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Fine Harness

The aristocrats of the Saddlebred world, the harness horses had some thrilling showdowns in the amateur and open divisions with veteran campaigners holding down the top spots in the amateur ranks and a mixture of top of the line performers working for the open titles. Young horse classes were full with an array of talent on display for the future.

It was a new face in the winner’s circle to start out the week. The Santana’s Charm daughter, Sass With Class, had won several major titles for Dena Lopez in the gaited division as a three and four-year-old and now as a five-year-old she captured the Kentucky County Fair Fine Harness Championship to continue a good year in her new role. New Millennium Equine Endeavor was the winning owner.

The white legged mare not only won the class but pulled off a major coup in defeating the four-time champion CH Rejoice. A full sister to the famous family of CH A Sweet Treat, Simbara’s Audacity, Cara Mia, and others, Rejoice (Merchant Prince x Denmark’s Radiant Society) was the reserve world’s champion for owner/driver Betty Petit and trainer Bill Field. Also having a successful year Romanov and Mike Hylton claimed third in the county fair championship.

Eighteen two-year-olds went on Saturday morning with nine showing in the stallion/gelding division and nine in the mares. Driving for Joan Macfarlane, Rob Tanner and I’m A Hot Ticket were the unanimous choice in the stallion/gelding section. The Periaptor son defeated I’m First who had already proven himself to be one of the best two-year-old gaited colts in some time with his world’s champion performance on Thursday evening. Nelson Green drove the stallion son of CF First Night Out and That Special Face for owners/breeders Stonecroft Farm. Young trainer Billy Jarrell made his presence known with a strong third place finish driving Harlem’s Beau Dandy.

Continuing the heritage started by her late sire, the champion fine harness stallion Arborlane Tangos Wee Pee, My Elegance On Parade was the homebred Two-Year-Old Fine Harness Mare World’s Champion for Dena Lopez. It was a unanimous vote of the judges over George Knight and another winning filly, the Supremacy’s High Time daughter, Blues Clues. Peter Cowart and Marmalady drove away with a good third place ribbon.

The ASHA Kentucky Futurity Two-Year-Old Fine Harness World’s Championship had to run in two sections early in the week with the judges selecting entries from each split to come back for the actual class to kick off the Friday evening performance. Ten entries were selected and they represented breeding programs both large and small. Half of these had also survived a frightening ordeal when a colt wrecked and got loose in a section of the qualifier and caused much havoc before finally being caught. Two buggies were carried from the ring in pieces in that one. In the finals there was another minor incident when one of the entries went down in the line up.

Aside from all of that excitement Laguna Niguel put on a horse show to remember. This son of I’m A New Yorker and Three-Gaited Pleasure World’s Grand Champion CH Naranda had thrilled the Louisville crowd in 2000 as he paraded over the green shavings as the World’s Champion Futurity Weanling. Now back as a massive two-year-old he was all show horse wearing the harness with owner/breeder Michele Macfarlane at the whip. The reserve futurity money went to A Superb Manhattan (Doing New York x La Madrina) an entry owned, bred, driven, and trained by longtime horseman Richard Witt. From the famous family of Radiant Sultan and Dianna Hi Lite, Definitely Dianna was third for trainer Virgil Helm and owner Janet Danuser.

They had to wait until the last day of the show to finally perform but James Nichols and Harlem’s Santa Fe made it count to garner two of the three first place votes in the Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Mare Stake in which 12 entries competed. The black Harlem Town daughter was top of the line for James Nichols and new owner Susan Bartlett. Kathy Capsuto came back from the futurity with the beautiful Tornado daughter, Dancing Up A Storm LCC to command reserve world’s champion honors. Dena Lopez and last year’s two-year-old world’s champion Catastrophic were third.

Going a big trot in the Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding section, Long Distance had a clear connection to the winner’s circle with Dick Obenauf operating for Mimi Bahcall. The athletic youngster scored the victory over the refined In Touch who was driven by Bret Day for owner A.E. Nelson. Making only his second appearance in harness, Heirithmatic was right in the hunt for a title with the third place finish for Pat McConnell and the Charles Neal family.

You could look up and down the line up in the Three-Year-Old National Fine Harness Futurity and find stars that will be making victory passes for some time to come starting with the world’s champion Sir William Robert. Last year Steve Joyce hit the ring with this unbelievably gifted stallion who happened to be pulling the same buggy his grandsire, Sultan’s Santana, won the Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship with in 1981, and they put on a performance that hadn’t been seen from a two-year-old in some time. Many were anxious to see how he would come back a year later.

