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Lexington Junior League - Monday Night

The 73rd edition of the Lexington Junior League Horse Show opened up on what could only be described as a picturesque night in the Bluegrass. Rain in the previous days left no lasting impact on the quality of The Red Mile surface, and the horses looked fresh and ready to show in the gorgeous, cool, early evening air. With the stage set for another great year at Lexington, the first class got off to a sluggish start. In fact, it didn’t start, not on time at least. Two shoes were thrown in the warmup area, and the Rocky Mountain Horses presenting the flag before the performance took a couple extra laps around the ring.

Even with the slow start, this night proved to be full of the top competition and crowd participation that Junior League is famous for. Normally with these daily recaps, it is easier to just go in chronological order from the beginning to the end of the performance. Tonight, however, it was a whole division that stood out and provided some of the biggest thrills. What better place to start than at the end? Last year’s Five-Gaited Gelding Stake, famously won by CH Breaking News on his way to the first of three Triple Crown jewels, featured a phenomenal class that ended up requiring a second workout. This year the numbers weren’t as big, but the competition was once again deep and fierce. There were a couple of horses in the class that had also taken part in last year’s tussle. Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight were reserve in this class last year, putting in a fantastic performance. They were in there working hard again in 2009, staking their claim to the blue for Sam and Vicki Reed. Courageous Lord was also part of the 2008 edition, showing to third with Mike Barlow for Bill Carrington and Marsha Shepard. Added to that were several other top entries. Cloverleaf Master And Commander, shown by Lionel Ferreira for John Bulmer, won a tough blue at the ARHPA show in Paris, KY, earlier this year. This flashy gelding by Zovoorbij Commander In Chief was in top form once again tonight. A top campaigner from Clouse Stables, J. Crew, has been in the top ribbons all over the country this year for Dr. Tina Mayes. He was making his case on The Red Mile tonight. Ashlyn’s Voodoo Charm has won several Limit and Novice classes already this year for Rob Byers and Ashlyn Farms LLC. The five-year-old gelding by Santana’s Charm is coming along nicely for the Premier team.

There was another veteran from last year’s event that would play a prominent role in the 2009 stake. This was Merrill Murray. After riding Shame On You to a top prize last year, Murray was aboard Courageous Lord this season. The big, powerful Roseridge Heir gelding is really working well for Murray, moving along smooth as silk at the rack and powering down the rail at the trot. The knowledgeable Lexington crowd picked up on him on the reverse trot and started cheering him up and down the rail. All three judges picked up on him from the get-go, as they unanimously declared him the Five-Gaited Gelding Champion for Bill Carrington and Marsha Shepard. Murray has had Courageous Lord in the barn for less than half a year now but has the horse in top order and looking once again like a top contender for the big stake.

The difference in style between the top five horses was dramatic. With the big, ground-eating Courageous Lord taking the blue, it was the fixy, punchy Ashlyn’s Voodoo Charm that took reserve for Rob Byers and Ashlyn Farms. This horse always seems to have his head in just the right place and looks through the bridle no matter where he shows. The long and lanky War Whoop Two gelding, J. Crew, was third with Clark Clouse aboard for Dr. Tina Mayes. The flaxen phenom, Cloverleaf Master And Commander, was fourth for Lionel Ferreira and John Bulmer, while Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight, always a crowd-pleasing pair, put on another trademark power-packed show for fifth.

