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Louisville Saturday Evening – The Big Dance!



The Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship was decided by Larry Bacon! Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it turns out that every time Michele Macfarlane has won the biggest prize in the Saddlebred world, Larry Bacon has taken the victory pass in the class prior, the Hackney Pony Championship. Tonight, it was with Lord Ovation, owned by Art and Gaye Birtcher. In 1996, Larry won prior to CH Memories’ Citation’s Five-Gaited triumph. In 1988, he took the second-to-last victory pass before CH Sky Watch rocked Freedom Hall for the last time. The 1988 edition was with another Art and Gaye Birtcher entry, Poinsettia’s Reality. Out in the paddock, Michele Macfarlane took the Bacon/Birtcher triumph as a good omen and got ready to write history once again.


CCV Casey’s Final Countdown (SA) has been a work in progress and a labor of love for Macfarlane and her Scripps Miramar team, headed up by trainer Joel Aguilar and longtime companion and veterinarian, Dr. Don Trunk. His first U.S. show ring appearance came in 2004, and he has progressed slowly but surely. His Louisville ribbons have been a countdown to this moment. He finished fourth in 2004 in the Stallion Stake, third in 2005 in that same class, second this year in the Monday nightcap, so what else could he do but win it all tonight?


Final Countdown exudes a masculine power and a “wild” quality. It would not seem out of place to see him running in the wilderness with a band of mares. Perhaps it is his long, beautiful mane or the fire that burns in his eyes, but he is an entity the likes of which does not exist anywhere else in the show ring. He is the first stallion to win the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship since another South African horse did it in 1997, Zovoorbij Commander In Chief (SA).


Final Countdown is by the Foxfire’s Prophet stallion, Advocator, owned by Gene van der Walt. His dam is almost pure South African blood back three generations. She is a cross of Valley View Supreme and Wing Commander lines. But CCV Casey’s Final Countdown is pure South Africa. He just moves with an untamed quality about him that Michele Macfarlane has found a way to harness and control. The amount of athletic ability that he has, has sometimes been a blessing and a curse. Tonight, he put it all together, throwing his front legs to the sky and flying down the rail, squatting down low at the rack and rocking his head back into Macfarlane’s lap. It was a display of horsemanship and raw horsepower. Macfarlane described him in her post-win interview as “the biggest-hearted horse.”


Not the most verbose of individuals, the interview with Macfarlane was highlighted by Peter Doubleday asking how this win compared to the other two. “Well, I’m pretty excited right now,” she replied. It would be a difficult comparison to make. With CH Sky Watch, she brought him back from injury, a long and arduous process. With CH Memories’ Citation, she gaited the Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion. And with CCV Casey’s Final Countdown, she had to harness all of his wild power and get it going in one direction. Each win was different, but all three highlighted the persistence and desire of Michele Macfarlane.


By no means was this a walk in the park for Macfarlane and Final Countdown. Twelve entries were on hand to vie for the title. Prior to the class, the relatively new tradition of using the PepsiVision scoreboard to show a video presentation of past Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champions was observed. Big cheers from the crowd came for Wing Commander, My-My, Imperator, Wild-Eyed And Wicked and Boucheron, with Wing and Wicked getting the most response. It is always a nice presentation, and gives a chance to reflect on the history that is about to be written when the light switches from red to green and the gate swings open. Gene Wright played the traditional “My Old Kentucky Home” after Kentucky Derby horn blower Steve Buttleman sounded the call. One by one they came to the ring, just as they have for decades. First in was Grand Revival with Desiree Devries, followed by Red Hawk Red Hawk and Bill Schoeman. Next in was a crowd favorite, According To Lynn, with Mary Gaylord McClean. A surprise entry, Platinum’s New Look, came next with Todd Miles aboard, guaranteeing that a new horse would hold the title for the sixth consecutive year. Radiante hit next with Clark Clouse aboard, with Courageous Lord and Mike Barlow following close behind. Redd Crabtree was next up with Callaway’s Winning Ways. Twice Charmed and Melissa Moore came down the ramp next, followed by Michele Macfarlane and CCV Casey’s Final Countdown. Nelson Green brought Stallion Stake winner I’m First in, followed by CH Breaking News and Peter Cowart. Last to the ring was Pucker Up, with Robert Gardiner riding in his first Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship.