Sir William Robert did not disappoint as he marched to another world’s title for owner/breeder Tom Galbreath’s Caste Hills Farm and trainer Steve Joyce. A breeder of many Louisville champions over the years, Dr. Simon Fredricks was proud of reserve world’s champion Simbara’s Sweet Lorraine (Simbara’s Rising Son x Spinster) who was driven by Carter Cox. Making a splash all season, Tornado’s Tidal Wave was third with Mike Roberts, finishing ahead of the crowd pleasing Dancing Up A Storm, another winning colt named driven by Bret Day named In Touch, Wicked City Woman, Tornado’s Storm Warnings, Catalytic, and three others.

Winning the first Saddlebred performance world’s title of the week Just About Perfect was driven to perfection by Lisa Strickland to claim the junior harness mare blue ribbon for an elated Ellyn Dorsey. The elegant mare had plenty of competition especially from the high trotting Xuxa, driven by Janet Crampton for Edmund Perwien. John Field drove the highly decorated Go Baby Go to third place honors for Betty Petit.

Also starting out the week on top, If I Had A Love continued his winning streak at Louisville with a victory pass in the junior stallion/gelding section. Nelson Green was again driving for Susan Phillips. A crowd pleaser since he debuted last year, Harlem’s C My Radiance left Freedom Hall with another reserve world’s title for trainer Pres Oder and owner Mary Jensen. Purchased right before UPHA Chapter 5, Frontline and Jimmy Miller have had a good season and they claimed the yellow prize in the 14-horse class.

Ten entries returned for the Thursday night’s showcase, the Junior Fine Harness Championship and the mare from early on Sunday night was back even stronger. Beautiful with every step and never backing an ear, Just About Perfect lived up to her name with a unanimous world’s grand champion title for Lisa Strickland and Ellyn Dorsey. Just as she had been in the mare qualifier, Xuxa was the closest competition again with Janet Crampton at the whip. The next six ribbons went to Frontline, Go Baby Go, Queensbury Jasmine, Harlem’s C My Radiance, Watermark’s Believe Me, and VHG Foxx Two Thousand.

Competition has picked up immensely in the ASHA Foundation Fine Harness Junior Exhibitor Driving Challenge as there was a group of nice horses competing for this year’s title. When all the cheering had died down Callaway’s Trade Wind was crowned the champion. Dakota Willimon drove the Callaway’s Blue Norther son for owner Randi Wightman and trainer Casey Crabtree. The cheers also rang out when Kendall Blue and It’s My Prerogative accepted the reserve champion ribbon for owner Sandra Salmen and trainer Bret Day. Adding to the depth of the championship class Ali Rosburg and By Honor Bound returned to the Ruth Gimpel Stables with a third place finish. Margaret Stewart and Michelle Chauvin, Prince Dante and Melissa Donovan, and Spot A Victory with John Trail rounded out the ribbon winners.

Every since the gray gelding Absolutely Fabulous made his first appearance in Freedom Hall he has been a crowd favorite and most of the time the judges’ favorite. For the third consecutive year he took Susan Phillips to the winner’s circle of the Amateur Ladies’ Fine Harness Stake under the direction of Nelson Green. This year John Conatser had Eleanor Pedersen and Metro Heirea primed for a grand performance resulting in a unanimous reserve decision. Also stepping up with a big performance was Warming Trend, the third place finisher driven by Stephanie Lackey Sanchez under the West Wind Stables banner.

Repeating their 2001 title, William Shatner and the Sultan’s Santana stallion Revival ruled the amateur gentlemen’s class with three first place votes. Melissa Moore again directed their winning performance which was followed in reserve by Larry Boyd and My Special Dream for Judith Heinbach. This too was a repeat title for the George Nash trained team.

The elegance of the Ladies Fine Harness class is always a sight to behold and this year Janet Kellett and CH Crystal Illusion delivered a unanimous win for Alde-Mar Farm. Also with unanimous votes, Melinda Moore and Cary’s Moonraker were the reserve world’s champions ahead of Lisa Strickland and Moore’s former gaited mare, the extremely popular Purfectly Purrfect.

Thursday night’s 13-horse Amateur Fine Harness Championship would prove to be an extremely entertaining class for the exhibitors and spectators.There were several years of driving experience represented along with a few newcomers who got a couple of the ribbons. William Shatner and Susan Phillips have met many times before and on this night Shatner turned the tables defeating last year’s amateur world’s grand champion [Absolutely Fabulous] with a picture perfect performance by Revival. The crowd could hear Susan Phillips ask her gray horse for another pass as they were called from the line up as the reserve world’s champions. Also having been in the mix many times before Janet Kellett and Crystal Illusion were third among the all-star cast.

