1996 WGC He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz Officially Retired In Memorable Fashion


By Mark Davis


Ah, it’s Friday night, a cool breeze was blowing making the temperature just right for a horse show.  Where else would one possible want to be than in Shelbyville for the Championship Friday at the 68th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  It promised to be a very exciting evening with 12 outstanding classes, nine of which would be crowning divisional World Grand Champions. 

WGC Four-Year-Old Star and Jackie McConnell

The evening also featured the retirement ceremony of 1996 World Grand Champion and crowd favorite He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz.  For those who don’t remember, rather than being retired at the 1997 Celebration, owners William B.  & Sandra Johnson made the decision to bring him back to the show ring where he was crowned World Champion Aged Stallion on the first Saturday night and did not compete on the final night.  Since then, he has bred extensively and successfully and shown sparingly, but always returning to the show ring with high style and to a standing ovation of the crowd wherever he was shown.  Tonight’s performance and retirement will mark his final time in the show ring and you can bet it will be exciting.

This evening was also selected to be Ladies Night to honor the 40th anniversary of Betty Sain’s 1966 win on Shaker’s Shocker, the 30th anniversary of Judy Martin’s 1976 win on Shades Of Carbon and the 15th anniversary of Vicki Self’s 1991 win on Flashy Pride.  Prizes were to given to the ladies at the show throughout the evening as well as a special presentation honoring those mentioned above.

WGC Youth 12-17 Watch N Bedazzled and Mary Morrison

This evening’s performance got underway promptly at 7 pm with Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton presenting the colors.  Unfortunately, Dollar cast a shoe in front of the west grandstand before he made an entire pass with the colors, so he pulled in and awaited the conclusion of the opening ceremonies.  The invocation for the evening was given Monnie Caine, pastor of the Normandy Presbyterian Church, Normandy, Tenn., followed by the singing of the national anthem by Rochelle Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            Getting the Friday night performance under way was class 140A, Owner-Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness with eight entries making the call to work as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits in the division.  When the work was complete, the crowd certainly didn’t have a problem understanding who the champion would be as Major Miss Understood and Lynn Womack were outstanding in their harness presentation to take top honors for Partners By Choice of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  He Keeps On Giving and Beth Lawell were reserve for Beth Lawell of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Power Block and Dorothy Davenport collected the yellow streamers for Hoskins & Davenport of Liberty, Ky., and Clarksville, Tenn. 

WGC Amateur Specialty Sky Command and Julie Grider

            Class 140B, Owner Amateur Lady Drivers, Fine Harness featured seven entries working for World Championship acclaim as Judge Huck Moss served as Call Judge in the event.  Back in the winner’s circle again was Lynn Womack, this time with I’m Medusa, 2006 champions at Shelbyville, Tenn.’s National Trainers’ Show and Murfreesboro, Tenn.’s Exchange Club Horse Show, at the cart for Womack Stables of Murfreesboro, Tenn.  High Tide At The Ritz and Rebekah Smith picked up the red streamers Rebekah Smith of Oliver Springs and Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Insomnia and Suzy Johnson were third for Cartwright and Johnson of Shelbyville, Tenn. 

            It was time to hand out some roses as Class 141, Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses World Grand Championship headed down the hill to show their very best talents for Judge Ronnie Spears and staff.  Making the ride with the roses in the division, after picking up a strong reserve in the Amateur Park Pleasure Riders 50 and Over preliminary, were Santana’s Coin and John McNeely riding for John McNeely and Lindsey Landrum of Blowing Rock, N.C. and Franklin, Tenn.  Santana’s Coin picked up 2006 World Championships in the Park Pleasure 11 and Under division with Lindsey Landrum and the Park Pleasure driving with Wallace Brandon at the whip.  He also carried Miss Landrum to the Youth Equitation win on Sunday afternoon.  Tijuana Tex and Darden Gladney were gracious, as always, in their acceptance of the reserve honors for Gladney Farms of Homer, La.  A Neon Knight and Joe Dixon picked up the golden silks for Randall and Gloria Dixon/Red Eagle Farms of Dacula, Ga.

Fine Harnes World Champions Major Miss Understood, Lynn Womack and I’m Medusa

            Class 142 brought the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Horses World Grand Championship to the big oval with six of the 12 with reservations working to the rail as Judge Jamie Bradshaw took the lead.  Returning to ride away with the tri-colors after topping the Owner Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions preliminary earlier in the week, was The Sky Command and Julie Grider riding for The Tommy Grider Family of Columbia, Ky.  The duo topped the event with a unanimous decision of the panel.  Jazz King and Ed Breedlove were second in the event for Keith Breedlove of Buford, Ga.  Bold Vengeance and Heather Walling were third for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn.