The table was set. The class was ready to go. And then Peter Doubleday announced that there was a shoe off in center ring. The crowd let out a groan, as they saw the impending five-minute break as a sure way to kill off the momentum was building up. But nobody claimed the shoe. Apparently it had been lost earlier in the night, so the class came to order at the trot, and the fireworks started to fly. Mitch Clark, Jack Noble and Jimmy Robertson were the panel given the honor of tying this greatest of horse show events. Clark had the call and used it, zipping through the gaits. Early on, it was Mary Gaylord McClean and According To Lynn who were whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Her entrance to the ring was perhaps the most impressive, charging up the 15,000-plus people in attendance. This pair of classy ladies worked hard in the first go-round, earning that applause every step of the way. It was clear that the three judges assembled here were going to go the traditional route of having a second workout, and they did just that.


After conformation judging, five horses were sent back to the rail. I’m First and Nelson Green were the first to be called from line, followed by Redd Crabtree and Callaway’s Winning Ways. Mary Gaylord McClean and According To Lynn headed to the rail next, with Michele Macfarlane and CCV Casey’s Final Countdown following close after. Todd Miles and Platinum’s New Look were called out, and round two was set to go. “Tonto” and Miles had barely broken a sweat during the class, a veteran move by Miles, knowing full well that he had done enough to make the cut. But the gloves came off when they went back to the rail, and Tonto showed the Freedom Hall crowd why it is so easy to fall in love with him.


The gamesmanship and showmanship in a workout in the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship are nearly as much fun to watch as the class itself. The quiet master of these important pieces tonight was Michele Macfarlane. As the crowd grew more and more boisterous in their support, Final Countdown continued to raise up, trotting higher and racking faster. This extra gear at the rack is the newest part of his game. Even between performances at UPHA Chapter One and Del Mar Charity Fair early on this year, there was a marked improvement at the slow gait and rack.


By the time the five contenders were reversed and headed down the homestretch, the huge crowd was beside itself, torn between the powerful Final Countdown, the beautiful According To Lynn, and the slick and flashy Platinum’s New Look.


The final result was a third Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship for Michele Macfarlane with three different horses. CCV Casey’s Final Countdown, co-owned by Macfarlane and Si-Si Stables, gave Macfarlane her first Five-Gaited title of this decade. Oddly enough, he was foaled nine days before Michele’s last Saturday night triumph, August 24, 1996, with CH Memories’ Citation.


Reserve World’s Grand Champion to a stallion once again, Mary Gaylord McClean made a valiant effort with According To Lynn, taking on the Open division and welcoming the challenge. This was the first time in history that two amateur ladies had finished one-two in the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship. There could not be a classier combo than Mary and Lynn. The drop-dead gorgeous mare is by CH Callaway’s Born To Win and out of Carol Lynn. She is a half sister to Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited showstopper this week, Lynn Williams. She presents a different picture than Mary’s past entrant into the Five-Gaited Stake, CH Santana Lass. Lass was more of a powerhouse mare, while According To Lynn exudes a beauty and a grace to complement her immense athletic ability. Mary Gaylord McClean and trainer Rob Byers have worked hard to accentuate this, and they almost reached the pinnacle tonight, garnering a first-place vote from Jimmy Robertson and a big ovation from the crowd, saluting a fantastic effort.


The crowd tonight was a knowledgeable one, paying tribute to effort as well as ability. They showed their respect for third-place finisher Platinum’s New Look as well. Todd Miles picked up the award for owner Steven Chancellor. “Tonto” picked up a Ladies Five-Gaited Gelding blue earlier in the week with Kim Cowart aboard in a catch-ride. New Look was bred by Randy Tabor. He is by the Worthy Son stallion, For What It’s Worth, who is out of Bit Hutcheson’s great three-gaited mare, CH In Reality, a World’s Champion herself. New Look is out of the Attaché’s Born Believer mare, Can’t Touch Her.


Fourth tonight was the great Stonecroft stallion, I’m First. Nelson Green had the stud in good order tonight, working hard to the very end. It was a big week for I’m First, as his full brother and sister took top ribbons as well. Redd Crabtree finished fifth with the Leatherwood Stud entry, Callaway’s Winning Ways. Just a five-year-old, this Callaway’s Blue Norther mare is out of the same dam as Callaway’s Lil Abner and CH Callaway’s Arbitrator. She is by Genius Bourbon Prince, a CH Greenway Commander son. Peter Cowart had CH Breaking News working slick and strong to take sixth for Megan McClure and Beth Arndt, while Twice Charmed and Melissa Moore were seventh for North Corporate Properties LLC. Another favorite of the crowd, Courageous Lord, was eighth with Mike Barlow for Marsha Shepard and Bill Carrington.


