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Louisville - Stake Night!

It all comes down to tonight. While it sounds ridiculously cliché, in the Saddlebred and Hackney world, it is the truth. This is the biggest night of the biggest horse show in our world. Careers are made, for both horses and riders, on these green shavings on this night. The first Saturday in May gets its fair share of attention around these parts, but the last Saturday in August will always hold a special place of honor. This is the night that all the dignitaries grace the Kentucky State Fair, with the likes of the Governor and First Lady of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as well as the Mayor of Louisville all stopping by to present awards. Even Miss Kentucky USA, Kia Hampton, was on hand to sing the National Anthem, opening the show with a well-schooled and on point presentation. The lights seem brighter, the shavings seem greener, and the stakes are most definitely higher. When we all go home to our everyday walks of life and mention “Stake Night” to an acquaintance outside of this industry, their stomachs may start to rumble at the thought of a nice slab of beef, seared and set just so on a plate before them. Us? We know better. We know there is just one Stake Night, and while there may be cows less than 100 yards away here at the fair, it is all about these amazingly athletic and talented horses and ponies and their skilled riders and drivers.

Tonight, the big winner might just have been the transaction wire. In the newspaper, the transaction wire reports the sporting world’s player trades and signings. Saddle Horse Report serves as a transaction wire of sorts, congratulating new owners on their selections and introducing new teams to the Saddle Horse world. There were 11 classes held tonight. Of those 11 World’s Champions crowned, four of them changed ownership within the last month. Some even within the last week! Three of these wound up earning that World’s Grand Champion title that so few will ever bear, including two of the “Big Three.” None, however, was bigger than the sale of the winner of the final class, the ultimate test of Saddlebred athleticism, stamina, and heart. While somewhere in the ballpark of 240 classes were contested this week, and somewhere near 200 World’s Champions were crowned, there is only one whose name goes up on the wall. That ring of honor is hallowed territory. Only one horse each year will get his or her name placed among those legends of the show ring. This place of honor reminds each and every person exactly where they are. This is the very same ring where Imperator and Sky Watch dueled so memorably. This is that very same horse show that saw Wing Commander and My-My. You read those names, and you are humbled, yet at the very same time you get goosebumps. You remember the performances that have come before in the 108 year history of this event, and you can’t wait to see what comes next. Tonight, we didn’t have to add a name to that ring. He was already there.

The Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship gets all of the pomp and circumstance, with an entire week of horse show leading up to that one, final event. It is the only class that gets its own song and introduction video, as the crowd was once again treated to the video of past Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champions, set to the tune of All That Jazz from the musical Chicago. It seems to be a great warm-up for the audience, as they whoop and holler for their favorites from the past. Imperator gets his big cheer, followed by another big ovation as Sky Watch streaks across the video screen one more time. They go wild for the great Wing Commander and the phenomenal mare, My-My. And once that iconic image of Wing Commander fills the screen as the slide show ends, they know it is time. Gene Wright plays My Old Kentucky Home once again, as one of the longest tenured officials here at the World’s Championship Horse Show, and the ringmasters and judges move into position. It was two Billys running this class, as Billy Greenwell got the honor of calling the class, with Bill Whitley signaling the gaits to announcer Peter Doubleday. Jack Noble joined Greenwell on the panel, as did Robert Gardiner, getting this greatest of assignments while also enjoying his position as the youngest judge to ever preside over the World’s Championship Horse Show.

As tradition dictates, the horses came to the ring one at a time, with Peter Doubleday giving them each a welcome and giving the crowd a chance to voice their initial opinion. Lionel Ferreira struck first, lighting up the crowd with the majestic Marc Of Charm. Melissa Moore came next aboard It’s Double O’ Deuce, the powerfully built stud who has really come on strong this year. Rob Byers got the biggest burst of applause yet aboard the always impressive Lexington Champion Bravo Blue. Mike Spencer had plenty of support aboard Yippeekiyokiyey, with Karin Folkers and Iconium following next. Debbie Foley got her usual salute from her supporters aboard Callaway’s Annabel Allison, followed by Brian Chappell and Attache’s Crown Royal. Larry Hodge busted down the gates aboard the South African bundle of fire, Kalarama’s Ultimate Choice, leaving but one left with Buddy Waggonner up at the top of the ramp. Everyone leans forward to try to see just that little bit further up the chute as the anticipation builds, and then, there he is, the reigning World’s Grand Champion. Courageous Lord hits the ring and Freedom Hall erupts! And then Merrill has to gather his charge back up under him and set to work. This happens every year the same way!