Not to be outdone by the open horses, the Ladies and Junior Exhibitor riders brought their "A" game tonight. The loudest crowd response of the night had to be for CH Sprinkles and Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes in Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 14-and-Under. Long the five-gaited pleasure mount of Michele Macfarlane, and many times a World’s Champion, Sprinkles has found a new niche with the petite Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes. Randy Cates put this team together and has to receive high marks for how it has turned out. With wins already this year at Colorado Classic, UPHA Chapter 5, and Chattanooga/Cleveland Charity, Sprinkles and Eleanor are coming together as a formidable force in the division. An obvious crowd darling, the spotted mare and the girl in the shiny light blue coat were carried around the ring by the cheers of the crowd tonight, rising to the occasion to the delight of the Junior League attendees. Watching this cute team carry out the blue by a unanimous choice of the judges couldn’t help but bring a smile to the faces of those in attendance. Making the winning team work hard for their blue was Captain Roseridge with Camille Cowart. Showing for parents Peter and Kim Cowart, Camille had the 3-T product (by Roseridge Heir and out of a Worthy Son mare) in top form tonight, fresh off their Championship win at Roanoke.

Add to those two fantastic classes the Ladies Five-Gaited Mare class, and you have just a phenomenal night of horse show. And that’s just the beginning! What a class full of good ones this was. Defending Ladies Mare winner and Ladies Five-Gaited Champion, Callaway’sBorn For This, was back again this year with a new rider and trainer. Allison Combs has really teamed nicely with the elegant gray mare under the direction of Smith Lilly. They put on another stellar performance tonight. A mare that appears ready to come into her own is the Simbara’s Rising Son daughter, Shez So Delightful. Paired with Alex Wille-Irmiter tonight for Three Gables LLC, Shez So Delightful wore her bridle just right and powered to a third-place finish under the direction of Bill and Kris Knight. But tonight, the blue would belong to a horse staking her claim as a true contender for the top spot in this division, A Dream In Color. By Worthy’s Prodigy and out of Katherine Hansil’s long-time five-gaited pleasure partner, Make It Magic, "Carmen" is now teamed with Kate Codeanne. Now seven, the dark chestnut mare with the perfect white stripe put it all together tonight, giving Kate Codeanne all she had to earn the blue ribbon under the direction of Rob Turner. Perhaps it was fitting for Codeanne to win this Ladies Mare class, as her mother, Lynn Harvey McNamara, won this very class 30 years ago with Decision’s Finery. Callaway’s Born For This and Allison Combs were reserve in this one for Allison and Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie Shires. This is shaping up to be a fantastic rivalry, as Born For This and Dream In Color were meeting for the third time this year. Born For This emerged with blue ribbons in their tight battles at Bonnie Blue.

Making his first performance of the year, Our First Class Day TS showed that he hasn’t lost a step from his last time in the ring when he won the UPHA Five-Gaited Classic National Championship for Melinda and Donna Moore. Donna’s special interest in this jet black colt with a lot of white started a long, long time ago. She owned his second dam, Georgia’s Sweet Dreams, and bred his dam, Georgia Day Dream. It was Jayne Tillman that bred this talented colt, sired by CF First Night Out. Tonight, Melinda and Our First Class Day put on their same power-packed performance, while adding a little more hinge to his neck and a little more presence that just growing up over the off season can bring. Another from what could very well be the next "golden cross," Walterway’s Pardon Me was reserve for Merrill Murray and Larry Hartsock. A full brother to Walterway’s Remember Me, Pardon Me is by Star Material and out of Yorktown’s Forget-Me-Not. A big, strong-moving gelding with a lot of chrome and a lot of motor, Pardon Me had already earned wins at Bonnie Blue and Indianapolis Charity. Matt Shiflet also has an up and comer in Think I Will. Third tonight, the gelding by Everything Will and out of a Courageous Admiral mare was clearly bred to rack. He had wins at Raleigh Spring Premier and J.D. Massey Classic under his belt before coming to The Red Mile.

