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Louisville - Saturday Night

Whether they were fans of the Tar Heels, Bill Whitley’s Wolfpack, the Blue Devils, or the Demon Deacons, all of North Carolina had cause to celebrate on Saturday night, as all three Saddlebred World’s Grand Champions are North Carolina-owned. Two of them are owned and trained in North Carolina, while the third was recently purchased by a North Carolinian. It can also be noted that two of three World’s Grand Champions were shown by ladies and all three reserve world’s grand champions featured lady exhibitors as well. Usually it is Wednesday night that is considered "Ladies Night" at the World’s Championship Horse Show, but this year Saturday was also thrown in that mix. And let’s not forget to mention that all three grand champions won by a unanimous decision! How often does that happen?

First of these North Carolina Champions has also resided in the state the longest. CH Breaking News has been owned by Megan McClure and Beth Arndt since 2003. In a division that looked wide open coming into the show, the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship did not disappoint. With gelding winner Bravo Blue on his way home to New Bloomfield, Missouri, and the reigning World’s Grand Champion safely at home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, the gaited stake had an air of the unknown about it. Who would rise to the forefront to take home the red roses?

According To Lynn came ready to rock. The mare winner showed with the verve and energy of a great one with Mary Gaylord McClean pushing her on to the limits of her ability. Neil Visser had stud stake winner Calif First Night Out (SA) punched up and moving in wild style. Callaway’s Karla, second in the mare stake, was living up to her Blue Norther blue blood with Debbie Foley, while Tammy DeVore blasted down the rail with Thunderstorm Warning in her go-for-broke style. Courageous Lord was putting on a show with Mike Barlow aboard, while Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight were earning cheers from the crowd as they poured it on. The surprise entry tonight was former World’s Grand Champion CH Five O’Clock, with Todd Miles aboard. Once Gene Wright had finished playing My Old Kentucky Home and all 11 entries were present and accounted for, Peter Doubleday turned them loose and the class was under way.

It is always fun to watch the gaited stake, waiting for the crowd to pick up on their favorites to really make the atmosphere electric. All throughout the first work, it was Mary Gaylord McClean and According To Lynn that seemed to have the biggest following, receiving the largest ovation when Rob Byers lined the mare up in front of the judges for conformation judging. Todd Miles and CH Five O’Clock also received a nice ovation after they really turned it on second way of the ring. Neil Visser and the South African stallion, Calif First Night Out, also got a good response from the crowd, while Tammy DeVore and Thunderstorm Warning always have strong crowd support. Courageous Lord and Mike Barlow are always big favorites as well, and they received a nice round of applause as well.

While the crowd was cheering for many, the panel also hadn’t decided on its pick yet. Judges Gene van der Walt, James Nichols and Barbe Smith sent five horses back to the rail for the traditional workout. Back to the rail went Callaway’s Karla, CH Breaking News, According To Lynn, Calif First Night Out, and Thunderstorm Warning. All three lady riders cut their mounts loose, using every bit of power and energy they had at their disposal. Neil Visser and Calif First Night Out who made their best show yet in the first work, pushed hard to keep up with the ladies. Visser’s skill at getting the best out of this horse really shone through as he kept his entry in good form the entire way.

It is always the crowd that urges these finalists on, willing them to the finish line. The crowd had two big favorites in the workout tonight, According To Lynn and CH Breaking News. McClean and Lynn were the sentimental crowd favorites from the outset of course, as they had finished as the Reserve World’s Grand Champions last year, the third time that she finished in that spot.

But for all the talent and ability they were up against, Peter Cowart and Breaking News just kept getting better and better, progressing through the class and building to their eventual triumph. The crowd built with them, as they greeted their first work passes with nice ovations. Cowart was making the smartest ride of his life on the biggest stage the industry has to offer. He had the best horse in the class to handle the format of the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship, and he knew it. With two timeouts, including a thrown shoe, during the initial rail work and then the stripping of the class, the ability to stop a horse and then bring him back to life for a second workout is not something that all possess. Cowart had that ability and then some tonight, as Breaking News hit his stride in the additional work as if it was the first time he had shown all week. Blasting down the rail at top speed Breaking News earned the vote of all three judges to take home Peter Cowart’s first World’s Grand Championship for the ecstatic grandmother-granddaughter team of Megan McClure and Beth Arndt.