One thing you can always say about Debbie Foley, she leaves it all in the ring. She will get every single ounce of performance out of her mount, and with Annabel Allison, she might just coax an extra pass or two out of her longtime teammate. She set the world on fire that first trot once the class was called to order, leaving them all in her wake. It was Rob Byers that captured the adoration of the crowd next, as they started to build behind him during the first way slow gait. By the time they were racking, the Louisville crowd was in full voice behind the bright chestnut gelding with the impeccable headset.

But when they turned around and headed for home for the first time, it was Merrill’s time to shine. Always a better horse when he turns around and is completely settled into his job, Courageous Lord lit up the ring and had those in attendance cheering him up one rail and down the next. It is that signature Louisville moment, where the audience starts to build as a horse comes out of the corner then crescendos as they pass the judges’ stand. They fade back to quiet as the horse enters the turn, catching their breath for a moment, then do it all over again. This time they were doing it for multiple horses, as Bravo Blue and Kalarama’s Ultimate Choice were capturing their share of the cheers as well. Merrill followed Rob around the ring on that second rack, with the crowd swelling for Rob and Bravo Blue and then kicking it up one notch louder for Merrill and Courageous Lord. When Billy Greenwell called for the walk, Rob was at the far end of the ring, with Merrill and Lionel coming down the rail, they all piled up in what looked like a near miss in the corner, with the always quick to have fun Byers ducking and pretending to take cover.

The strip for conformation judging usually allows for a crowd favorite to emerge, but this year that was not the case. Each of the favorite entries received their share of the cheers, though Merrill recruited well, bringing in celebrity guest attendant Matt Shiflet to assist Chris Brannan during the strip. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear welcomed all of the horse show attendees to the Commonwealth during the last class of the show, as the judges convened to call their first workout of the week. That’s right. This was the first time additional work was called for all week long, over the course of 240 classes. They picked four. The winners of all of the open qualifiers headed back to the rail with the gelding reserve world’s champion. Rob Byers and Bravo Blue were the first number called, then it was Callaway’s Annabel Allison and Debbie Foley. Courageous Lord and Merrill Murray were already working when their number came out, while Larry Hodge and Kalarama’s Ultimate Choice followed suit as the fourth and final entry in this second workout.

This is a test of champions. This is why all of those countless miles of jogging count. This is where the best separate themselves. Tonight, we saw one of the most evenly matched workouts of the past decade. Each and every one of these horses made a strong case for this most prestigious honor, and any one of them would have been a fantastic representative of the American Saddlebred breed. Who would argue with Annabel Allison being the face of the breed for the next year? She carries the royal lineage of the legendary Callaway Hills program, with three quarters of her pedigree tracing back to Wing Commander. She was bred for Saturday night. The last Callaway Hills winner of this class was Callaway’s Forecaster in 2003, with yet another lady rider aboard, Nancy Leigh Fisher. This the very same Nancy Leigh Fisher who was inducted into the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame just a few classes earlier. And who wouldn’t want to see Debbie Foley finally get her win in this class? She’s going to keep at it until she wins the thing. There won’t be any telling her no!

Or how about Bravo Blue? This electric chestnut delights crowds everywhere he goes and has since his first trip here in 2008, when Virgil Helm won the Five-Gaited Gelding Stake with him. Here’s another that can trace his lineage to Callaway Hills. He is by Northern Blues, a son of the great Callaway’s Blue Norther out of one of the greatest producers of breeding stallions, Yorkshire Pudding. And who wouldn’t want to see Rob Byers, the affable Virginian, get his second trip with these red roses, aboard yet another bright chestnut gelding with worlds of talent but needing just the right buttons pushed.

How about the South African stallion, Kalarama’s Ultimate Choice? He could be the third (SA) prefixed horse to capture this crown and the third stallion to boot. He took the stallion blue on Monday in the Will Shriver Stake, why not this one as well? By (SA) Redwoods The General’s Choice and out of (SA) Greyfour Captivation, he would represent the influx of South African blood, both equine and human, into our industry as the World’s Grand Champion. He has that same wild look and freakish athleticism to go along with the strength and stamina that are so prevalent in these imports. And what about Larry Hodge? He won this class of classes in 1998 and 1999 with Garland’s Dream. He’s due for a return trip to the winner’s circle. Why not tonight? After all, he was just inducted into the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall Of Fame in the middle of this evening’s session, along with the grand lady of Kalarama, Joan Hamilton. There’s just one problem. They all had to get past Merrill.