The Ladies Three-Gaited Championship started off the evening’s festivities and set a theme for the evening: Great Quality, Small Quantity. Only five showed back to vie for this title, but they were five great ones. The Ladies World’s Championship went home to Greensboro, North Carolina, with Our Charming Lady and Mary Marcum Orr, showing for Jack and Donna Finch. Undefeated on the season, this team won the under two qualifier on Wednesday. The six-year-old mare was brought out as a youngster by Kent Swalla and Mike Roberts. She is by Santana’s Charm and out of My Bugatti Royale, a Local Hero mare shown with great success in fine harness by Dena Lopez. Mary Marcum Orr, who met husband Evan at William Woods University, could not have been more excited or overjoyed. The very gracious winner may not yet have stopped smiling. Even Cash Lovell got into the excitement, giving Evan a playful crack across the shins with his long whip as they ran from the winner’s circle.


This class came down to a battle of styles. It was a matter of preference between a straight up and down trot and the go-forward power of reserve champion Marching Orders. Two-time defending champion of this division with Barbara Goodman Manilow, Marching Orders put his immense talent on display once again. The six-year-old Merchant Prince gelding is a sight to behold every time he touches the green shavings. Third in this top-to-bottom outstanding class was Victoria Lynn, in from California with Helen Cherry aboard. This matched their placing from last year’s championship. This seven-year-old mare, another one by For What It’s Worth, was Junior Three-Gaited World’s Champion with Ceil Wheeler in 2004. Sue-She and Ericka Nelson made a strong show in fourth, while over 15.2 qualifier winner, Madeira’s Love, was fifth with Liz Cortright showing for Fox Grape Farms.


The first pony class of the night was the Roadster Pony Championship. For the second year in a row, Free Willy and Georgia Blevins trotted off with the roses. “The jog is a march!” Maureen Lydon called over the rail to Blevins as the class got underway. That message was taken to heart, as march they did, up one rail and down the other, moving crisply but without losing form for an instant. The big bay pony was greeted in the winner’s circled by the Majestic Oaks team of Rich Campbell and Maureen Lydon, along with two of their grooms. Repeating their finish from last year, Beaulah Jean and Jeff McClean were the Reserve World’s Grand Champions for Golden Creek Farms. It was another clash of styles, as Beaulah Jean is a smaller pony, winner of the 50 Inches and Under qualifier, with more of a flowing, go-forward way of moving.


The Ladies Five-Gaited Championship was another class short on entries but long on talent. Only four hit the ring in this one. The epitome of a Ladies Five-Gaited horse, CH Walterway’s Remember Me retired the Joan Robinson Hill Memorial Challenge Trophy, winning it for the third year in a row with Ceil Wheeler. Everything about this team exudes class and grace, all the way down to the small details of Ceil’s light gray suit matching Remember Me’s tail perfectly. John and Tammie Conatser made the trip to the winner’s circle with the three-time winner. Gayle Lampe wore her trademark smile from ear to ear aboard CH Callaway’s Born To Win, sire of Reserve World’s Grand Champion According To Lynn. He grabbed a reserve world’s championship of his own here, his third since winning the championship in 2003. Rounding out the awards were Lawman and Lisa Heres Rosenberger in third for Cindy and Lee Wagoner, with Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight in fourth for Sam and Vicki Reed.


CH Walterway’s Remember Me with Ceil Wheeler


The first class to sport double-digit entries on the evening was the Amateur Three-Gaited Championship A total of 11 showed back in this one, and from the moment the gate opened, it was wide open for the taking. First one entry then another would make a pass that had the crowd trying to figure out who they wanted to tie. Sally Groub Gayeski’s new mount, Freakness, was true to his name, looking fantastic at times, winding up in sixth place. Rick Daigle and I’m Sky High keep improving with each show they make. The big bay gelding wound up fifth in this one. CH Callaway’s Halley’s Comet and Jessica Curl made a consistently brilliant show to take the hotly-contested white ribbon. Phillipa Sledge and The Great Gaspar, he of the famous family, were strutting their stuff in third. This little gelding really loves his work and pumps his legs like all his famous brothers and sisters.