As Cowart said in his winner’s circle interview, "I dreamed of this when I first saw Sky Watch." And now there he was, with the blanket of roses and Louisville tri-color that all of the great ones have worn before. When asked what he would do to celebrate, Cowart pointed out, "My wife sold I’m McDreamy, so she’s kind of in mourning, so I’ll have to go home and take care of that." Always with the good sense of humor and a smile on his face, Peter Cowart’s smile could not have been bigger tonight, as he rode down victory lane, the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion of the 105th World’s Championship Horse Show.

CH Breaking News is by CH The Talk Of The Town and out of Reedann’s Cascade, by CH Caramac. He was bred and brought out as a three-year-old by Reedannland, where Rob Kritzler was working at the time. After that, he went to Kris Knight and then Merrill Murray for his four-year-old campaign under the ownership of Barbara and Robert Wood, before Megan McClure took over the reins in 2003. They won a World’s Championship together in 2004 in Megan’s final junior exhibitor year. McClure and Arndt turned the reins over to Peter Cowart full-time this year, and it sure worked out well.

When According To Lynn headed back to the rail for the second work, she looked like she was going to hand Mary Gaylord McClean her first World’s Grand Championship. Putting on her best performance of the year and with the crowd cheering her on, the mare put on a show at that first trot which seemed to say she was ready for the challenge. But even she could not resist that inexorable march to the winner’s circle that Breaking News put on, finishing as the Reserve World’s Grand Champion for the second year in a row, Mary Gaylord McClean’s fourth time finishing in this slot, with two different mares. According To Lynn shares some lineage with the Breaking News, as she is out of Carol Lynn (BHF), a daughter of CH The Talk Of The Town. Lynn was famously sired by the now-gelded CH Callaway’s Born To Win, by Callaway’s Blue Norther and out of Lady Gambler, the Buck And Wing mare that also produced CH Lady Luck BG. Royally bred and royally shown, According To Lynn will have her day.

Coming off of a great win at Blue Ridge that really had the crowd talking, Callaway’s Karla was in top form tonight, with the veteran of many a show ring battle, Debbie Foley, riding hard for Jo Ann Griffin in third. Just a five-year-old, Callaway’s Karla looks capable of even bigger things in her career. Karla shares blood with According To Lynn, as she is by Callaway’s Blue Norther. She is out of Callaway’s Twice The Spice, by The Mean Machine and out of a CH Caramac mare that is a full sister to CH Callaway’s Rockaway and Callaway’s Frank James.

Calif First Night Out has that wild South African style about him, harnessed and put to best use by Neil Visser for owner Elisabeth Goth Chelberg. His sire is a cross of Arborlane Tangos Wee Pee and the great South African stallion, Mr. U.S.A. Shown by Elisabeth Chelberg for most of the year, First Night Out took his shot at the World’s Grand Championship with Neil Visser aboard, putting on an awesome show, especially in the first go-round. They finished fourth tonight.

A son of Attache’s Thunderbolt and the County Fair Champion on Sunday night, Thunderstorm Warning finished in fifth tonight with Tammy DeVore aboard for Martha Pope. Always receiving a warm response from the crowd with her hard-riding style, DeVore had the seven-year-old gelding working strong and true all the way to the end of the five-horse workout.

Rounding out the ribbons were CH Five O’Clock and Todd Miles for Chris and Jean Nalley, Courageous Lord and Mike Barlow for Marsha Shepard and Bill Carrington, and Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight for Sam and Vicki Reed. All three of these contenders made noteworthy passes in the first round gathering crowd support for a second look in this exceptionally deep class.