As has been the formula for several years, Larry Boyd qualifies My Special Dream and owner Judith Heinbach shows him back in the amateur championship. She was at the whip for a fourth place finish this year having switched places with Crystal Illusion from last year. Misdee Wrigley and Metaphor were next in line for a ribbon, followed by Stephanie Sanchez and New York Trend, Danny Bugg with Very Presidential, and Ann Cannon behind CH Devoted To The Cause.

"I don't know what we will do with him [Revival] now," said winning trainer Melissa Moore. "I told Bill [Shatner] there's really nothing left for him to accomplish but he's such an easy horse to train and keep together I don't know what we'll do."

They were shown under the same ownership as four-year-olds; as five-year-olds they became rivals starting early in the year at River Ridge and finishing as Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion and Reserve World’s Grand Champion; and now at six Callaway’s Copyright and Kalarama’s New Sensation would meet again with the world’s grand championship again on the line. Of the three open divisions this was the match up most everyone had penciled in since early in the year.

Wednesday night’s stallion/gelding class brought the first part of that formula to fruition as Copyright made his third performance of the season a unanimous decision. A most unique son of Supreme Heir, Copyright has shown an abundance of athletic ability since Larry Hodge won a two-year-old world’s championship with him and this time he was back even bigger and bolder. You could tell John Jones was having the time of his life driving the world’s champion for Fox Grape Farms. The royally bred stallion Call Me Ringo (Sultan’s Great Day x Eleanor Rigby) bounced up one side and down the other in a most impressive fashion to garner the reserve world’s title in the six horse class for Melissa Moore and William Shatner.

A few classes later six open mares made their way down the ramp into Freedom Hall. Sure enough the bay mare was there but she had unexpected competition from the 1996 Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion and 1999 Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion CH A Sweet Treat. Kim Cowart and Emily Hess had moved Sweet Treat back to the harness division this year with Kim winning at Lexington and Emily winning at the Blue Ridge Classic just a few weeks prior to Louisville. Following that show Stonecroft Farm purchased the history making mare and put her back in training with Nelson Green who had driven her to the Fine Harness Worlds’ Grand Championship in ‘96.

The showdown for Kalarama’s New Sensation came earlier than expected but she was up to the task as Lynda Freseth drove the Guy and Karen Smith entry to two of the three first place votes to win the mare title. Sweet Treat and Green took the other top vote and the reserve world’s champion title. Making it an even stronger class, last year’s junior world’s grand champion Ah What A Night was third with Mike Roberts.

Saturday night’s Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship could go down in history as the best five-horse class ever. The lineup included A Sweet Treat, Ah What A Night, Call Me Ringo, Callaway’s Copyright, and Kalarama’s New Sensation. The drivers were at full tilt giving the audience plenty to cheer about and the judges plenty to think about. They marked their cards and soon it was announced there had been a natural three-way tie. Sweet Treat, Copyright, and New Sensation returned to the rail and this Saturday night workout couldn’t have been scripted any better. If you had never seen a Saddle Horse you had to love them now and if you were a veteran enthusiast you remembered why you were still here.

After they lined them up again the tie was broken, Callaway’s Copyright and John T. Jones again ruled the world. The blanket of white roses was draped across the massive shoulders of Copyright who cranked it up one more time for the appreciative crowd with Lynn Via and Dr. Owen Weaver leading the cheering section from their railside seats at midcourt. Adding a reserve world’s grand championship to one of the richest and most versatile records of any mare, CH A Sweet Treat was on the money and grabbed one first place vote and lots of applause for trainer Nelson Green and owner Stonecroft Farm. The fans still loved the bay mare and showed their appreciation for third place finisher Kalarama’s New Sensation, expertly driven by Lynda Freseth for Guy and Karen Smith.

Not lost in all the excitement, Call Me Ringo and Melissa Moore were also cheered for their fourth place finish ahead of Ah What A Night and Mike Roberts who had a good drive in fifth.

"I was just glad to get it over," said winning trainer John T. Jones. "We had a plan back at the barn to bring him [Callaway's Copyright] out and hook when those juvenile gaited horses started to rack the second way and that's what we did. But then there was the workout and a thrown shoe and my horse wouldn't stand out there and relax. He just kept charging around waiting to go in.

"He was a little strong when we first came in the ring but he settled into it. He's game enough for three horses. That's what I love about him."

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