by Mark McGee | photos by Shane Shiflet

It was a family affair Thursday night in the “Big Oval” at the 85th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Highlighting the evening, which featured 14 classes, was Thomas Derickson claiming victory in both sections of the Two-Year-Old Mares for his sister Maria Bobo. 

As is tradition, the white horse with the Stars and Stripes (White Diamond Dollar and Ronnie Spears) kicked off the performance. Andy Keffer of First Church of the Nazarene gave the invocation, while Mark Hulsey of Nashville, Tennessee, sang the “Star Spangled Banner”. Organist J. Bradley kept the show moving with a variety of music.

The first class to the ring saw Papacito and owner-rider Karen Bean from Tomball, Texas, make a top performance that earned the unanimous approval of the five-judge panel in the Owner-Amateur Western Park Pleasure class. Papacito has five blues in six classes this year. Owner and rider Anne Evans from Johnson City, Tennessee, and Boston Bay earned the red ribbon for co-owners Alex Johnson and Jocelyn Laughlin. The yellow streamer went to Armed But Kid’N and owner-rider Sydney Bradley. Four of the five program entries answered the gate call from ring announcer Mark Farrar with Nathan Clark calling the class.

In a debut performance, Ladies Privilege THF was ridden to the blue by Thomas Derickson for Maria Bobo of Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the Two-Year-Old Mares, Div. A class. David Sisk called the class that featured 12 of the 22 scheduled entries. Char Blackwood tied second with Hayden Burks in the saddle for Jimbo  Connor. Haute Couture was a fashionable third with Tanner Burks in the stirrups for Noel and Linda Botsch.  

Up next was the English Lite-Shod class which featured three of the seven programmed entries. Coachman rode to the winner’s circle as the unanimous selection of the judges. Patrick Thomas was in the saddle for Zach Daniel. This was the second blue in three classes this season for Coachman. The red streamer was claimed by It’s Gametime and Amber Zahnd, riding for Lori Fields. Bill Bobo and I Like Pina Coladas tied third for Frank Harbin.

Once was not enough for rider Thomas Derickson and owner Maria Bobo. They repeated their Div A performance in the Two-Year-Old Mares, Div. B class with She’s Lined With Love 4G. This winning trio has earned five blues in six classes this year. Reserve was I Am The Major with Michael Wright riding for Bill Williams. She’s A Honky Tonk Girl and Jimmy McConnell walked out with a yellow ribbon for Zamora and McGee. Twelve of 25 expected entries competed with Derek Bonner calling the class. 

Maroon 5 and Dr. Jim Baum tied first in the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentlemen on Stallions class for owner Lucas Baum of Shelbyville, Tennessee. The popular duo has team up for three blues in five classes this season. The Night King was reserve  with owner-rider Jeff V. Smith, while Cash Agenda and Jimbo Connor earned the yellow streamer. Six of 15 programmed entries were in the ring with Leah Boyd calling the class. 

Last year Dixie Rita and Aaleah Ann Bell of Belvidere, Tennessee, were second in the class. This year they turned it up and walking to a blue ribbon performance in the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 Mares class. They have two blues in three classes in 2023. Nathan Clark called the class that hosted eight of the nine expected entries. Receiving the red streamer was Gin’s Lucky Penny and Jackson Laughlin for the Laughlin, Ramsey and Chapman partnership. Grayton Beach and Ally Jo Jacobs walked out with a third-place tie.

Dark Rain, a classic horse, tied first for the second year in a row in the Owner-Amateur Pony Stallions class with Taylor Walters in the saddle for The Molly Walters Family of Rancho Mirage, California. They have four blues in five classes this year. The red ribbon was presented to As I Am and Dr. Ann Rea , while the third place award went to Dreamcatcher’s Santana and Tanya Strickland. Kenny Smith called the class with seven of the 12 programmed entries in the ring. 

Country As Cornbread cooked up a unanimous victory in the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions, Div. A class with Janice Fostek of Roanoke, Virginia, in the irons. They are unbeaten in three shows this season. Ohtani and Kenny Compton tied reserve for owner Rick Compton, while Limbaugh and Jannie Chapman picked up the yellow ribbon. Kenny Smith was the call judge for the class that hosted 12 of the 22 planned entries.

Derek Bonner called the 11 horse and rider teams to the ring next in the Owner-Amateur Youth Park Performance class. Hello Handsome was looking good with a unanimous top ride to earn the title. Raigan Gardner was in the saddle for Rushing  Creek Walkers from Dickson, Tennessee. The red streamer was presented to Draw A Line with Jocelyn Laughlin on board for co-owner Jannie Chapman. Major Justice was third with Cole McCormick in the irons for Tim Brown and Mike McCormick. 

Aerosmith CL jammed to a first-place ride in the B division of the Owner-Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions class. Courtney Luttrell from Alvaton, Kentucky, was in the saddle for co-owner Jimbo Conner of Sevierville, Tennessee. Aerosmith CL has four blues in five classes this show season. Twelve of 21 programmed entries went through the paces for call judge Leah Boyd. The red streamer went to Grateful Red and Greg Kiser, while No Doubt I Am and Bob Adcock tied third. 

Form A Line was first in line with a blue ribbon ride in the Owner-Amateur 15.2 & Under Stallions class. Owner-rider Carole Baxter, from Alexandria, Louisiana, and Form A Line are a perfect three-for-three in blues this summer. I Am Fearless and Janice Fostek tied second. Cousin Bob and Jimbo Conner rode out with the yellow streamer. Fourteen of the 20 expected entries made the gate call. Nathan Clark was the call judge.

Next to make their way into “The Big Oval” were the Owner-Amateur Youth 6-11 Show Pleasure contenders, with all six programmed entries vying for top honors. The Night Crawler was the unanimous pick of the judges with co-owner Jackson Laughlin of Shelbyville, Tennessee, aboard for co-owner Jason Joseph of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky The Night Crawler has two blues in five classes this summer. Tying in the second place position was Well Armed  American and Reese Abernathy. Third place honors were captured by I’m Coach Cal and Ally Jo Jacobs. 

It was the team of Julia Callaway and Nevermore earning the Owner-Amateur Youth 15-17 Mares & Geldings title for co-owner Dr. Barbara Moersch of Jacksonville, Alabama. They popular team has four wins in six classes this year. Dominick, a class horse, walked out with a red ribbon with Harper Grider. Picking up the yellow streamer was the duo of A Superbowl MVP and BiBi Beasley. Kenny Smith called the gaits with 13 of 19 listed entries competing. 

Closing out the Thursday evening competition was the Three-Year-Old Stallions class. Only three of the 29 programmed entries took to the ring once the gates were closed. It was the team of Tua MCF and Knox Blackburn scoring the unanimous blue ribbon for Keith and Lorraine Roxbury of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. It was their third win in four shows this year. Jose Made In The Shade was reserve with Justin Harris aboard for Charlotte Crestman, while Dick Peebles guided The Yellowstone to third for Kay Easterling.