Owned and trained in North Carolina since the beginning of 2007, Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion CH Our Chaming Lady and Mary Marcum Orr took their shot at the big one, and it paid off in unanimous fashion! Undefeated together, showing almost exclusively in the ladies division, this drop-dead gorgeous team took the Ladies Three-Gaited World’s Championship in 2007. Having qualified with a win in the ladies over two class, the Cash Lovell crew made the decision to bring the mare back for the World’s Grand Championship. Once the gate closed on the ladies stake that opened the Saturday night performance with no Our Charming Lady, the crowd knew that this beautiful bay would be taking her shot at the Open class. Our Charming Lady is the epitome of elegance and beauty, qualities that have always been hallmarks of the three-gaited division. She used a second second-way trot to really step up and show her stuff to finish with the tri-color and blanket of roses.

Our Charming Lady is by Santana’s Charm and out of My Bugatti Royale, a Local Hero mare who was Junior Fine Harness World’s Champion of Champions. Charming Lady was bred by LCC Enterprises and was brought out as a three-year-old by Kent Swalla, then a trainer at Mike Roberts Stable showing for Marion W. Sorenson and later Gayle Lampe. She then went to Bill and Debbie Tomin, before finally being purchased by Jack and Donna Finch and the Cash Lovell team. The rest is history. Part of the always vocal Cash Lovell cheering section held up signs, with Our Charming Lady on one side, and Mary Jane Marcum Orr on the other. That was at the in-gate end. Another part of the team was at the far end of the ring, and Orr raised her fist in celebration to them as she went by.

The Reserve World’s Grand Champion was last year’s World’s Grand Champion with Neil Visser aboard. This year, owner Misdee Wrigley Miller took over the reins of Grande Gil and really put together a strong performance to take the reserve tie tonight. Grande Gil made a powerful, strutting show, a great example of the new school of walk-trot horses. Miller made it look easy tonight, controlling the great ball of Saddlebred power beneath her and sending it in the proper direction down the rail. Grande Gil was the first World’s Grand Champion sired by the Merchant Prince heir, I’m The Prince. He is out of a General Steel x Grape Tree’s Fox cross, Steel Hearted Woman. The next two ribbons went to horses that have won and continue to knock at the door with their classic walk-trot looks and way of going. A.J. Bruwer put on a masterful presentation of Liberty’s Magic in third for Vicki Reed, while Harlem’s Showman, winner of the over two qualifier, was fourth with Robert Gardiner up for EquiElegance Ltd.

The Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship may win the award for best breakout performance. Once again by a unanimous decision, the judges determined that Mother Mary had broken through to the top of the fine harness world. Always a popular entry, with her size and beauty to go along with Sandy Lilly, the epitome of class, at the lines, Mother Mary had won just one class this year prior to tonight. The fine harness ranks have been absolutely vicious this year as far as competition goes, and tonight was no exception, as there were four or five horses that seemed capable of winning it all. But through it all, there was Sandy Lilly, dressed all in black and showing in her highlining style, asking the grand mare for all and getting that and more to take her first World’s Grand Championship. Smith Lilly punched the air as he ran to the winner’s circle, and new owner Anita Simpson probably summed up her feelings best as she ecstatically screamed, "Oh my God! Did you see that?! Did you see her win that class?!"

Mother Mary is no stranger to the Freedom Hall winner’s circle. She won the ASR Amateur Two Year Old Futurity with Kenny Wheeler, then the ASR National Three Year Old Park Pleasure Futurity, followed the next year by a Junior Fine Harness Mare World’s Championship. Coming into this week, this Revival daughter had racked up over $44,000 in prize money in her lifetime, a healthy sum. Mother Mary is a product of the Belle Reve breeding program out of Mother Superior a Chief Of Greystone mare. All of her previous world’s championships were won under the ownership of Platinum Stock Farm.

