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Lexington Junior League - Saturday Evening

It’s been another fine week of horse show and good times at Lexington Junior League. This is always a highlight of the summer, as many people come in for the weekend just to be spectators and see old friends. While not as uncharacteristically fantastic as the weather was in 2007, this year’s edition had some good weather, well for Lexington in mid-July anyway.

"The good weather made it a lot easier on our grounds crew," said technical coordinator Kent Moeller. "We only had one real blast of rain, and the cooler weather made it better for the electrical in the back." Another adjustment made in 2008 was the addition of a terrace box at the gate end of the arena to match the one at the far end. Exhibitors enjoyed the boxes being closer to the stabling area, and there were generally more people in the new boxes than in the old ones at the far end. With the addition of the terrace boxes, the jumbotron was moved up over the tent, giving a completely new, slightly more enclosed feel to the horse show.

Kicking off stake night was the Senior Saddle Seat Equitation Championship. Each girl fought every step of the way to stand out from the crowd and make the judges pay attention to them. After the rail work, the judges chose five riders to complete the work out: Callie Smith, Ellen Medley Wright, Jacqueline Beck, Angela Darrow and Jessica Moctezuma. With all riders performing near perfect work outs and showing good form, the final decision came down to true horsemanship, skill and ringmanship. Performing all these tasks in an exceptional manner was Jessica Moctezuma. Reserve in the sensational class went to Delovely's Ellen Medley Wright. Showing extreme strength and precision aboard her Kalu's Can't Stop The Magic, she will surely be one to look out for when the finals roll around.

The first performance class on Junior League Stake Night was the Roadster Pony Championship. Ruth Gimpel made a fantastic drive to take the championship with Seize The Moment, riding right on the edge with the gifted pony and making an impressive statement. Murry Dickson and Larry Bacon were reserve champions for Jane Mueller. This dark pony trimmed with a lot of white takes a very nice step behind.

The Amateur Five-Gaited Stake presented a true test of all the entries. It is a lot to ask of a horse to warm up and then compete in the early evening heat and direct sunlight that was still baking the track when the horses hit the ring. CH Colonel Hoss and Justin Cowley are both game as the day is long, and they needed all of that gameness and then some to take the tricolor for Paul and Leeta Beachum. In just his first year out of the junior exhibitor ranks, Cowley is taking that master showmanship of his to a new level as an amateur. The young adults really took it to the rest of the field of entries, as another first year amateur, Cydni Simmons, had Hey Joe working hard for the reserve championship.

My Elegance On Parade and Ellie Headlee were up to the challenge once again in the Junior Exhibitor 15-17 Three-Gaited Stake after taking the qualifier blue. Sarah Byers met them in the winner’s circle. My Elegance On Parade is a full sister to another top junior exhibitor entry, Tantalize Me LCC, by Arborlane Tangos Wee Pee (SA) and out of the Supreme Heir mare, Scarfiotti. Jackie Schutt made one of her best performances to date with Like A Rocket to take the reserve championship. It was a great effort by this Merchant Prince son who is out of a Flight Time mare.

The fine harness division, as a whole, is loaded with talent. The amateur classes all over the country have been well-filled and extremely competitive, and now the open horses are really coming into their own. There will be fireworks galore when this Fine Harness Championship reconvenes on Saturday night in Freedom Hall. This night, it was a unanimous decision for last year’s Saddlebred star of the show, Joe Friday. Ruth Gimpel and Ronnie Graham have overseen the maturing process of Joe Friday over the winter, and he has really settled into his role for Helen and James Rosburg, working within himself and appearing more relaxed in the show ring.

The horse that always gets the biggest cheer of delight from the crowd the moment she enters the ring is Along Came A Spider. This night was no different as she and George Knight hit the ring full tilt, working in high fashion. The gorgeous black mare was more collected and up and down with her motion tonight, making a very elegant yet powerful performance for the reserve championship. A horse that just continues to get better and better is Mother Mary. Sandy Lilly drove this entry of Platinum Stock Farm and exuded class and refinement with every pass. The appreciative crowd gave each horse and driver an equal ovation, as each seems to have their own segment of the crowd behind them.

