owner Susan Erwin on board, for co-owner Dan Erwin.

 Form A Line continued an undefeated season making the spotlight ride as the unanimous choice of the judges in the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under World Grand Championship with owner-rider Carole Baxter from Alexandria, Louisiana. The first Thursday night of the Celebration, they won the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallions class. Reserve honors went to A Kingpin and owner-rider Bob Adcock. I Am Fearless placed third for owner-rider Janice Fostek. Leah Boyd called the class that featured six of the nine planned entries. 

Call judge Nathan Clark welcomed 13 of 15 listed entries in the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 World Grand Championship. Dollar’s Silver Collector collected the trophies, the floral horseshoe and the tri-colored ribbon winning the title with Graci Jean Ware in the saddle for Tom Ware of Cynthiana, Kentucky. They have earned five blues in eight classes this show season. It’s The Medalist was ridden to reserve by Eli Cunningham for Melissa Wilson and Brittany Cunningham. Cole Haan walked out with a yellow ribbon with Ally Jo Jacobs on board for the Jake Jacobs Family. 

Roscoe Jenkins and owner-rider Susan Coleman of Unionville, Tennessee, made a familiar spotlight ride in the Owner-Amateur Lite-Shod World Grand Championship. It was their eighth world grand championship together, remaining undefeated in Celebration classes. Roscoe has two other world grand championship victories with Jeff Laughlin, bringing his grand total to an impressive 10. They have four blues this season. including the Owner-Amateur English Lite-Shod class on the first Wednesday of the Celebration in the morning classes. Banks received the reserve award for owner-rider Emily Cortner. Coachman and Blake Cammack won a third place ribbon for Zach Daniel. Seven of eight scheduled entries competed for call judge David Sisk. 

Kenny Smith was the call judge for the Owner-Amateur Show Pleasure World Grand Championship with 15 of 18 listed entries competing. Owner-rider Allyson Armstrong from Hickory, North Carolina, rode Kong to their first  world grand championship spotlight ride as the unanimous selection of the five-judge panel. Kong has four blues in four shows. Armstrong won the Owner-Amateur Ladies Show Pleasure class with Kong the first Friday night. Rat Tail Jimmy, with Will Cole aboard, was reserve for Thomas Holton. He’s Primetime and co-owner Kasie Caldwell Sanderson were the third-place tie for co-owner Coy Sanderson.

Jerry Reed sings “when you’re hot, your hot,” and in the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship, Slim And Hot heated up the ring with owner-rider Robert Deutsch from Greensboro, North Carolina making the spotlight ride. They have five blues in seven classes in 2023. Tuesday night they were the first tie in Section A of the Owner-Amateur Three-Year-Old Stallions class. Miss Annie Rose and co-owner Danny Hicks received the reserve streamer for co-owner Kathy Hicks. My Addiction was ridden to third by Howard Eastridge for Mr. and Mrs. Howard Eastridge. Leah Boyd directed the class with 12 of 13 entries making their way to “The Big Oval.”

Luciano hit the right notes with Caroline Sells making the spotlight ride for John and Tara Sells from Pikeville, Tennessee, in the Owner-Amateur Youth Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. They are unbeaten in five classes this show season. The first Friday morning of the Celebration, they won the Owner-Amateur Youth 12-17 Western Trail Pleasure class. Nathan Clark called the class, which had perfect attendance with all nine expected entries in “The Big Oval”. Reserve honors were awarded to Mr. Bentley and co-owner Lakelyn Mathews riding for the Mathews Family. Labeled A Parolee and owner-rider Eliza DeKlyn walked out with the yellow streamer.

David Sisk called the gaits with seven of nine programmed entries contending for the Four-Year-Old (Canter) World Grand Championship, the final class of the night. Cavender rode in the spotlight with Knox Blackburn in the saddle for Bruce and Robin MacDonald from Shelbyville, Tennessee. Cavender was the Three-Year-Old World Grand Champion last year. With three blues in three classes in 2023, including the Four-Year-Old Stallions, Canter class Sunday night, they have a string of eight blues dating back to last year. Smoking was reserve with Jimmy McConnell on board for new owner Allyson Armstrong. I Am March Madness, with Casey Wright riding, was third for Debbie Woods.