In the end, it came down to two horses, the new kid on the block versus the multi-titled veteran. CH Yes It’s True has been winning in Freedom Hall since 1998, and nine years later, he still has that competitive fire and ability. Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion in 2001 with Sam Stafford and three-time winner of this Amateur Three-Gaited title with Phillipa Sledge, the 13-year-old son of CF First Night Out is teamed to perfection with Kathy Lyda Berger. She wore a baby blue and white-striped satin formal coat that looked absolutely breathtaking. But tonight, it was Boston Legal’s moment in the spotlight. Junior Three-Gaited World’s Champion in 2005 with Renee Biggins, Boston Legal is by Royal Return and out of a CH War Whoop Two mare. He is a product of John and Dorothy Lenore’s breeding program. Elizabeth Shatner put on a truly remarkable performance with this big, strong chestnut, showing under the direction of Tre Lee. Shatner and Boston Legal were a picture of consistency, never missing a beat and marching straight down victory lane in one of the best performances of the night.


Kathy Lyda Berger with

trainers Betsy and Paul Boone


The much-anticipated Fine Harness Championship exploded into Freedom Hall, with six coming to battle it out. There was a delay after the first four came in, as the crowd waited with bated breath. The two left out in the paddock were the two they had all come to see. Finally, Joe Friday and Kenny Wheeler burst through the in-gate, and for about five strides they were headed down the path to the roses. Then the crowd recognized him and exploded, and unfortunately, so did he. The absolute phenom was never able to settle in throughout the whole class, jittery and out of cadence, and never himself. George Knight saw his opportunity and took it. He blasted through the in-gate right behind Joe Friday with Along Came A Spider, the cult hero black mare. Knight got the crowd behind him from the beginning, showing at a somewhat slower pace than in the qualifier, placing the mare in the perfect place to show what she is capable of. A truly masterful performance earned George Knight his first ever Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship. It seemed fitting that the roses for the Fine Harness Champion were white, to offset the jet-black Sultan’s Great Day mare. Walt Bullard met Knight in the winner’s circle, as tearfully joyful owner Georgia Herpin Baker cheered from her front row seat. Her mare had finally done it after finishing reserve to Callaway’s Copyright the last three years.


Celebrating Spider’s big win –

(l. to r.) Kim Skipton, George Knight, Walt Bullard,

Georgia Herpin Baker, and Carolyn Garrett


John Champagne had a gorgeous, powerful mare, Seaforth’s Bonnie Lass, making people sit up and take notice. They were the Reserve World’s Grand Champions for Margo Harwood. With a license to be a harness star, this seven-year-old mare is by Revival and out of CH Rejoice. The Tango Dancer, Stallion/Gelding qualifier winner, was third for Ronnie Graham and Pixie Dust and Steel. Summerset Morn and Larry Gardinier were fourth for Aryls and Jerry Solien, while Reveal and Carl Irwin finished fifth for Happy Valley Stables. Joe Friday got a nice sendoff from the crowd in sixth with Kenny Wheeler for new owner Helen Rosburg.


In a continuing theme, two contrasting styles clashed for the Harness Pony World’s Grand Championship. Reserve World’s Grand Champion last year and reserve in his qualifier, Heartland Expectation pounded down the chute with something to prove tonight. Newcomer Dun-Haven Phenomenal had bested him in the qualifier, and it was time to settle the score. These two ponies are different as night and day. Expectation is by Dun-Haven Awesome Creation. He is a fine, elegant pony, showing with a graceful, floating park trot. Phenomenal is by Dun-Haven Center Attraction. He exudes as much masculinity as a Hackney pony can. He is all about power and strength.


After a fairly even first direction, the ponies reversed, and Karen Frickey raised Heartland Expectation up another notch. The long-necked pony took it from there, taking a unanimous vote. Randy Harper gave the pony a pat on the neck when his number was called, and Denessa Harper gave a double fist pump in the moat, before running in through the side gate. Dun-Haven Phenomenal and Maureen Lydon put up a strong fight, taking the Reserve World’s Grand Championship. It was still another crowd-pleasing performance for this tough little team suffering their first defeat.


Frickey Farms celebrates –

(l. to r.) Denessa and Randy Harper, Karen Frickey,

Lauren Mathewson, and David Swezey


Alan Balch took over the microphone for a short break in the action to induct Jack Nevitt, Jimmy Robertson and C.E. “Pep” Peppiatt into the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame. Their families were on hand as the inductees were presented their awards by Scarlett Mattson, Bill Munford and Tandy Patrick.