Undefeated under the direction of Ruth Gimpel and Ronnie Graham, Joe Friday looked to be on course for a World’s Grand Championship. Coming off a fantastic performance at Lexington and an equally strong showing in the Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding World’s Championship, Joe Friday came ready to assume his place atop the Fine Harness world on Saturday night. Impeccably dressed in a flowing white dress, Ruth Gimpel has done a wonderful job with the hugely powerful son of Attache’s Thunderbolt. When the crowd started to grow in excitement, Joe grew right with them, reaching to his lofty heights, finishing as the Reserve World’s Grand Champion. It took a Herculean effort to beat him tonight, and that is just what Sandy Lilly and Mother Mary turned in, besting the best to take the roses. That makes five of the six Saddlebred World’s or Reserve World’s Grand Championships the property of lady exhibitors. Only Peter Cowart took one home for the gentlemen.

Castledream was the surprise entry to the ring in this one, as Larry Hodge came through the in-gate with Castledream showing in his lofty, floating way. The amateur ladies world’s champion and last year’s Amateur Fine Harnes World’s Champion of Champions made an extraordinary show in third. The reigning world’s grand champion, CH Along Came a Spider, finished fourth for George Knight and Georgia Herpin Baker. "Melanie" is always a delight to the crowd, with her jet black color and George Knight’s showmanship on display with every pass. Another daughter of Revival, this one out of CH Rejoice, Seaforth’s Bonnie Lass finished fifth. To give you an idea of the depth of this class, Bonnie Lass was the reserve world’s grand champion last year. John Champagne was once again at the lines for Margot Harwood. It has been an amazing year in the harness division. Let’s hope that trend continues into 2009!

Opening up the evening, Priscilla Marconi set the tone for Stake Night with an absolutely beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. George Robertson worked the show ring as the fourth ringmaster on Saturday night. George has been a fixture at ringmaster of every Midwest show for what seems like forever. It was a great way to honor his great service to the world of horses.

The first event of 11 on Saturday night saw another breakthrough performance, as Victoria Lynn made a show-stopping (and show-starting in this instance) presentation for Helen Cherry to take the Ladies Three-Gaited World’s Championship. It was not too shabby of a week for Zazen Ranch, as the two Zazen-owned horses that went to Louisville came back with three world’s championship titles, this one unanimous. Brookhill’s Periday and Jim Cherry earned the Three-Gaited Park World’s Championship earlier in the day. Perhaps after having to deal with husband Jim all day, Helen was even more motivated to put on the show of a lifetime tonight. She moved back ahead of Jim on the Cherry family world’s championship tally sheet and into a tie with daughter Caroline. After finishing third in both classes for the last two years, Victoria Lynn made her return to the Freedom Hall winner’s circle. She won the Junior Three-Gaited World’s Championship with Ceil Wheeler in 2004.

Dr. Owen Weaver did her best Christina Collis impersonation as she walked out of the ring on the arm of Bill Whitley with her reserve world’s championship ribbon. Madeira’s Love, last year’s ladies over two world’s champion with Liz Cortright and second in that class this year, made one of her best shows to date for Dr. Owen Weaver. The six year old mare is definitely one to watch as she gets another off season of work with Dr. Weaver and the talented Lonnie Quarles and Patty Milligan. Callaway’s Edelweiss and Stephanie Sedlacko were third for RSM Farms under the Shadow Run banner, while Wee Pee’s Storm and Ali DeGray were making passes that staked their claim to the championship in fourth.

In what had to have been the best and deepest Road Pony World’s Grand Championship in recent memory, eight top ponies answered the call to the post. The call to the post at Louisville is played by Steve Buttleman, who also sounds the horn for the Kentucky Derby. Perhaps inspired by the proximity to Churchill Downs, these ponies came ready to race. Wearing his blue and silver silks with black loafers, Jeff McClean took home the world’s grand championship with Beaulah Jean. By Romeo LF, this mare was the reserve world’s grand champion the last two years and the 50" and under world’s champion for the third year in a row. So strong behind and with a neck that rocks back almost past vertical, Beaulah Jean really blasted through the gate tonight to finally claim that elusive world’s grand championship, McClean’s first personal Saturday night victory pass.