This workout was scintillating first way of the ring, with the crowd torn between all four. Once they reversed, it was more of the same, with it turning into a test of wills to see who could keep their mount going full-out for the longest. On the call for the second slow gait, Rob, Merrill and Debbie all started down the rail together, with the crowd going nuts. Larry Hodge waited in the corner and let them go. He turned Ultimate Choice loose then and worked the entire second slow gait and rack by himself, with the other three moving as a unit the rest of the way. The crowd loved every second of it, eating up pass after pass of Courageous Lord, Bravo Blue and Annabel Allison moving as a trio. They all lined up together, laughing and joking and carrying on as only good friends like these can. They all knew what was on the line but they just had too darn much fun to not celebrate it together. Think about the years of experience sitting in that lineup between the likes of greats like Debbie Foley, Larry Hodge, Rob Byers and Merrill Murray. And here they are, sitting atop the biggest event of the industry, having the time of their lives. That, good readers, was a moment.

Anyone with a pulse and a love of the American Saddlebred knows what happened next. Peter Doubleday called out number 936 and the place erupted. Merrill quieted his three-time World’s Grand Champion and calmly and coolly tossed his hat gently to May Chadick for the third year in a row. It was yet another immaculate performance by these two, and bittersweet, as it was their final performance together. Courageous Lord will now reside at Autumn Hills, where Steve and Tiffany Wheeler, who themselves enjoyed the week of a lifetime here, will prepare him for Dr. Owen Weaver. This was the most talked about sale of the summer, as the Vias and their Fox Grape Farms, made this selection with the Louisville homestretch fast approaching. This netted them their third Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship, as they owned the aforementioned two-time winner, Garland’s Dream.

Larry Hodge and (SA) Kalarama’s Ultimate Choice were announced as Reserve World’s Grand Champions for Kalarama Farm after their smashing show. Bravo Blue and Rob Byers earned the third place for B & T Vonderschmitt LLC, while Debbie Foley and her Callaway’s Annabel Allison finished fourth. The most impressive part of the announcement of these prizes was that no one horse received more of an ovation than the other. This group of horses was so evenly matched that even the crowd couldn’t decide on one. They just saluted each and every one of them on an amazingly contested gaited stake, the likes of which will be hard to top.

Once the ring had cleared and but one horse and rider remained, the traditional interview took place. Merrill thanked God for his health, a good place to start considering his gall bladder surgery a year ago. He also thanked his wife, Bonnie, as he always does, along with a new one this year, his chiropractor! He also gave the proper due to his veterinarian and farriers. He gave special time and consideration to the former owners of this grand gelding, Bill Carrington and Marsha Shepard, thanking them for the opportunity to ride this incredible horse. Last but not least, he thanked Chris Brannan, his assistant and “right arm.” Brannan is more than a right hand man, he is a right arm man. That is how much Merrill thinks of the job this young man does for him. Remounted and poised for his final round of honor aboard this son of Roseridge Heir, Merrill soaked in the grandness of this moment and then went to riding.

Back at the barn, he signed autographs for the kids that came seeking them, gave interviews, accepted congratulations and did all of the things he has done for these past three years in a row. This makes five times now that Merrill has won the coveted red roses. That is rare air. To begin with (and this is going way back), this moves him past William Shropshir, a four-time winner with Red McDonald (1908), Rexola (1912-1913), and Easter Star (1922). It also moves him one ahead of Lonnie Hayden, who won with the great Chief Of Longview in 1928 and 1929 and Sweetheart On Parade in 1931 and 1932. Lee Roby also won it four times, twice with Oak Hill Chief in 1945 and 1946 and twice with Denmark’s Daydream in 1961 and ’62. Merrill Murray now sits between the Bradshaw boys and their mares, passing Garland’s four wins aboard Lady Carrigan in ’54 and ’55 and again in ’57 and ’58. He still sits three behind Frank however, as he won eight times with three different mares, Daneshall’s Easter Parade in 1947, Valerie Emerald in 1969, and of course the grandest gaited mare of all time, My-My, who won this title from 1963 to 1968. The Bradshaws won 12 times, all 12 coming aboard mares. Two generations later it was Mitch Clark with a stallion, winning three more for the clan. Merrill will have a lot of work to do to catch the greatest of them all, however. Earl Teater and with his 11 World’s Grand Championships still sit high atop that mountain. He did tie one of the grandest showmen of all time for third on this incredible list tonight. Here at number three all time in Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships sit Merrill Murray and Don Harris.