            Fourteen entries made the gate call to work in class 143, Walking Horse Trainers’ Auxiliary Members on Walking Horses.  Judge Wink Groover served as call judge for the event.  Stealing the blue in the event with a very impressive performance were The Prime Suspect and very proud owner/exhibitor Candra Shular of Kodak, Tenn.  This win was preceded by victories at Columbia, Tenn.’s Walking In The Park, Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Spring Fun Show and Hohenwald, Tenn.’s J.M. Adcox Memorial Horse Show.  Reserve 15.2 and Under WGC The Phantom Menace and Stacy Blackburn garnered the red silks for Deerwood Manor of Brentwood, Tenn.    Pusher’s Royal Flush and Callie Stuckey picked up the yellow streamers for The Edd Stuckey Family of Augusta, Ga.

WGC Amateur Western Trail Pleasure Push N For Pleasure and Patti Pollack

            Back to the Championships, class 144 featured the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, World Grand Championship with six entries making it down the chute prior to the expiration of the time clock to work for the very large Friday night crowd as Judge Tommy Loid called the gaits in the class.  Picking up the divisional World Grand Championship for the second consecutive year and sipping from the cup of success was Double Java and Scott Benham riding for Mike and Kathy Chiappari of Santa Rosa, Calif.  With this win, the team retired the Albert M. Dement Memorial Challenge Trophy.  Count It All Joy and Jennie Jackson were second in the class for Jennie & Nathanael Jackson of Livingston, Tenn.  Oh Holy Moley and Sherrie Szucs were third for Roger, Jaclyn and Lauren Heuring of South Lake, Texas.

            Keeping it in the pleasure division, class 145, brought the Owner-Amateur Western Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship to center stage with 23 of the 25 expected hitting the happy trail for Judge Huck Moss and his cohorts.   Pushin’ their way to pick up the roses was the duo of Push N For Pleasure and Patti Pollack, proudly riding for Pollack’s Silver Spur Ranch of Saratoga, Calif. & Shelbyville, Tenn.  This team had captured World Championship honors in the Owner Amateur Western and Owner Amateur English preliminaries and the reserve World Grand Championship in the English Trail Pleasure division last evening.  Headed back to the Bluegrass state, Bluegrass Bandit and Jared Carrier were second riding for The Carrier Family of Franklin, Ky.  Gen’s Lady In Black and owner/exhibitor Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas and Shelbyville, Tenn. collected the yellow streamers.

World Champion WHTA Members The Prime Suspect and Candra Shular

            The performance horses were back for class 146, Owner-Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Twenty-one of the 28 entries expected were ready to work for their very first set of roses as Judge Ronnie Spears led the panel.  Taking home their first set of roses was My First Dollar and George Ann Pratt, World Champions in the Novice Lady Rides on Walking Mares preliminary earlier in the week for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  JFK’s Bravado and Jimmy Lackey were reserve in the event for Jimmy and Carol Lackey of Forest, Miss.  Headed back to the land of the Buckeye were I’m Mr. Threat and Bruce Vaughn showing for Linda Vaughn of Valley City, Ohio.

            During a break in the action, announcer Chip Walters announced a new award that would be presented each year in memory of many time WGC rider Susan Gordon, who passed away this past winter after a trail riding accident.  The Susan Gordon Horsemanship Award will be awarded each year to a person holds horsemanship and presentation of the horse to the same high standard as did Mrs. Gordon.  This year’s winner was Suzanne Littell of Catherine, Ala.

            Class 147 found the Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 12-17 Years on Walking Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship.  Seventeen of the 26 on the sheets headed to the track to work for their chance at riding away with a set of roses.  Judge Jamie Bradshaw served as Call Judge for the division.  Dazzling the judges and the crowd and taking the divisional win back to the Magnolia state was Watch And Bedazzled and Mary Morrison up for Andrew Morrison of Hattiesburg, Miss. This duo topped the Novice 12-17 division on last Saturday evening to qualify for tonight’s World Grand Championship ride.  The American General and Masie McSwain, Youth 12-14 World Champions on Sunday night, were reserve for The Dan McSwain Family of Alpharetta, Ga.  Prism Sky and Mary Beth Blessing were third for What A Blessing Farm of Bristol, Tenn.