Another amateur division that will be stuffed to the gills with talent and potential will be the three-gaited division. Just five years old, the silky smooth bay mare Juliette’s Deja Blue is ready for primetime. She took on a field of top entries tonight and came away with the vote of all three judges. Andrea Athanasuleas gave a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump when her number was called and rode tearfully to the winner’s circle to greet trainer Matt Shiflet. The reserve champion put on an impressive show in her own right. Erin Obenauf had Callaway’s Blue Waltz working in top form for Carolyn Stuart and trainer Chris Reiser. Third in this deep class went to The Great Gaspar, with Phillipa Sledge aboard for Pidgeon Roost Farm.

On The Mark made his first two performances of 2008 count, as he took the Hackney Pony qualifier and championship with Karen Waldron driving under the direction of Larry Ella. This former world’s grand champion looks ready for another shot at that title. Limited Edition and Abel Vega were reserve champions for Golden Creek Farms.

Erin Obenauf made a quick turnaround in the warm-up ring with just a pony class in between her two performances of the evening. Apparently, she was sufficiently warmed up from the amateur walk-trot class, as her second ride of the evening was even better. Thundersnow repeated his qualifier win in unanimous style, matching an unbelievable qualifier performance with an equally great one. Emily Abbott made a fantastic catch-ride aboard The Muffin Man for Kim Langdon to take the reserve championship. This was also Abbott’s second ride of the night, as she showed At The Stroke Of Midnight in the amateur gaited class earlier in the evening.

Grande Gil made an even more high-headed, animated performance for Misdee Wrigley Miller and the Kalarama team to earn the tricolor in the Three-Gaited Championship. It was another unanimous decision for the world’s grand champion who looked set to defend that title. Harlem’s Showman and Robert Gardiner made a crowd-pleasing performance as the reserve champions for Equielegance Ltd.

Heartland Expecation and Karen Frickey were the unanimous choice of the judges in the Harness Pony Championship. The reigning world’s grand champions were in the ring in back to back classes, taking top honors. That’s not something you can find at most horse shows, and it’s part of what makes Lexington so special. Larry Ella had former World’s Grand Champion Par Excellence working hard as the reserve champion.

A.J. Bruwer had the Park Champion, as he showed Traci Massaro’s entry, Phi’s Phortune Teller, way up in the bridle and lofty. "Cookie" was a monster on the Red Mile this night as he took home the tricolor in a performance that would be tough for anyone to beat. Dena Lopez and Ya-Ya made a good show for the reserve championship for Elizabeth Shatner and Dorothy Anderson.

The Roadster to Bike Championship trophy and tricolor were presented to Scruff and Deborah Koning by Bob, Raye Lynn, and Ali Funkhouser. Funkhouser was honored for his 25 years as a part of Saddle Horse Report. Christy Parsons presented him with a brand new Shively saddle with a silver nameplate on the back for his 25th anniversary. As the jumbotron told the crowd, "Funk. The Best!" The best in the ring in the Roadster to Bike Championship was Scruff, who was absolutely flying, much to the delight of the Junior League crowd. Roar Of Thunder and Ronnie Graham were called out as the reserve champions, and as if on cue, there was a distant roar of thunder out past the in-gate end of the arena the moment his name was called.

After that, it was time for Gene Wright, organist extraordinaire, to play My Old Kentucky Home and welcome the Five-Gaited Championship to the ring. In and working hard were Courageous Lord and Mike Barlow, consistently getting better and more comfortable in the show ring for Bill Carrington and Marsha Shepard. Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight were making passes that stated their championship intentions for Sam and Vicki Reed. Twice Charmed and Melissa Moore, fresh off their Midwest Charity Five-Gaited Championship, were putting on their usual fast, powerful performance. Merrill Murray had Shame On You looking fantastic, coming together nicely for Maguire Hall LLC.

But for all the talent this class had to offer, there was one horse that stood out from the rest and took home the tricolor with his seemingly endless speed and energy. After enduring a 10-horse workout on Monday night and then being pushed by another class full of great horses tonight, CH Breaking News and Peter Cowart had plenty left in the tank to take home the tricolor for Megan McClure and Beth Arndt and still make a slick victory pass. Courageous Lord and Mike Barlow were up for the reserve championship to a nice ovation from the crowd. Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight finished third with a first-place vote, and Twice Charmed and Melissa Moore took home fourth.

All in all, it was a fantastic week in Lexington. The short daytime sessions allow visitors to tour the Kentucky Horse Park and American Saddlebred Museum or shop through some of the boutiques in downtown Lexington like Heather Marchiafava’s store, Commotion! It’s a fun atmosphere and one that is much more light than the intensity of Louisville.

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