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A Grand Finale for the Royal

After a presentation of the week’s equitation stars, the show got under way with a stunning Fine Harness National Championship. Like in the amateur division, Castledream was the epitome of a harness horse and, with owner Misdee Wrigley Miller at the lines, took a trip down victory lane with the tricolor. Second in the class of five went to the harness mare winner, The Lady Sings The Blues, with Nelson Green at the whip for a crowd-pleasing performance.


Elegance was what best described the Ladies Three-Gaited National Championship. Six ladies showed off their horses, but when the cards were turned in it was a unanimous decision and Our Charming Lady finished out the year undefeated with Mary Marcum Orr in the saddle for Jack and Donna Finch, and earning the Saddlebred world’s unofficial Triple Crown. Christy Bennett made several great passes to earn the reserve vote of the judges with her CH Callaway’s Merry Go Round.


Taking on the professionals, Georgia Blevins and Free Willy outdid them all to claim the top spot on all three cards. Maureen Lydon and Rich Campbell directed this team to the open qualifier win as well, for yet another team with an undefeated season. Chris Gantley had on the blue and gray silks to garner the reserve national title with Dreaming & Scheming.


The amateurs came in for their first class of the night in the five-gaited division. It was a class of 13 with several being world and national champions. However the judges did not have a doubt in their minds when they all named CH Swish the Amateur Five-Gaited National Champion for the second year in a row. Carol Hillenbrand rode her gelding down victory lane once again. Lakeview’s Rare A Phi and Misdee Wrigley made a formidable team as they racked away with the reserve prize. Whimiscality captured the win earlier this week in the mare division and returned with Kaitlyn Grom in the saddle for the third place ribbon.


Lady Vol and Chris Kaplan were the only entry in the Amateur Fine Harness National Championship, but what an elegant picture this team made under the direction of Mike Roberts.


The junior exhibitors had their turn in the spotlight when the Five-Gaited Pony class stormed into the ring. Five returned for the challenge of capturing the tricolor honors. It was the current world’s champion team of Moon Charmer and Tyler Miles who claimed the blue ribbon with dad Todd Miles directing from the rail. Callaway’s Exception To The Rule racked and trotted with the heart of a horse twice his size as he and Alexa McWilliams earned the reserve ribbon.


Christy Weaver Gantley was the sole performer in the Harness Pony National Championship, but as always she made an elegant drive to entertain the crowd. She dedicated her win to her husband, Chris Gantley, for his birthday.


The show switched gears as the three-gaited entries marched to the ring for their national championship. It was a thrilling class of six entries, with each one heralding their own cheering section. Already a Lexington Jr. League and world’s grand champion, Grande Gil added a national title to his list of wins, and the “Triple Crown” as well, when Misdee Wrigley Miller directed him to the unanimous win. Last year’s champion, Lace’s Last Tango was another crowd favorite with Jim Lowry riding the Tri Color Venture-owned entry to the reserve honor. Mike McIntosh and Hillside’s Sensation carried out the third place ribbon for Pat and Laura Lockwood.


CH His Supreme Reflection had a decisive victory and great crowd support to add the Open Park National Championship to his 2007 world’s champion of champions title. Andy Freseth directed the unanimous champion down victory lane for Robert and Marilyn Gaiswinkler. Lisa Strickland was up in the saddle on reserve champion Philip Martinelli for Saddlewood Farm in the seven-entry class.


It was a two horse race in the Road Horse to Bike National Championship. With the support of all three judges, Melissa Moore piloted The Gambler into the winner’s circle. Katie Coup handled Bristle N to the reserve spot.


Watching the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited class got the audience in the mood for the finale of the night. With duels between riders and horses going on all around the ring, it was hard to pick a favorite. Already on a high from earlier this morning with her equitation Triple Crown victory, Brittany McGinnis put in another championship ride on Carolina Cat. Riding in the same style as his trainer, Clark Clouse, Justin Cowley tipped his hat to the crowd’s support as he directed Colonel Hoss to the reserve honors. Last year’s open five-gaited national champion, Memorize, and Sarah Sessoms made all the right passes for the third place vote.


World Champion Lord Ovation and Larry Bacon wowed the crowd and the judges to top the three-pony class in the Hackney Pony National Championship. Sandra Surber’s Heartland Candidate claimed the reserve national title with Maureen Lydon on the lines.


It was time for the finale of the American Royal, the Tom Moore Five-Gaited National Championship with $50,000 at stake. Six horses battled it out in Kemper Arena, dueling and racing down the straightaways. After the rail work, saddles were stripped and each entry was led up to the judges one at a time. When the cards were turned in, the awards were announced in reserve order. Pucker Up with Robert Gardner, Night Of A Thousand Stars with Jack Magill, (SA) Calif First Night Out with Neil Visser and Courageous Lord with Mike Barlow were brought out of the group respectively, leaving Twice Charmed and CH Walterway’s Remember Me at the end of the ring. Owner Ceil Wheeler had to leave the show earlier after earning the amateur gelding class, which let trainer John Conatser make the reserve national championship ride.


The crowd was behind Melissa Moore and Twice Charmed every step of the way. Wiping away tears, Moore rode to center ring to accept her father’s trophy. With her mother in the stands, Moore gave her thanks to Jack Magill who started the mare and to those who supported her during the year. The Tom Moore Memorial Trophy was inaugurated last year where sister Melinda Moore won it on Memorize. Keeping it in the family, Melissa trotted out of the ring with her father riding with her and tricolor streaming from her pocket.


Twice Charmed and Melissa Moore


This concludes Saturday’s highlights.  Complete results from Saturday’s sessions can be found by clicking here.

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