By Mark McGee

 SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The competition was hotter than the humid air in Calsonic Arena for the 77th annual Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Futurity.

Mickey McCormick carried the flag aboard Always In Style to get the night off on a timely start. Leah Boyd of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, sang a stirring version of our “National Anthem”. 

Brian Peery provided the musical background, as Dallas Eubanks announced the 28 classes, which featured over 130 horses. 

Chris Bobo, Derek Bonner, Brent Grider, David Sisk and Dale Watts were the judging panel for the event which showcases the future of the breed Wednesday night at Calsonic Arena.

Five teams competed in the Mare & Foal class, the first of the evening. It was a darling of a blue-ribbon result for Well Hello Darlin’ and Dancin’ With My Darlin’. Lynn Womack handled the entry for Jones and Richards of Manchester, and Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Carla Hurley, owner and exhibitor, and Beverly Carter led Jose’s Wired Lady and Whiskey Chasin’ to an intoxicating red ribbon finish. I Am Femme Fatale and Halston were fashionably third with Kaitlyn Rippy and Kyle Elliott exhibiting for Cindy Long from Perrysville, Ohio.

Four entries were judged in the Amateur Two & Three-Year-Old Country Pleasure class. First place winners Jealousy, sired by Jose’ Jose’ certainly made the other riders feel that way. Haley Lane Clay rode the winner for the Langley and Jones partnership. A Dirty Deal took the red ribbon for owner-rider Dean Crawford from Shelbyville, Tennessee. Third was awarded to Stars A Lined ridden by Tim Brooks for Mona McMillan of Spruce Grove, Alberta. 

In class three, the Riders’ Cup  Darrah Weanlings, four entries answered the gate call. Im Semper Fi was first for owner-handler Leighanne Tibbs of Petersburg, Tennessee. It was the first show of the year for the team. Oh Joanna took reserve with Lynn Womack handling for Jones and Richards of Manchester and Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I Spotted A Star walked away with the yellow streamer with Robert Nelms handling for the Edwards and Miller partnership.

Two entries competed in the Riders’ Cup Yearling Fillies class. Jose’s Oopsy and Robert Nelms unanimously won the class for owners Tommy and Nancy Mills. It was their fourth blue for 2021. The Heart Of Mine and Bobby Richards placed second for Bobby and Cindy Richards. 

The Riders’ Cup Two & Three-Year-Old Model class attracted four entries. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Robert Nelms starred in the class taking first place for Ed Lukacevic of Crittenden, Kentucky. It was the second blue of the day with the pair opening the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in the Model Mares class. The pair has six blues this season. I’m General Jackson, directed by Leighanne Tibbs, commanded reserve for Deborah Sims of McCalla, Alabama. Honor UR Sister took home a yellow ribbon for owner-exhibitor Dickie Gardner of Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Only one entry answered the gate call for class six, the Riders’ Cup Rookie Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class. Rip Wheeler, with Joe Lester in the saddle, went through the gaits for the blue for Kala Burgett.

The Riders’ Cup Weanling Colts class drew 11 entries, the largest class of the show. Tee Martin, the unanimous pick, now has two blues in two shows for 2021 for handler Robert Nelms and owners Nelms, Pittman, Teel and Washburn from College Grove, Shelbyville and Fayetteville, Tennessee. A Master In Disguise won reserve with Lynn Womack exhibiting for owners Jones and Richards. Toreador claimed third for owner David Williams of Wartrace, Tennessee. 

Three entries contended in the Riders’ Cup Two & Three-Year-Old Lite-Shod class. Johnny Was was all that unanimously taking first place with Chris Zahnd riding for owner Tim Townes. Devoted was second with Kyle Elliott in the saddle for Tony and Tina Bowling. Shore Line walked away with a yellow ribbon with Jonathan Baskin aboard for Heiden and Wells of Florence, South Carolina.