Lexington’s grand champion and the 50-52" world’s champion, Seize The Moment, seized the first of Ruth Gimpel’s two Road Pony Reserve World’s Grand Championships on the night for Helen and James Rosburg. A Junior Exhibitor World’s Champion every year from 2005-2007 with Ali DeGray at the lines, Seize The Moment has been up to the challenge of the open division this year, moving with speed and action down the rail. Two-time defending World’s Grand Champion and winner of the past three 50-52" world’s championships, Free Willy earned the yellow streamers for Georgia Blevins. Prior to 2005, Free Willy was Ali DeGray’s junior exhibitor partner, winning multiple world’s championships with her as well. Free Willy shows out of Majestic Oaks. Also holding her own with the trainers under the Majestic Oaks banner was Toni Nastali with Heartland Victory Maker who wore the County Fair roses Sunday night. They finished fourth tonight.

"He really smoked tonight!" exclaimed John Conatser as he exited the ring after stripping CH Walterway’s Remember Me in the Ladies Five-Gaited World’s Championship. The judges agreed, as Ceil Wheeler went to the winner’s circle with Remember Me for the fourth straight year. The trip to the far end of the ring was a bit slower this year, as Remember Me threw a shoe on the way into the lineup. Even with no shoe, and just bounce-walking out of the ring, this grand horse was still going level as he received a great ovation from the crowd on his way out of the ring. Remember Me is by Star Material and out of the CH Yorktown mare, Yorktown’s Forget-Me-Not. He was bred by one of his biggest fans, Larry Hartsock.

It was a battle of the silver tails, as Callaway’s Born For This and Deborah Visser earned the reserve world’s championship and a thunderous cheer for Stonecroft Farm. Born For This won the Mare qualifier earlier in the week and was a two-time winner at Lexington last month. She had previously been undefeated in Freedom Hall, winning as a three-year-old and twice as a four-year-old. She is out of the Sultan’s Great Day mare, Beckon The Day. Her sire, Callaway’s Born To Win, finished third in this class, with Gayle Lampe once again the happy rider. Now 15 years young, Born To Win still puts on his best show every time he hits the ring. He and Lampe are always a joy to watch. Fourth in the class and one to watch for as the young mare progresses through her training, First Chapter and Tracy James make passes that show what they are capable of together in every class.

Before the Amateur Three-Gaited Championship, Scarlett Mattson was honored for her 30 years of service to the World’s Championship Horse Show, the people of Kentucky, and the entire world of horses. It was a well-deserved honor for the lady who manages the biggest Saddlebred show in the world.

Few three-gaited horses have made more consistently impressive performances than Marching Orders this season. ladies world’s champion in 2005 and 2006 and reserve world’s champion last year, Marching Orders has stepped up more at the trot this year with Barbara Goodman Manilow. Showing with added energy to go along with his already legendary headset and always bright ears, Marching Orders stormed to the Amateur Three-Gaited World’s Championship. A now seven-year-old son of Merchant Prince, Marching Orders is out of a CH Caramac x Supreme Sultan cross. His second dam is a full sister to Sultan’s Starmaker.

Hollywood Agent earned the reserve world’s championship with a superior ride put on by last year’s Senior Equitation World’s Champion of Champions, Ali Judah. Hollywood Agent is the second of two performers by Exalted Effect and out of a world’s grand champion three-gaited mare to show on Saturday. Pola Negri, out of CH An Heir About Her, won the Park Pleasure Futurity earlier in the day. Already a Broodmare Hall of Famer, Hollywood Agent’s dam, CH Hollywood Excellence (BHF), continues to be a prolific producer. Odyssey Man and Terri Dolan made a strong show in third, while Juliette’s Deja Blue and Andrea Athanasuleas, Lexington’s grand champions, were fourth. Fifth went to the aforementioned World’s Grand Champion CH An Heir About Her and Sarah Rowland.