Where does this leave Courageous Lord’s legacy as an open horse as he prepares for the next chapter of his life? Let’s look around that ring of honor that used to be printed on brown and beige signs and hung on yellow curtains just behind the railbirds but now hangs majestically from the upper deck in red lettering. Let’s look first for three-time winners. It’s an impressive list that Courageous Lord joins tonight. The first three-time winner was CH Oak Hill Chief, owned by then Miss Jean McLean. That was soon eclipsed by the first six-time winner, CH Wing Commander. CH Lady Carrigan did it four times, while CH My-My collected six. CH Yorktown was a three-time winner, with CH Imperator and CH Sky Watch finishing their careers and dramatic duels with four apiece. Since then, the count is zero. Not a single horse in the past 23 years has touched this plateau. Taking it one step further, we’ll look for those to win three times in a row. The most recent was Sky Watch from 1982 to 1984. We will put in perspective the success of Courageous Lord and close this chapter of his saga and begin a hopefully equally as successful new one with a list of all of the horses to have won three consecutive Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships. CH Wing Commander. CH My-My. CH Yorktown. CH Sky Watch. The 2009, 2010 and 2011 World’s Grand Champion, Courageous Lord.

The next chapter merges with another story already being written, that of Dr. Owen Weaver. Her night could not have been much better, as her new mount topped the gaited stake, while she herself reigned supreme as the unanimous winner of the Ladies Five-Gaited World’s Championship. While Courageous Lord was a recent purchase, this one was a home-bred product of the Fox Grape Farms program. By the late South African stallion Dorian Wild Temper, imported in 2002 by the Vias, Dauntless is out of none other than the great CH Garland’s Dream. She wore the roses in 1999 and has now been mentioned three times to this point in our Saturday night coverage! Steve and Tiffany Wheeler have this team working in high style in the ladies division. They have been practically untouchable all season long, being beaten just one time in eight trips to the ring. They swept their classes here in Freedom Hall, with Owen making a spectacular ride here on Saturday night. She worked the ring in almost a diamond pattern, making great moves to the inside and showing her gelding to the utmost of his abilities. First Lady of Kentucky Jane Beshear made the presentation of the tricolor to this seven-year-old chestnut.

The Lady Sings The Blues and Helen Robertson have been teamed up since 2008 for Burbank and Collins and the Infinity Stables team. They seem to rise to the top against the best and the brightest, finishing reserve twice here this week. Last season, they finished up as Ladies Five-Gaited Reserve National Champions. Here is another by Northern Blues figuring into the Saturday night equation. This one is out of Undulata’s Once And Again, by I’m A New Yorker. Winner of the Ladies Mare World’s Championship, Callaway’s The Best And Brightest wound up third with Debbie Foley making a great go for Dr. William Walsh Jr. Catalyst’s Work Of Art made it three mares in a row, finishing fourth with Nancy Leigh Fisher up.

First Lady Beshear stuck around to receive a check for her Horses And Hope organization as part of the UPHA Pink Ribbon Program. Horses and Hope was established to educate, improve awareness and offer breast cancer screenings for the often overlooked members of Kentucky’s horse industry. Steve Buttleman donned a pink coat to sound the call for the next class, his first call of the night as he was stuck in the overwhelming Saturday night fair traffic!