Another fantastic five-gaited class held the competition for the 15-17 riders. Angela Darrow and Freaky Links rode to their first Lexington blue together for Russ and Mara Darrow. Junior Exhibitor Champions at Indianapolis Charity and Reserve National Champions last year, Freaky Links and Darrow are trained by Scott and Carol Matton. As Scotty said, "Freaky loves to show, and we love showing him!" It’s always fun to watch Scott run to the winner’s circle for one of his riders, as he always beams with pride and enjoyment of the moment. Picking up reserve honors tonight was Caitlin Leith with What’s The Whoopla. Leith and this dynamic gelding are coming into their own under the direction of Peter and Kim Cowart. This team continues to improve and are right in the thick of every class they enter. Winner of this class just a year ago and a grand campaigner, CH Callaway’s Independence Day and Victoria McCune picked up third for Barbara McCune. The championship combines both the 14-and-Under and 15-17 divisions. It will be a good old fashioned barn burner and definitely not one to miss!

The 2009 edition of Junior League opened with a unanimous decision in the Junior Exhibitor 14-and-Under Three-Gaited class. Expertly teamed by top catch-rider Mollie Kregor, Gloria Vanderbilt picked up her fourth blue ribbon in four outings this season for Wrapped In Rainbows Farm and Ashlyn Farms under the Premier banner. The bay mare by Designed hit the ring first and never looked back, making a standout show for the ever-smiling Mollie Kregor. Reigning World’s Champion of Champions in this division, Show Baby Show picked up the red ribbon tonight for Christina Collis and the DeLovely team. The pink formal coat was in full effect tonight for Collis as she teamed her game partner to reserve.

A first time trip down Lexington’s victory lane came in the Country Pleasure Driving class, as Flashyheir and Tess Cunningham made a stellar show under the direction of Jimmy Morrison. Flashyheir lives up to his name. He sports a white blaze along with two white socks. His chestnut color is the kind that catches the early evening sun that filters onto The Red Mile over the course of the first few classes of the evening sessions. It sets that certain chestnut color on fire and really makes a horse stand out. Ali DeGray took the lines of Harlem’s Worldly Lady to earn reserve, a repeat finish from last year. Worldly Lady took the tri-color back to Florida for Helen and James Rosburg in 2008. Worldly Lady already has six trips down victory lane under her belt so far in 2009.

The Amateur Hackney Pony class saw a repeat winner, as Seamair Simply Awesome and John Wrather once again left with the blue. The defending Amateur World’s Champion of Champions looks more than ready to defend that crown in 2009. His black and chrome harness looked fantastic in the early evening light. Dr. Bing Crosby and Showtime’s So Tuff were reserve. So Tuff is by So Unforgettable and out of a Dun-Haven Awesome Creation mare. Awesome Creation is the sire of Simply Awesome.

Teamed with Dr. Brian Garrett for 2008, Where Are We Now is once again finding the winner’s circle in 2009. Garrett and the longtime champion made a fantastically fast show tonight to earn the Amateur Roadster Under Saddle blue under the direction of Mike Brannon. Last year’s winners, Vivacious and Dr. Holly Ackerman, were reserve tonight.

Amateur Three-Gaited 15.2 and Under featured another talent-filled class of entries. Tops in this one, picking up their sixth blue ribbon in six outings together, was Thunder Cloud Nine with Erin Obenauf. Directed by Chris Reiser, this team continues to improve and impress. Obenauf seems born to show on The Red Mile, as she had great success here last year as well with Callaway’s Blue Waltz and Thundersnow. It will always be a tough place to show and requires great ringmanship. That was on display tonight, as the Attache’s Thunderbolt gelding put on a walk-trot clinic for the blue. Last year’s winner, Callaway’s Born With Style was her ethereally elegant self for Robin McKenzie Vuillermet to earn the reserve tie. Just six years old, Born With Style is by CH Callaway’s Born To Win and out of a Will Shriver mare. The Proof Is In The Heir and Jan Small Beth were in top form to earn third place.

The lady drivers were turned out nicely for the Ladies Harness Pony class. Undefeated on The Red Mile and returning to the ring that launched his career into the stratosphere in 2007, Dun-Haven Phenomenal once again strutted and marched down Junior League’s victory lane for Maureen Lydon Campbell and Carl and Kathryn Nichols. Karen Frickey was reserve with Art-O-Matic, Junior World’s Champion of Champions with Chris Gantley in 2007.