In a shimmering cream dress, Karen Frickey repeated her Harness Pony World’s Grand Championship drive from last year with Heartland Expectation, once again taking the tri-color. Strangely enough, it was a comeback drive once again this year, returning from a reserve in the Stallion/Gelding qualifier to take the World’s Grand Championship. Expectation is by Dun-Haven Awesome Creation and out of a Dun-Haven Bandolier mare. He was bred by Darrel Kolkman and now shows under the direction of Randy and Denessa Harper. Also repeating the exact same finishes from last year, Dun-Haven Phenomenal finished as the reserve world’s grand champion after taking the Stallion/Gelding World’s Championship. Shown once again by Maureen Lydon for Carl and Kathryn Nichols, Phenomenal showed with plenty of four-cornered energy and verve tonight, though he seemed to not know what to make of trail of white rose petals left by Mother Mary. Word’s grand champion in 2005, Par Excellence was third tonight with Larry Ella driving for Bent Tree Farm.

With white rose petals flying off in his wake, Big Red sped to a fourth consecutive Roadster to Bike World’s Grand Championship. Shown to a USTA Roadster Classic World’s Championship in 2004 by J.D. Gardner, Big Red has worn the roses every year since with the Master of Faster, Raymond Shively. Raymond and Big Red have won every class they have entered together, 27 and counting. Moving from the amateur ranks to take a shot at the big stake, Tom Fiedler and Valparaiso gave a thrilling performance to earn the reserve world’s grand championship under the direction of Jim Lowry. This was the best-ever Louisville finish for this team, and they did it on the biggest stage the Standardbred breed has to offer in the show ring.

Taking the second of two Carriage Lane gaited world’s championships, Swish and Carol Hillenbrand earned the unanimous choice of the judges as the Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions for the second year in a row. John Conatser gave a fist pump and a cheer as he jogged his way to the winner’s circle. Swish just continues to get better and better as he edges into double digits. Now 11, Swish has not been beaten in the past two years, his last defeat coming in this very class in 2006. That was one of only two times that he and Hillenbrand have worn anything but blue, the other coming in their very first class together in 2003. That is an absolutely remarkable show record for an equally remarkable team.

Also 11 years old, CH Callaway’s Banner Headline has had a long and storied career as well. Purchased as a three-year-old by Janet Kellett from Callaway Hills, he has made great strides over the years, achieving the Ladies Five-Gaited World’s Championship in 2004 with Janet Crampton. Now trained by DeLovely, Banner Headline and Kellett are working well together in the show ring. They finished as the reserve world’s champions in this one. Banner Headline is a half brother to Callaway’s Twice The Spice, dam of Callaway’s Karla, third in the gaited stake with Debbie Foley.

Third in this rousing class went to Bluebonnet’s Challenger and Joan Cantrell. In their best Louisville performance together, Challenger and Cantrell pulled out all the stops for the yellow ribbon. Bluebonnet’s Challenger is by CH Shoobop Shoobop. Justin Cowley put on his usual highlining, crowd-pleasing performance in fourth with CH Colonel Hoss for Paul and Leeta Beachum.

The traditional last class before the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship saw three ponies duke it out for the Hackney Pony World’s Grand Championship. On The Mark was exactly that to take his first world’s grand championship with Karen Waldron who was in her red gown which was was accented by the roses draped over On The Mark as they exited Freedom Hall. Larry Ella was at the lines for this powerful son of Mark Of Excellence’s world’s grand championship in 2004. Hackney Pony Stallion/Gelding World’s Champion and reigning World’s Grand Champion Lord Ovation finished this year as the reserve world’s grand champion with Larry Bacon driving for Mr. and Mrs. Art Birtcher. He is by Nabucco. Black Merlin and Deborah Koning carried out the yellow streamers.

As the night drew to a close and the celebration began back at West Wind Stables, eight of the 11 victory passes on the evening had been taken by ladies. Raymond Shively, Jeff McClean, and Peter Cowart were the lone males to earn the roses on this Saturday night, the greatest Saturday night of all the year. The show season has reached its apex, with only the UPHA/American Royal National Championship remaining as the final jewel in the Saddlebred Triple Crown. Then the focus returns to breeding season, carefully crafting the next generation of horses and ponies that might one day hit that cold wave of air as they march down the chute to enter Freedom Hall on a similar August Saturday night in the future.

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