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Lexington Junior League - Wednesday Evening

It was another smolderingly hot night at Lexington Junior League, as the Wednesday night session brought a big group of classes to the Red Mile. While the actual atmosphere was hot and humid, the atmosphere of this horse show is always singular in its celebratory attitude. The ladies and gentlemen start to roll out their best summery clothes as this week rolls along, culminating with the always spectacular fashion show that is Saturday night on The Red Mile. And here is a question for you, where else but Junior League are you going to see Merrill Murray, winner of both the Five-Gaited Gelding and Mare Stakes, walking around with two ice cream cones? Only at Lexington.

This week has featured many big performances by some of the best strings of horses in the nation. Matt Shiflet’s string has been right near the top of that list. They had another big night tonight, as the Matt Shiflet train kept a-rollin’. Tonight it was the A Train that left the station first, as Andrea Athanasuleas remained undefeated on this track with CH Juliette’s Deja Blue. Famously debuting in this division and rocketing into the national spotlight at Lexington 2008, they have been the Amateur Three-Gaited Over 15.2 winners and Amateur Three-Gaited Champions the past two years. They were Amateur Ladies Over 2 World’s Champions last year. Mega-Star and Coe London continued what has been a great day for Jack Magill Stables, as they picked up the red ribbon for Coe and Bill London. This was their third reserve finish on the year to go along with their eight blue ribbon rides. Mega-Star is a full brother to the Amateur Under 2 winner, Hollywood Agent, being by Exalted Effect and out of WGC CH Hollywood Excellence. Boston Legal and Elizabeth Shatner looked perhaps their best of the season to take third for Belle Reve and the Grey Ridge banner.

The train picked up steam in the very next class, as Matt Shiflet came into the Roadster Under Saddle class with Big-N-Rich to take the blue for Chappy Chapman. You want one that can flat step and get down the rail, this could be the one for you. And he does it with his ears up and head set nicely. He was the pick of all three judges in this one. Dr. Brian Garrett was reserve with P.J. Shawnee. Twice a winner at Blowing Rock with this speedster, Dr. Garrett was the Amateur Roadster Under Saddle winner on Monday night with Where Are We Now.

Getting a whole class to take a breather, Shiflet had the Country Pleasure Driving Championship just one class later, with the qualifier winner under his direction vying for the tri-color. With Pat Yeatts making her second-ever drive over this surface wearing a pretty pink top and a bright green hat, it was a tri-color performance indeed by CH Stevie Nicks. Stevie told Matt, "You can ‘Go Your Own Way,’ but I’m heading to the winner’s circle with a ‘Landslide’ victory." Reserve World’s Champion of Champions Harlem’s Worldly Lady moved up a place from the qualifier to take the Reserve Championship with Ali DeGray driving. Ali has done a phenomenal job all week with her entries for Helen and James Rosburg, taking everything from road pony Seize The Moment to harness star Joe Friday to strong performances here in Lexington. Kris Swanson continued her good show with Heads Will Turn, taking third for the Lukens Stables team.

First up on the night, well, first was actually the always well-attended Stick Horse Stake, but after that came the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Show Pleasure 15-17 riders. Rebecca Boorstein looks to be more than recovered from her early season knee injury that threw Audrey Lowry into the position of ridiculously lucky catch-rider. Boorstein rode Stonecroft I’m Radiant to the blue in this one, wearing a shimmering tan suit that was just the perfect tone for the 7 PM lighting on the track. Jim Lowry started the night out right as he and Fay ran to the winner’s circle to greet their winner, an entry of Equilateral Enterprise Inc. In this stellar field of nine, last year’s winner and a 14-17 World’s Champion, CH New York Style, finished reserve for rider Ben Ferreby and John and Sandy Ferreby. Directed by Marilyn Macfarlane, this team has really come together over the years. Now in their fourth season together, they are consistently brilliant and always near the top of the ribbons. Caroline Skinner and CH Royal Messenger were third for James and Judy Skinner and the Biggins Stable bunch.

The Lowry Stables team wasn’t done there. They would be back in a big way, as The Road Less Traveled made a piston-pumping performance that kept getting better and better as the class went on. He was the Three-Gaited 15.2-and-Under winner by a unanimous decision with Jim Lowry aboard for Thomas R. Brock Jr. Road Less Traveled just continues to get more and more extreme in the bridle and he has that ever so slight hesitation at the top of his stride that takes a trot and makes it a park trot. A star in the making, Kalarama’s Blue Mac was reserve for Sam Stafford and owners Joan Hamilton and Larry Hodge. Working in that same high style that earned them two reserves in Asheville, they were crowd pleasers once again tonight. This was a second winner on the night for sire Blue O’Shea, as he is also the sire of CH Juliette’s Deja Blue.

Sweetheart Of Success made her season debut in high style and fashion, as she garnered all three first-place votes in the Amateur Harness Pony class with Karen Waldron at the whip for Bent Tree Farm. Directed by Larry Ella, they were also the winners of this class in 2009. They went on to take the tri-color as well. David Sweezey drove Art-O-Matic to the red ribbon under the direction of Randy and Denessa Harper. Karen Frickey was reserve with this pony a year ago in the Ladies class.