The Model Yearling class, the ninth of the evening, drew four entries. I’m Miranda Lambert performed on key for handler Chris Richards. Owned by Jones and Richards, it was the fourth blue of the season for I’m Miranda Lambert. Charlie’s Stylish Miss and handler Russ Keyser walked to second for the Keyser and Ashbrook partnership. I Am Prada and Jaron Dotson took third for the Dotson Brothers from Thompson’s Station, Tennessee. 

The Riders’ Cup Rookie Two-Year-Old Mares & Geldings class welcomed eight entries. Walking In Avalon won her debut for the season with Lake Weaver riding for Jim Flack. Honor’s Yard Bunny claimed reserve with R.M. Kellett in the saddle for Robert and Loretta Jones. Honor’s Joanna was ridden to third by Nathan Rymer for Vickie Penick.

Five entries made the gate for the Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Mares class. Casey Wright made the unanimous championship ride on I Am Lady Wolf for owners Billy and Deborah Woods of Lexington, Tennessee. It was the second blue ribbon in a row for the team in four shows this season. Especially Jose took second with Bill Callaway in the saddle for Charles Gleghorn. Sable 21 and Tyler Baucom carried away a third-place ribbon for Jerry Harris.

In the Riders’ Cup Fall Weanlings class, She’s Pitch Perfect lived up to her name with all five judges tying her first for owner-handler Joey Manos of Shelbyville, Tennessee. It was their first blue of the season. Time Out Charlie and handler Robert Nelms were awarded reserve for owner Sid Baker. The Royal Ascot,, exhibited by Bobby Richards was third for Dee Dee Miller of Lewisburg, Tennessee. There were four entries in the class.

Class 13 for Amateur Two & Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure horses attracted six entries. Jose’s Twist Of Gin remained undefeated in seven shows this season with a unanimous victory. It was the second blue for Patti Pollock. B.J. Richards was aboard for the other five wins. A Knight In Camelot was ridden to second by Linda Sisk for Darrin and Linda Sisk of Walterboro, South Carolina. Hold On To Your Hat claimed third with Tim Brooks riding for Dugan, McDowell and McGovern of Nashville, Tennessee.

A talented pair of contenders competed in the Riders’ Cup Rookie Three-Year-Old Country Pleasure class. Gentleman Black was unanimously first with Joe Lester riding for owner Teel and Washburn. Gentleman Black won the Yearling Colt title at the 2019 Futurity. This was his first show of 2021. Felony Melanie was second with Jessica Hlebak riding for Harold Roberts.

Amanda Wright wasn’t dreaming as she guided My Hopes And Dreams to first in a field of 10 entries in the Riders’ Cup Weanling Fillies class for the Dr. George Wright Family. The filly, by Master Of Jazz, is undefeated in three outings this season. She’s Pitch Perfect and owner-rider Joey Manos picked up their second ribbon of the night taking second. Dancin’ With My Darlin’ and Lynn Womack were third for owners Richards and Jones.

The Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Stallions & Geldings were a crowd favorite with seven entries vying for top honors. Jimmy McConnell rode Jackie Chan to the blue for Just Horse’n Around Farms. The pair have two blues and a reserve in three shows this season. Stoney Brook and Cody Wofford were reserve for owner Kelly Arrington of Birmingham, Alabama. YS Garfunkel and Sam McLaughlin rode away with a yellow ribbon.

Leighanne Tibbs and Lemon Drop Kid took first place in a National Futurity class for the second year in a row. In 2020 Lemon Drop Kid was the Riders’ Cup Darrah Weanling winner. They added the Riders’ Cup Darrah Yearlings title this year besting a field of five entries for owner Deborah Sims of McCalla, Alabama. Topless and Marty Warren claimed second for owner Denise Smith of Brentwood, Tennessee. Lady Casanova was third for owner-handler Alicia Avent.