            Ah, it was finally that moment that people had been talking about all week, the official retirement ceremony for 1996 WGC Tennessee Walking Horse and one of the most exciting show horses of the past 20 years, He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz.  An outstanding video presentation highlighted Ritz’s show ring career, finishing off with Ritz asking Celebration organist Larry Bright to play his trademark song, Flatwalk Boogie, for him just one more time.  With that, the gate swung open and He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz and Billy Gray burst through the gate bringing the crowd to their feet.  The duo pulled into center ring to accept his tri colors and then hit the track to make one last pass as the crowd roared like they haven’t roared since Ritz last showed in the big oval almost a decade ago.  Then, he was carried to the south end for the blanket presentation marking the official retirement from the show ring.  Yes, a champion of all champions in the show ring and the breeding barn, he’ll now spend the rest of his days, which we sincerely hope are many, in retirement at the comfortable confines of Shelbyville, Tenn.’s Waterfall Farms, where he continues to stand at stud.  Blanket intact, Billy and Ritz made one final walk in the spotlight, as the crowd gave a standing ovation along the way showing their appreciation for the great talent and sire that can only be called He’s Puttin’ On The Ritz. 

WGC Two-Year-Old Amateur Roll The Gold and Spud Warr

            Hitting the trail once again, class 148 brought the Western Park Pleasure Walking Horse World Grand Championship to the track.  Seven entries made the call to work under the watchful eyes of Judge Wink Groover and the panel.  Topping the division for the second consecutive year was the striking sorrel Armed & Trigger Happy and Patrick Thomas showing for Debbie and Jim Nichols of New Market, Tenn.  With this win, they retired The Garnetta Hensley Memorial Challenge Trophy, The Lorraine Martinez Memorial Challenge Trophy and The Strike It Rich Challenge Trophy.  Impressive indeed!  Dragonfire and Jamey Thompson were close behind in the second position for Riverside Summit Ranch of Riverside, Calif.  Generator’s Power Pusher and Miles Irby were third for Dick and Sally Reily and Miles Irby of Lewisburg & Murfreesboro, Tenn.

            Seventeen entries were on deck for class 149, Owner-Amateur Riders on Two-Year-Old Walking Horses World Grand Championship.  Judge Tommy Loid led the panel in determining who would carry home the next to last set of roses for the evening.

           Capturing that set of roses and carrying them back down south to Alabama was Roll The Gold, World Champions in the Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallion preliminary, and Spud Warr riding for The Spud Warr Family of Phenix City, Ala.  All Cash On Demand and Brenda Bramlett were reserve for Bramlett, Wilson and Hooper of Shelbyville, Tenn.  High Society Woman and Jennifer Brooks picked up the yellow streamers for Allen and Becky May of Appling, Ga.

            Well, the class that everyone had waited for all evening was finally here, class 150, the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse World Grand Championship (Canter).  Four of the seven with reservations made their way down the hill to work for Judge Huck Moss and staff.  Ah, the class may have been small in number, but not in talent featuring preliminary World Champion It’s Only A Game and Chad Baucom, Reserve World Champion Star and Jackie McConnell, former World Champion Sweepaway and Terry Sims and Jose Grande and Bill Bobo, a favorite of the crowd during Sunday night’s preliminary.  When the work was complete, one STAR truly showed bright and that was the duo of STAR and Jackie McConnell riding proudly for Mrs. Opal Moody of Batesville, Ark.  This duo captured the title with an impressive performance and a unanimous decision of the judging panel.  Reserve honors went to Jose’ Grande’ and Bill Bobo riding for Judy McDonald of Tullahoma, Tenn.  It’s Only A Game and Chad Baucom were third for Charles Clark of Charlotte, N.C.


            The excitement of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration’s Championship competition truly can not be beat and a crowd of almost 23,000 (22,903 to be exact) were in the house tonight to see some of the very best walk away as World Grand Champions and one of our greatest World Grand Champions walk away from the show ring forever.  Only one more night remains, but that means that the ultimate honor of them all, the crowning of the Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion awaits us.  The great night of competition has once again been marked Patriotic Night and you will want to make sure you are in your seats promptly at 7 pm because Ms Lori O’Brien of Atlanta, Ga., doesn’t just sing the National Anthem, but puts on a presentation that you will not want to miss.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost over, but you better believe there’s still plenty of excitement to be seen that you will not want to miss! Come join us and take part in what can only be described as The Celebration.