While we have already covered one of the four Saturday night winners that was purchased in the last month, the other three all involved Golden Creek Farms, including the winner of the opening event, the Ladies Three-Gaited Championship. Beautiful and high-headed and just oozing quality, Mr. Center Stage kept getting better as the class wore on for Sarah Byers. He was announced with a new owner tonight, Golden Creek Farms. Sarah Byers will still get plenty of chances to ride him though, as he will remain at Premier Stables. Byers and Center Stage have not been beaten all year, debuting at Asheville with two wins and carrying that streak on through Rock Creek, Lexington, and now Louisville. The Vias had reason to celebrate in this one too, as Mr. Center Stage is by their stallion, Deep Blue. He is out of one of two Caramac-sired offspring of Callaway’s Agatha Christie (BHF), Daphne Dearest. It will be fun to watch this new team of Mary Gaylord McClean and Mr. Center Stage. The last time Mary showed a walk-trot horse was in 2003 with Callaway’s Buttons And Bows, when she was the Amateur Three-Gaited 15.2 and Under Reserve World’s Champion. Five times a winner here in the Park division, CH His Supreme Reflection made his maneless Freedom Hall debut this week and took it right to his new peers, finishing as the Reserve World’s Champion of Champions with longtime partner Jacqueline Manzo for longtime owner Kimberly Jones. The new part of the equation is trainer Nelson Green, who has done a masterful job transitioning this team into their new job. Exhibiting great hocks and a perfectly timed, strong front end to match, Supreme Reflection is a gorgeous chestnut son of Supreme Heir. He is out of Beat The Odds, by Attache. Callaway’s Clemency and Elisabeth Goth finished in third, directed by Visser Stables. Reserve in their qualifier this week, they were Open Three-Gaited 15.2-and-Under World’s Champions in 2010. Brookhill’s Glam Slam is the gorgeous black mare teamed with three-gaited aficionada Betsy Thomas. They showed to fourth under the Carriage Lane banner, making a grand show.

The second class of the night saw another recent Golden Creek purchase, Regal’s Lightning Strike LF, make the last pass. This was a unanimous Road Pony World’s Grand Championship for former owner and trainer Josh Greer. Josh has been showing this pony since 2008, when they were Junior Road Pony Reserve World’s Champion of Champions. After finishing last year as Reserve National Champions, they carried that momentum into this season, building the whole year to this very moment. Always carrying himself in just the right place, Lightning Strike added another gear to his top end this season, turning him from a top contender into the World’s Grand Champion. Chris Gantley was in the winner’s circle for his good friend, as Josh and Lightning Strike were presented with the tricolor and blanket of flowers. It seems fitting that Golden Creek would be the new owner of the World’s Grand Champion, as their winner of the last three, Beaulah Jean, sadly passed away earlier this year. The Reserve World’s Grand Champion also finished 2010 as a Reserve National Champion. This was A Dazzling Diva. Larry Bacon captained this daughter of Dun-Haven Celebrity to the UPHA Road Pony Classic Reserve National Championship just a year ago. The smallest of the five-pony group tonight, Dazzling Diva put all of her punchy ways on display, showing plenty of speed against the bigger ponies. She is owned by Larry and Barbara Bacon. Moment Of Excellence and Larry Ella kept building and building all class long, finishing third for Bent Tree Farm.

The third part of the Golden Creek trifecta tonight actually went the other way. They sold this next Saturday night winner. They even got announced as the winning owners, as Dr. Robert “Chip” Pugh’s name never got called out as the new owner! He didn’t seem to mind as he looked glowingly upon those white roses, signifying the Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion. Chip selected Wild Carrissima after watching Melissa Moore show him with much success all summer long. He put him under the direction of Bret Day and Grey Ridge Farm, and the rest, as they say, is history. This is a moment that horse trainers will always remember, their first World’s Grand Championship. For UPHA President Bret Day, this one came in an unconventional way, as he had just a little more than a week of work with Wild Carrissima before Louisville kicked off. Their performance in Wednesday night’s qualifier was transcendent. Go back and watch the footage from Bret’s interview on ReporTV. The crowd went wild, and they stayed behind the big bay gelding all the way through Saturday night. Bret was quick to credit Melissa Moore for all of the work that she has done with the son of Rare Perception, giving the Grey Ridge team all of the keys and quirks of this phenomenally athletic horse. It was that Grey Ridge team that ran down to the winner’s circle, Kendall Blue and Derek Wooderson, along with Jim Taylor, who knows this horse well. He also headed him up a year ago when Jim Stachowski drove to the Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding Reserve World’s Championship. Wild Carrissima is out of Mia Carrissima, where he gets his name. “Mia carissima” is Italian for “my dearest.” So to clarify, Carrissima is not a poor spelling attempt on “charisma,” it is just another language. To add to his fine harness chops, Wild Carrissima’s dam is by former Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion Foxfire’s Prophet. His second dam is CH Carrigan’s Gift, herself a Reserve World’s Champion in harness with Randi Stuart Wightman.

