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Walking Horse Enthusiast Races To Reality TV Finish Line

The walking horse industry’s very own Eric Childress is competing in the first equine -based reality television show, “American Dream Derby.”

Childress was referred to a news brief that ran in the Walking Horse Report last October and decided to give it a shot. Childress, who is a member of the Southwest Missouri State University Rodeo Team, was picked out of 5,000 applicants to participate in the show. The 24-year-old Springfield, Mo. resident also works at Don Bill’s Stables in Fair Grove, Mo.

The show is actually centered around the world of professional race horses, however, show recruiters encouraged horse lovers from various equine backgrounds to apply to the show. In each of the eight episodes, contestants have been facing equestrian challenges such as "stable chores, track trials and the fine art of handicapping," according to the show's web site.

The “American Dream Derby” airs Monday evenings at 8 p.m. on the Game Show Network. The season finale will be aired live on Feb. 21, 2005 at the historical Santa Anita race track -- several events such as the filming for Sea Biscuit took place at Santa Anita -- in Southern California.

The series culminates with eight of the contestants actually competing in a race; the winner will receive $250,000 in addition to a stable filled with up to eight horses.

While competing on the show, which began on Jan. 10, 2005, 12 contestants have had the opportunity to experience a behind-the-scenes look into the training and racing of Thoroughbreds. The racing industry’s top trainers have guided contestants through the series, preparing them for the season finale.

Childress, who has been involved in walking horses for many years, had no prior experience with race horses.

He said his strategy on the show is to “listen to the people who know what they are doing, especially when they don’t think you are listening.”

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