Just one class removed from Ladies Harness Pony was Ladies Fine Harness. Another equine star who has made some of his most memorable performances on The Red Mile, Joe Friday turned in yet another fantastic show for Helen Rosburg. Driven to Open Stallion/Gelding and Fine Harness Championship wins by Ruth Gimpel in 2008, Joe Friday is now teamed to perfection with Helen, the picture of elegance. It was a unanimous round of honor for the grand chestnut gelding. A big winner in amateur competition all year long, Hi On Heir picked up reserve for Sally McClure Jackson and Melissa Moore.

Fresh off a huge win at Midwest, Hilheiry Duff put her best foot forward on an even bigger stage tonight, taking the Junior Three-Gaited 15.2-and-Under blue with Lisa Strickland up for Mimi Bahcall. Hilheiry Duff is by Supreme Heir. She seems to float effortlessly over the ground no matter what surface she is showing on. Never backing an ear, she pranced and primped down victory lane. John Conatser had his Select Stock mare, Stock Up, prepped nicely for Lexington, earning the red streamers.

Another junior star from Midwest that came to The Red Mile and once again earned top honors was Heartland Dressed To Impress. With Darrel Kolkman at the lines, Dressed To Impress certainly did just that to get the nod from judge Rodney Hicks. Dressed To Impress is by Heartland Code Of Honor and out of a Dun-Haven Awesome Creation mare. Code Of Honor swept the top two spots in this one, as another of his offspring, Heartland Pursuit, picked up reserve with Ronnie Graham driving for Helen Rosburg. Pursuit is a stunning bay pony with a headset and way of going reminiscent of another top Rosburg pony, Seize The Moment.

Earning the Roadster to Wagon blue for what announcer Peter Doubleday reported to be the eighth year in a row, Ashland is one that will never be forgotten. If there was a Hall of Fame for horses, this mare would be a lock for first-ballot entry. Teamed with Mike Barlow for Howard and Bobbye Six, the inimitable Ashland raced off with yet another blue. Les Cunningham had Man’s Man looking good in reserve for Milward Dedman.

The gig, according to Doubleday, was a popular vehicle used in early England, making it a nice match for the British breed, the Hackney Pony. Spiff And Polish and Luc Boileau won this Hackney Pony Gig class for the second year in a row. Avant Guard and Joel Brown picked up reserve.

What more is there to say about the reigning Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion? The word here is "consistency." When CH Our Charming Lady and Mary Marcum Orr hit the show ring, the result is always the same… Big trot, big smile. Oh, and the fact that in now 27 times they have come through the in-gate together, they left the ring last in each and every one of them. That, good readers, is a remarkable accomplishment. Owners Jack and Donna Finch must just love every minute of this phenomenal team’s performances together, because the crowds sure do appreciate them. A unanimous choice of the judges sent Our Charming Lady down victory lane for that 27th straight time, this one coming in the Ladies Three-Gaited Over 15.2 class. And it’s not like this mare is showing against the Washington Generals! Second in this class was Stonecroft Nightlight, a horse who has made some of his best performances on this track, including the Junior Three-Gaited Championship and Over 2 qualifier last year with Jim Lowry and a 2006 Two-Year-Old Fine Harness blue with Nelson Green. Campaigned this year in Ladies by Fay Lowry, Nightlight looks the part perfectly, earning a Ladies blue at Indianapolis earlier this year for Karrie Graham and Dwaine Kinderknecht.

With Courageous Lord’s victory pass, the first night of Junior League came to a close. According to first-year show manager Lenard Davenport, things are looking great for this year’s show. All of the stall space is sold in the main stabling area, and the Tattersalls stabling, which has been a fantastic addition, has filled two or three more aisles than they did last year. It was a great way to kick off Lexington Junior League, now everybody pray that the weather holds up even half as beautiful as it was tonight. The forecast looks clear… Fingers crossed!

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