With 2005 and 2006 World’s Grand Champion Manila Thrilla moving to the Amateur Ladies division this year, the Three-Gaited World’s Grand Championship was up for grabs, hence why it attracted the attention of a couple young horses, figuring to take their shot at the title. Glenview’s Excelalante! is a gorgeous, fine, bay three-year-old, winner of the ASR National Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited Futurity on Tuesday night. Chuck Herbert shows this royally bred colt. He is by Designed and out of the black harness mare, Tra La La, leading to the spelling of ExceLALAnte. Herbert had the colt working in high form tonight. Also taking his shot at glory was Harlem’s Showman, the four-year-old by Harlem Globetrotter who was reserve in the Junior Three-Gaited Under 15.2 qualifier. Robert Gardiner made some great passes with this black colt that won the UPHA Three-Gaited Classic Finals last fall at Kansas City. But these two youngsters could not match the consistency of Grande Gil. Junior Three-Gaited Reserve World’s Champion last year and second in the ASR Three-Year-Old National Futurity in 2005, Grande Gil and Neil Visser finally broke through this year. They exhibited that consistent, marching, cadenced trot that the judges were looking for. He never took a step out of line, and he never backed an ear. Visser rode him as he always does, showing at the trot with one hand on the reins and one hand touching Gil’s withers occasionally.


Judges Rob Wilson, Jack Noble and Jimmy Robertson conferred after the conformation judging was complete, but the idea of a workout was vetoed and the judges marked their cards, sending Grande Gil and Neil Visser to the winner’s circle for Joan Hamilton. This five-year-old chestnut gelding is by I’m The Prince, the heir apparent to Merchant Prince’s throne at Happy Valley Stables. I’m The Prince is out of Crowned, a Foxfire’s Prophet mare. Grande Gil is out of Steel Hearted Woman, by General Steel, who is owned by none other than Gil Romito. Glenview’s Excelalante! received a huge ovation from the crowd as the Reserve World’s Grand Champion, trotting around the judges’ stand and out the gate while his fans screamed and waved their signs, like Thea Ervin’s that said “Chuck is Excelalante!” Robert Gardiner and Harlem’s Showman finished third, making a strong show and promising good things to come for owner EquiElegance Ltd.


Larry Hodge, Joan Hamilton, and Neil Visser


Peter Doubleday dubbed Raymond Shively “The Engineer of the Success Express” and “The Master of Faster,” as Raymond and Big Red tore up the green shavings of victory lane, adding one more to Shively’s record for Roadster to Bike World’s Grand Championships. This was the third year in a row for Big Red to take the tri-color and roses, retiring the Private Party Memorial Challenge Trophy. In 2004, he won the USTA Roadster to Bike Classic here. He is undefeated in his three years showing with Raymond Shively. Marilyn Macfarlane looked like she was having the time of her life with Braveheart. She put on a great show to take the Reserve World’s Grand Championship for the second year in a row and the third time in four years.


The Charles Glenn Memorial Challenge Trophy was the next to be retired, as Swish made a solid, ground-pounding performance with Carol Hillenbrand to win the Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Championship for the third time in the last four years. Swish is a cross of Supreme Heir and a Harlem Globetrotter mare out of Carol Lynn, the dam of According To Lynn and Lynn Williams. Hillenbrand and Swish dropped their blanket of flowers during their victory pass, so they stopped and waited at the far end for John Conatser to run down to put them back on. The flowers stayed on for the second half of the victory pass. Second in this one was a South African product who took his third consecutive reserve world’s championship. Reserve World’s Grand Champion in 2005 with Lionel Ferreira and Ladies Reserve World’s Champion of Champions in 2006, Dr. Wendy Troyer took Carlswald Prince’s Dominoe (SA) into the amateur division this year, earning another reserve championship. Prince’s Dominoe can trace three quarters of his pedigree back to Wing Commander. CH Have You Ever and Barclay de Wet were third in another valiant effort. CH Amusing and Amy Dix Rock were fourth, after taking the mare qualifier.


Roch and Carol Hillenbrand

with John and Tammie Conatser


The aforementioned Larry Bacon and Lord Ovation took the Hackney Pony World’s Grand Championship in high style for Art and Gaye Birtcher. The four-year-old bay is by Nabucco, the World’s Grand Champion for the last two years. After a remarkably quick turnaround, Marilyn Macfarlane was back in a decidedly different outfit than her racing silks, driving Fancy Ribbons to a reserve world’s grand championship that was well-received by the crowd. It was Macfarlane’s second such title in three classes. The 14-year-old mare is owned by Randi Wightman.


As the 2007 curtain dropped on CCV Casey’s Final Countdown and Michele Macfarlane, the crowd filed to the exits, heading to their destinations, whether it was for a much-needed good night’s sleep, a long drive home, or to hit the social scene at the Executive West to watch Chad Graham sing a few songs with the band. No matter where they were headed, no matter how worn out they were, they still can’t wait to do it all over again next year.

Complete results from Saturday night can be found by clicking here.

Click here for Saturday's judges cards.

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