by Mark Davis

The time had finally come. It was time for the Championship competition of the 66th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration to get underway. While the rains fell all day, Celebration officials had the track in excellent condition and the weatherman seems to believe that things should be dry this evening.

A sadness fell over Shelbyville today as word traveled that Troy Yokley, a longtime trainer of colts and young horses, was killed in a one car accident after Wednesday evening’s show near the intersection of Hwy 64 W (Lewisburg Hwy.) and Hwy. 130 west of Shelbyville. Funeral services are planned for Friday afternoon in Pulaski, Tenn. This is the second time in recent months that tragedy has struck the Yokley family. It was Yokley’s Shelbyville, Tenn. barn that burned in late July killing the 18 horses stabled there. As the time approached 7 pm, flaghorse Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton appeared in the chute, awaiting the gate to swing open to get the show underway. The invocation was given by Rev. Mark Ashley of the Cannon Street United Methodist Church, Shelbyville, Tenn. Johnny Stewart of Shelbyville, Tenn. did a fabulous rendition of the National Anthem on the saxophone.

And with that, it was time to get championship competition under way with class 122, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders on Walking Ponies, 60” and Under, World Grand Championship. Eighteen of the 24 entered made the call to work for the spotlight ride. Tommy Loid served as call judge in the event. Making the outstanding ride to captured the roses in the division, after capturing the win in the Riders 14 and Under on Friday, was the team of Silver Design and Barclay Woodward riding for Ronnie and Jennifer Woodward of Hartselle, Ala. This win marked Silver Design’s third consecutive win in the division, winning in 2002 and 2003 with Thad Way. An spectacular feat for any horse, but certainly for a classic horse (15 years of age or older) who was placed back in training in 2002 after almost 10 years out of the showring. A spectacular feat indeed. Reserve honors went to Key West and Andy Adkins, reserve in Friday evening’s preliminary as well, making the strong performance for grandfather, John Sharp of Ethridge, Tenn. Skywalk and Seth Stanfill, who topped the 15-17 preliminary on Sunday evening, rode to the yellow streamer for Billy Stanfill of Lexington, Tenn.

Class 123, 15.2 and Under Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter) was up next on the evening’s schedule with eight of the ten scheduled making the call to work as Huck Moss called the gaits in the division. After making a steller performance in the division and topping the preliminary event on Monday night, we had another repeat World Grand Championship winner as 2003 15.2 and Under World Grand Champion Private Charter and Knox Blackburn made the ride down victory lane once again for R. Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala. With this win, the team retired the Dan Arnold Memorial Challenge Trophy, the Murdis Abee Memorial Challenge Trophy and the Ray Tennpenny Memorial Challenge Trophy. Gen’s Johnny Walker Red and Sammy Day, the 2003 reserve 15.2 And Under WGC and 2004 reserve World Champion 15.2 and Under Stallion, rode to reserve honors once again for the Gary and John Legate families of Brentwood and Shelbyville, Tenn. A past WGC in the division, London Rain and Chad Baucom rode to the third award for Charles Clark of Charlotte, NC.

The pleasure horses took center stage next as the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, World Grand Championship hit the track with all 12 of the entries with reservations making the call to work for Wayne Abee and his colleagues. Would you believe another repeat winner in this division? Believe it ! Double Java and Scott Benham made the picture perfect presentation to take home top honors for the second consecutive year for the ownership of Mike and Kathy Chiappari of Santa Rosa, Calif. and Bell Buckle, Tenn. Many time WGC Pusher’s Beaming Pride and Howard Hamilton made the reserve performance for Jim and Debbie Nichols of New Market, Tenn. Calvin Klein’s Obsession and Jeff Givens accepted third for Ralph and Elaine Pinner of Senatobia, Miss.

Class 125, the Elite Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship, the division for riders 50 years of age and over, took to the ring with 15 of the 17 programmed entries making the call for that chance at the memorable spotlight ride. Bob Cherry served as call judge in the division. Well, Homer hit it out of the park again! Robin MacDonald and John F K’s Pusher, better known as “Homer,” brought the crowd to their feet with a memorable performance to capture the roses in the division, after topping the Elite Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Stallions event on Monday night for Bruce and Robin MacDonald of Lake City, Ga. Jazz King and Ed Breedlove, World Champion Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Stallions, rode to reserve honors for Keith Breedlove of Buford, Ga. Pushin’ That Jazz and owner/exhibitor Laura Brandon of Franklin, Tenn. accepted third in the division.

Keeping with the tradition of the past few years, The Celebration took a break in the action for A Celebration Moment, a time to recognize those people to the walking horse world who passed away since last year’s show. Rev. Mark Ashley of Shelbyville, Tenn., who serves as one of the announcers for The Great Celebration Mule Show, read the names as the Celebration arena was in quiet reverence.

When the lights were back on, 22 young riders made their way down the chute to make that memorable ride for the roses in class 126, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 11 Years and Under, on Walking Mares or Geldings, World Grand Championship. Joe Fleming served as call judge in the division. The competition was tough in the largest division of the night, thus far, however, only one team could make that sentimental journey down victory lane. Tonight, that team was many time WGC Sunrise Que Sera Sera and Christina Butler, World Champions in the Youth 11 and Under Mare division on Thursday night riding for very proud grandparents, Glenn and Virgie Crutchfield of Memphis, Tenn. Reserve in the division went to the Youth 11 and Under Gelding, Div C World Champion The American General and Masie McSwain riding for the Dan McSwain family of Atlanta, Ga. World Champion Youth 11 and Under Gelding, Div B Sanman and Benjamin Bowen accepted the third award for Larry and Pam Russell of Pontotoc, Miss.