Twilight Maxamillion made history repeat itself, as it was Josh Wall riding to the winner’s circle in the Amateur Gentlemen Five-Gaited class for the second year in a row. Riding for the West Wind banner, Wall has long been a staple of the Carolina show scene. Maxamillion put on another great performance to take the blue by a unanimous decision for Barbara Quinn and Josh Wall. The grand showman Bill Marple earned a third straight reserve finish with Bourbon Sky, a full brother to Junior Five-Gaited Mare winner, Thunder’s Fair Lady.

The ones that are instantly recognized when they hit the ring are always a treat, and the crowd had two to give big salutes to as they came through the in-gate in the Fine Harness Mare Stake. First it was the black mare, CH Along Came A Spider, who brought the crowd to life, and moments later, The DaVinci Code hit the ring to another big salute from the assembled masses. Pop quiz: When was the last time that anyone other than George Knight and Along Came A Spider won the Fine Harness Mare Stake on the Red Mile? Answer: 2004. She was reserve that year… in the Five-Gaited Mare Stake! Every year they challenged her, and every year they were turned away. But this year, it was another Saddlebred celebrity, The DaVinci Code doing the challenging. With Kathy Capsuto-Walker driving for Paula Schmidt and the Kathy Capsuto Trust, DaVinci Code has seemed to harness that wild energy that made her Louisville debut last year so spine-tingling and put it into an even more spectacular, well-balanced park trot, wearing her bridle like a dream and still never backing an ear. She made a stunning performance tonight and got a big pop from the crowd when her number was called as the unanimous choice of the judges. Her victory pass was one for the ages, as she could have about sat down she squatted so low. CH Along Came A Spider and George Knight were reserve for Georgia Herpin Baker, making their usual charismatic, crowd-pleasing performance. A Lexington icon, she never fails to satisfy. John Warner has something special in the Attache’s Thunderbolt daughter, Sweet Pickle. Out of a South African mare, Sweet Pickle made some passes that turned more than a few heads in third.

Speaking of sensational mares, Nutcracker Ballerina put herself right back into the thick of things in the Park division with a unanimous win in the Open Park qualifier. Clark Clouse turned in his best performance of the year with the entry of Bullet Concrete Materials. Obviously by Undulata’s Nutcracker, she is out of a Blue Norther mare. She set the world on fire last year at the Royal, winning the Open Championship as just a three-year-old. She is back and on top of her game, besting this field of 10. Doctor Zhivago made a strutting, striking performance in reserve with Dena Lopez aboard for Maguire Hall LLC. The black and white pinto was black and pink by the end of this tough class in the hot and humid early evening. The switch to the Park division has been kind to the good doctor, as he has already collected five wins, including the Park Championship at Midwest, in his qualifying run for Louisville. Robert Gardiner took over the reins of Kristen Gardner’s park teammate, Kalarama’s Carrousel, to place third for Ready Set Show Inc.

In between classes, Scott Snider hit the ring for a ring drag, and a new Junior League feature debuted, the "Trotter Spotter." The cameras panned the crowd and focused in on people, blowing them up on the jumbotron for all to see. Part of the Fairfield South team got singled out, and while Devon Garone smiled and laughed, Kyle Gagnon gave in with a bit of a half-smirk. So let the record show that both of the Gagnon boys have smiled this week! We joke, of course, with our two young friends, Kyle and Gavin, two hard-working gentlemen of the show ring, if a bit serious at times.

The last time Max Kaplan showed on the Red Mile was in 2004. That Max and the Max that won the AHHS Road Pony Medallion tonight with Late Nite’s Basic Impact do not exactly bear much resemblance. In those six years, he’s probably shot up about two feet, looking like a strapping young gent, slightly different than the bow ties and boater hats that he made famous in his winning career with Seamair’s Dear Sir. He didn’t miss a beat, as he romped to a seventh straight win under the direction of Mike Roberts Stable. Alex Ververeli and CH Heartland Victory Maker continue to grow together as a team for Kathleen and Alex Ververeli and the Kierson team. This speedy duo earned the AHHS 13-and-Under Road Pony Medallion National Championship in 2009 and were Amateur Champions at Syracuse just a few weeks ago.

The Walnut Way team topped a beautiful group of five in the Open Phaeton Class. Marilyn Macfarlane was at the whip with her Friesian pair. Misdee Wrigley Miller was reserve with Remi and Shanks, her team of Dutch Harness Horses, for Hillcroft Farm.