The 2009 World’s Grand Champion hit the ring like a house afire, as Larry Hodge drove CH Castledream into Freedom Hall for Hillcroft Farm. The year off from the show ring did him a ton of good, as he was fresh and ready to roll. Many times a winner here, Castledream is by Castle Bravo and out of A Daydream Believer, the Broodmare Hall of Fame mare who has produced something like 1,245 winners this week. Mare Stake winner Magical Promises is so consistent every time she comes to the ring with Pedro Martinez. Tonight was no exception, as the entry of the MSK Trust was smooth as silk in third. Every pass looks like the one before. She never takes a wrong step, always wearing her ears and loving her job. Sired by Mountain Promises, she is out of a CF Rare Night Out mare. Fourth in this one went to a celebrity Saddlebred, one that has gotten crowds cheering for many a year, each and every time she has hit the ring. This is the grand black mare known as CH Along Came A Spider. Accompanied once again by George Knight for Georgia Herpin Baker, she closed out her show ring career, receiving her just due from the Louisville faithful. It was her turn to wear the white roses in 2007 after three straight Reserve World’s Grand Championships.

The third part of the “Big Three” had perhaps the most wide open field, with entries coming from both open divisions, the amateur ranks and the ladies ranks. After the strip and conformation judging, it was Real Action taking Peter Cowart to his first Three-Gaited World’s Grand Championship. It was 1998 when Kim Cowart made the winning ride in this one aboard the inimitable mare, CH A Sweet Treat, while it was just three years ago that Peter made his spectacular ride aboard CH Breaking News to win the gaited stake. While they have yet to win the harness stake, they do have last year’s Fine Harness World’s Grand Champion in their barn! Real Action came to the Cowarts after his two-year-old campaign and his head-turning, eye-popping show at Kansas City with Tom Scott. Selected there by Robin McKenzie Vuillermet, he has remained with the Cowarts ever since, leaving the ring with the blue ribbon every time out but one. That was a year ago in the Junior Over 2 Stake, where he finished reserve. He came back later that week to avenge that loss and take the Junior Three-Gaited World’s Championship. A World’s Champion every year he’s been here, he added two more this week to run his total to four. The bright chestnut by Desert’s Supreme Memories is out of Callaway’s Worth Waiting For, by Callaway’s Blue Norther.

Purchased just before her smashing Louisville debut last year with Mark Hulse, Swing An Singin now resides at Mercer Springs Farm under the ownership of Ceil and Kenny Wheeler. She made another spectacular display tonight with Smith Lilly to earn the Reserve World’s Grand Championship. Sired by Designed and out of a Supreme Heir mare, this beautiful bay mare defines the park trot. Her performance in her Three-Gaited 15.2-and-Under World’s Championship this week could be described as “Starina-esque.” That’s how good she was. Reserve World’s Grand Champion a year ago, Let’s Talk earned third tonight with Dena Lopez riding for Dena and Alyssa Lopez. Kenny Smith brought Call Me Regal in from the amateur division to take fourth for Barbara Goodman Manilow.

The harness ponies also crowned their World’s Grand Champion tonight, and it was a home bred product taking the tri-color. Truly a product of the partnership between Ella Stables and the Bent Tree Farm program, Giselle has been a work in progress, showing flashes of absolute brilliance from day one. She could not have a better owner than Karen Waldron, as she was allowed to come along at her own pace as Larry Ella took over and molded her into a stunning long tail pony. Sired by Mark Of Excellence, Giselle is out of My Sweet Georgia Brown, a Vindicator daughter. Giselle lives up to her name. She is beautiful and refined. Tonight, she made pass after pass as if she were strutting the catwalk. She crawls down the straightaway, rocked way back and lifting way up high in front. It all clicked in her championship win at Lexington and carried over to two wins here in Freedom Hall with Larry Ella. She was the winner here in this well-filled and competitive Harness Pony World’s Grand Championship. Three times a winner of this class and a holder of multiple world titles, Heartland Expectation finished as the Reserve World’s Grand Champion. By Dun-Haven Awesome Creation and out of Heartland Beauty, Expectation teamed once again with Kim Cowart for Tamra Arndt. They were also reserve champions at Lexington. A convert from the road pony division just like the World’s Grand Champion, Heartland Pursuit looks absolutely fantastic in this new job, as Ronnie Graham took him to the yellow ribbon for Helen Rosburg. By Heartland Code Of Honor and out of a Sky King mare, Pursuit was reserve in the Stallion/Gelding Stake earlier this week.