The pleasure division was under the spotlight again in class 127, Amateur English Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship. Twenty four of the 27 entered made the call to ride for the ultimate acclaim in the division. Tommy Loid called the gaits in the class. When the work was complete, it was the team of The Lady Of The Ritz and owner/exhibitor Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas making the championship ride to the pinnacle of the Trail Pleasure division with a unanimous decision of the panel. Two time 2004 World Champion Papa’s Showgirl and Karla Massey proudly rode to reserve honors in the division for James Nichols of Oxford, Miss. Doc’s Taking Charge and owner/exhibitor Rhonda Martocci of Franklin, Tenn. rode to the third award.

The Show Pleasure division was up next for class 128, Show Pleasure Walking Horses, Amateur Riders, World Grand Championship. Twenty-two of the 25 with reservations made the call to work for the roses in the division. Making the World Grand Championship ride for an almost unbelievable FOURTH consecutive year was the unbeatable team of Coinmaker and Suzanne Littell riding for R. Bud Moore and Suzanne Littell of Catherine, Ala. To top that, Coinmaker has actually won top honors in the division for the past SIX years with the 1999 and 2000 wins coming with Laney Walthall in the irons for the Paul Bryan family. Coinmaker, a true Celebration legend in the making! The outstanding team of Insomnia and Keith Johnson, World Champion Show Pleasure Gentlemen Riders, rode to the red streamer for Cartwright and Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn. The talented gray, Ironworks Tin Man and Grant Jones accepted third for Ray Jones Trucking of Greenville, Ky.

The cowboys and cowgirls took the ring for class 129, Western Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, World Grand Championship (Canter). Seven of the eight programmed entries made the call to work as Wayne Abee and his cohorts watched over the event. When the spotlight was searching for a champion, it stopped on the team of Calvin Klein’s Mystery and Josh Coble riding for Sims and Jackie McKnight of Mason, Tenn. Last years divisional WGC, Genius’s Dixie Chick and Trish Wooten rode to reserve in the division for Stonegait Farms of Orange, Calif. Another Golden state entry, A Classic Shot and Laurie Toone took third for Jim and Terri Naugle of Novato, Calif.

Back in the performance division, class 130 brought 12 of the 14 entries to the ring to work in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship. Bob Cherry served as call judge in the competitive division. It was another memorable Celebration moment for Candy Whitehead Green as she and Gossip, winners in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions, 15.2 and Under preliminary on Thursday evening, made another extraordinary performance to ride with the roses for mother, Bea Whitehead of Mt. Orab, Ohio. Again, just as last Thursday, you can guess who was waiting when Candy pulled into the winner’s circle, her proud dad long time trainer, Paul “Whitey” Whitehead and daughter, WhitLei. This time they even let husband, Charlie come along as well. And as Candy and Gossip made their victory pass, Whitey was with them every step cheering them along the way. Another true Celebration memory. Reserve went to the multi-titled team of Gen’s Color Me In and Kim Sisk for the GR Trumble family of Walton, Ky. 2003 Novice WGC The Phantom Menace and Thom Meek accepted third for Deerwood Manor of Brentwood, Tenn.

Class 131, brought eight entries to the ring to work for the ultimate honors in the Park Pleasure Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter). Joe Fleming served as call judge for the event. Riding to the winners circle for the second consecutive year was the team of Lit Up’s Double Time and Howard Hamilton riding for Randall and Gloria Dixon’s Red Eagle Farm of Dacula, Ga. With the win, the team retired the Odie Adcock/Raven’s Touch Of Class Challenge Trophy. Chill and Doug Barnes had a great show to ride to the reserve honors for Danielle Reid of Shelbyville, Tenn. Pride’s Commander Jake and classic competitor Wallace Brandon accepted third for Rhonda Martocci of Franklin, Tenn.

The final class of the evening was the class everyone had been waiting for, Class 132, the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Seventeen of the 21 with reservations made the call to work for the chance to make that trip to the winner’s circle. When the work was complete, it was the team of The Stanley Cup and Joe Cotten making the spotlight ride for Dr. and Mrs. R Rigual of Oklahoma City, Okla. and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Reserve in the very competitive division went to the favorite of the crowd, Jose’s Intimidator and Jamie Bradshaw for Mr. and Mrs Randall Ferguson of Union Grove, Ala. Reigning Two Year Old WGC The Image Of Ritz and Larry Edwards captured the yellow streamer for the Dan McSwain family of Atlanta, Ga.

Once, Joe Cotten and The Stanley Cup made that final victory pass, the evening was complete and an outstanding evening it was with the second largest crowd ever to witness a Thursday evening show at The Celebration, 18,931. The excitement continues on Friday night as the World Grand Championship competition continues and 2003 World Grand Champion The Whole Nine Yard exhibits for the Celebration crowd.

Friday night has also been tabbed “Patriotic Night” at The Celebration. The regular opening ceremonies featuring flag horse, Counterfeit Dollar, will be enhanced with a multimedia presentation. It will definitely be an exciting evening that you will not want to miss.