Winner of the Section One qualifier here a year ago, CH Stonewall’s Stargate was the one to beat in a field of 19 strong entries in the Five-Gaited Pleasure class. Stefanie Lackey Sanchez maneuvered through the walls of traffic and made an outstanding ride for the unanimous blue. Peter and Kim Cowart were the excited trainers of this one, as they made their way to the winner’s circle. The reigning World’s Champion of Champions, Stargate looks to be on top of his game heading into the homestretch of the summer. The Five-Gaited Pleasure National Champion in 2009, CH Titleist Right Tonight was reserve here for Ally Ehle. Showing for Team Kierson and owners Bob and Nancy Ehle, Ally always stands out in her white coat. They made some passes that served notice that they too will be ready once the green shavings are spread. A longtime West Coast exhibitor, Martha Keck has a good one in Full Spectrum. They made their debut together back in 2004 and have been a top team in whatever division they have entered ever since. Now trained by Premier Stables, Full Spectrum was third tonight after winning the Five-Gaited Pleasure Championship at Shelby County Fair. While Janet Thompson may not resemble Ginny Weasley of Harry Potter fame, she certainly does love Quidditch, CH Quidditch that is. He finished in fourth tonight.

It was a year ago tonight that Ava Gardner and Ashley Alden said to the horse show world, "If you didn’t know us before, you certainly do now!"Their Amateur Five-Gaited Mare win on that night was one for the ages, and since then they have just kept getting better under the direction of Tammy DeVore. Showing for Alden Farms, Ashley and Ava got into their rhythm again tonight and made it two years in a row for the reigning Amateur Mare World’s Champions. In just their second class together, Amy Dix Rock and Turning The Page made mama proud as the reserve winners in this one. Mama in this case is the great CH My Front Page Lady, many times a Ladies Three-Gaited World’s Champion for Amy and winner of her fair share of classes on this very track. Ok, with 10 lifetime wins on The Red Mile she might have won several horses’ fair shares of classes here. Turning The Page is by Belle Reve’s Renaissance Man, who was also a four-time winner here, including the 1998 Five-Gaited Grand Championship. Making a great show in third was Emily Scharpf with Sensational Charm, a Knollwood-trained entry of Ed and Sarah Thordsen. While Dr. Sarah is away doing her residency, Emily Scharpf has taken over the reins for a great performance at Junior League.

Reigning Hackney Pony World’s Grand Champion Heartland High Tech was the Ladies Hackney Pony winner tonight with Ali DeGray once again doing the driving for Helen Rosburg. This impossibly hingy pony has not been beaten since his return to the show ring in 2009. Ruth Gimpel directs this power-packed pony. Second in the Amateur Hackney Pony class on Monday, Classical Dancer and Kathy Buente were back for more, earning a second reserve in this one under the direction of Lindsay Lavery.

Chelsea Ruxer made a pretty picture aboard Samuel Charles to win Saddle & Bridle’s Shatner Western Pleasure class under the direction of Rob and Jackie Tanner. CH Monsignor and Marie Gwinn were reserve tonight, just as they were in the Western qualifier on Tuesday morning.

Road Pony Champion here a year ago and twice a Reserve World’s Champion, Moment Of Excellence put on a show with Larry Ella in the Road Pony qualifier, taking the unanimous blue for Bent Tree Farm. The Mark Of Excellence son got rocked way, way back and reaching for the stars as he cruised down victory lane. Donna Zimmerman and her new road pony, P.T. Cruiser, were reserve here. Donna looked downright snazzy in her pink and black silks as she picked up the red ribbon under the direction of Majestic Oaks.

Callie Smith made her first trip aboard CH Enough About You a good one, as she made the most of this catch ride, taking the top spot with the support of all three judges. Owned by Lynda Norman and trained by DeLovely Farm, Enough About You was the Amateur Ladies 15.2-and-Under World’s Champion last year with Ashley Wilson. This horse never seems to have anything but a picture perfect headset and just seems to strut and march to Gene Wright’s music coming through the speakers. CH Yes It’s True and Karly Morgan find themselves in this 15-17 division for the first time. They were 14-and-Under Reserve Champions in 2009. They were reserve in this one as well for Fred and Pam Morgan and the Mercer Springs group. Allie Wellington already has three wins under her belt with Prom Dress. Directed by Lewis Eckard, this new team for 2010 shows much promise as the young mare’s junior season progresses. She was the UPHA Three-Gaited Classic Reserve National Champion last year with Ceil Wheeler.

Emerson had never seen the big lights of the Lexington stage before tonight, but he took to it like, well, a Standardbred to The Red Mile. Amateur Reserve World’s Champion last year with Jerry Miles, the entry of DeLovely Farm had the one and only Master of Faster in the bike tonight, as Raymond Shively took the quick trip down victory lane. Brad Lukens and Beaucourt Boy have really been coming on as of late for Charlie Jones. They were a hard-charging reserve in this one, making the blue ribbon winners work hard for the top prize.

Sam Stafford has taken over as the jockey for Lakeview’s Rare-A-Phi, the beautiful bay stallion owned by Hillcroft Farm. Rare-A-Phi was the Stallion Stake winner tonight, just as he was in 2008 when Misdee Wrigley Miller was in the irons. By Phi Slama Jama, this tremendously gifted stud is out of a Rare Treasure mare. Headhunter and Redd Crabtree were in the hunt in reserve for Martin Gueldner of Freudenberg, Germany. Germany also finished reserve in their World Cup Semi-Finals match against Spain earlier in the day. Gueldner made a great show with Headhunter earlier this season at Kentucky Spring Premier where they made a blue ribbon debut as a team.

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