Zorro Escarlata said touché’ to the other six entries in the Riders’ Cup Two and Three-Year-Old Trail Pleasure class with a first-place ride for Jessica Hlebak and owner Ann Jameson of Union, West Virginia. It was the first blue of the season for the team. Artistical painted a second place finish with Laura Toone in the saddle for Sydney Klein. Dancin’ Jigna Joe claimed third with David Mast aboard for owner George Crawford. 

My Maserati Alfieri had a smooth road to a blue ribbon as the only entry in the Riders’ Cup Two & Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure class. Chris Zahnd directed for owner Karen Bean of Tomball, Texas. It was the fourth blue in seven shows this season for My Maserati Alfieri. For Bean it was her second blue of the night as an owner. 

She’s Walkin’ On Fire won her third blue in as many outings this year with a top performance in the Riders’ Cup Yearling Fillies class with Claire Hankins directing for Bruce Vaughn of Valley City, Ohio. Eight entries competed for the blue. My Miranda Lambert was guided to second by Roger Richards, Jr., for Jones and Richards. She’s Cartier sparkled in third with Robert Nelms at the lead for Jack Heffington of Wartrace, Tennessee.

Class 21 featured four entries for the Riders’ Cup Two & Three-Year-Old Park Performance class. Slim And Shady was ridden to the unanimous blue by John Allan Callaway for owner Eddie Guthrie. Game Set Match scored a second for Edgar Abernathy riding for Billy Tippett. Lethal Addiction and Ryan Gannon were third for Rushing Creek Walkers.

Just Say Jose’ and Robert Nelms had no other competitors in the Riders’ Cup Yearling Colts Championship. It was the second blue in a row and the third in the last four shows for owner LaRue McWaters.

Rico Bravo and Shady In General made a successful 2021 debut with a win in the Riders’ Cup Two-Year-Old Rookie Stallions Championship for owner Gus Richards. Honored  Hallelujah and Tyler Baucom took home a red ribbon for Ronnie Logsdon. Brother In Arms, with R.M. Kellett in the saddle, was third for Monty Veazey. Six entries made the gate call.

Eight entries competed in the Amateur Two & Three-Year-Old All Day Pleasure Championship. Outgrageous and Maggie Moore made a successful 2021 debut for Leek and Moore with the unanimous win. Honor’s Valentine and Jackie Dean were second for Mariella Fugger. Bayonetta and Claire Winstead received a yellow streamer or Claire and Caitlin Winstead.

Casey Wright rode Honor’s Uptown Girl to first unanimously in the Riders’ Cup Three-Year-Old Mares Championship for owner Duke Ingram. Rounding out the top three in the five-entry class were I’m An American Dream and Robert Stivers in second for owner Lance Ridley, while Lady Elle, with Tyler Baucom aboard for owner Kelly Manis was third.

Cash Kid paid off for owner Denise Smith of Brentwood, Tennessee, in the Riders’ Cup Yearling Colts Championship. It was a lucky seven-for-seven as Marty Warren and Cash Kid stayed undefeated for 2021. St. Laurent and Robert Nelms took home a red ribbon or owner Jack Heffington. Mahomes was guided to third by Chris Richards for owners Jones and Richards in the five-entry class. 

Four entries were featured in the Riders’ Cup Two & Three-Year-Old Show Pleasure Championship. Praise And Honor was the unanimous pick for first with Jeff Laughlin aboard for Doris Penick of Walterboro, South Carolina. It was the second blue in four shows in 2021. Evan Williams Black Label won second place honors with Robby Bradley in the saddle for Jacob West. One Mississippi rode away with a third-place ribbon with Chris Zahnd riding for James Vernon. 

Four strong entries kept the crowd awake in the Riders’ Cup Three-Year-Old Stallions & Geldings Championship, the final class of the night. Dan Waddell guided Honor And Remember to a unanimous first place for owner Kim Lewis. It was the third blue in a row,, and fourth in the last five shows for Honor And Remember. Mr. True Blue won a red ribbon with R.M. Kellett riding for The Jacobs Family. Jurist and Rico Bravo received a third-place verdict for owner Jack Heffington.