The Hackney Pony World’s Grand Champion leapt for joy as his number was called out as the winner. This was the celebrated and adored black stud pony, Nabucco, making his return to the Freedom Hall winner’s circle after a five year hiatus to just go be a pony. It was 2005 and 2006 when Nabucco took his first two cob-tail titles here, and he added a third one tonight. Undefeated in this class, Nabucco is by Mr. Hawkeye and out of Albelarm Distinctive Lady. Gib Marcucci, one of the greatest to ever sit in the viceroy, was at the lines of this dynamic little crowd pleaser. Nabucco had his shoulders rocking side to side as he strutted down the rail, getting those extra couple inches of motion. The Mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, made the presentation in this one, as Gib Marcucci, dubbed “the Gibber” by announcer Peter Doubleday, drove down victory lane once again with Mary Campbell’s wonderful pony. It’s been a big year for the Green Bay-based Campbell, as the Packers won the Super Bowl to start her year and now her cob-tail is atop the world once more. It is worth noting that during Nabucco’s absence from the ring, his son, Lord Ovation, captured the 2007 World’s Grand Championship and two Reserve World’s Grand Championships to boot.

Mary Gaylord McClean returned from her ankle injury to drive Regal’s Trademark LF to the Reserve World’s Grand Championship for Golden Creek Farms. Trademark has come full circle, returning to his cob-tail roots. He was Three-Year-Old Hackney Pony World’s Champion in 2005 and the Reserve World’s Grand Champion as just a four-year-old in 2006. After another World’s Champion in the cob-tail ranks in 2007, he switched over to the road pony division, taking yet another world title in 2008. In 2009 he was the Amateur Road Pony World’s Champion of Champions, and now in 2011, he finds himself with a short tail yet again, completing the journey and rising right back to the upper echelon of the division. He won the County Fair Championship on Sunday night to qualify for this penultimate event of the horse show. The 2010 World’s Grand Champion settled for third tonight, as Bob Phillips hit the ring looking ready to defend that title for Faydelle Schott, leaving with the yellow streamers after a job well done.

There was another trio of repeat winners to go along with Courageous Lord, with two of them coming from the DeLovely aisle. One of these was the Roadster to Bike World’s Grand Champion, Emerson. Emerson and his full brother Big Red have dominated this division since 2005, with Big Red winning five consecutive years before his untimely death in 2010. His brother picked up where he left off, winning last year’s title and repeating it this year as well. Peter Doubleday calls him “the Master of Faster.” It’s hard to argue. 2001 Power Ranger. 2000 When & Where. Let’s take a stroll down Louisville’s memory lane to see when somebody else got a turn in the winner’s circle in this class. Let’s look at 2004, there’s Power Ranger with Raymond Shively. How about 2003? Invincible Summer and Raymond Shively. 2002? Same as 2003. Prior to 2002 our results online get a little shaky. It was before our incomparable online database of results was operational. However, we are pretty certain that in 2001 it was Power Ranger again with Raymond Shively, and in 2000, When & Where carried off the tri-color with Raymond Shively! In this millennium, no one but Raymond Shively has won the Roadster to Bike World’s Grand Championship. It was Braveheart that was the combo breaker in 1999, the last time a horse not driven by Raymond took the top prize. The only horse to ever beat Big Red, Trio Bolero G, was the Reserve World’s Grand Champion, with Sam Stafford making the drive with this speed demon for Hillcroft Farm. Trio Bolero was also Reserve World’s Grand Champion in 2009 and swept to two wins a year ago with Misdee Wrigley Miller as the Amateur World’s Champion of Champions. Jon Walker finished off a fantastic week in third with Where’s Reuben for Debra Clark, she of Iamnotacow fame.

The other DeLovely repeat victor here on Saturday night was the unanimous Amateur Three-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions for the second year in a row. This, of course, is With Style And Grace. Game as the day is long, “Gracie” has come to be a superstar in this division. A horse without a home division for several years, her nomadic course took her from UPHA Park Pleasure Classic National Champion to Junior Fine Harness Mare World’s Champion and then into the Park division as a five-year-old. Teamed with Tara Grom for that five-year-old campaign under the DeLovely banner, With Style And Grace enjoyed some good success in the Park ranks. But it was at Shelbyville where she discovered her niche. The mane came off, and the tricolor went on. They put on a smashing show as the Amateur Under 2 World’s Champions and then toppled the defending World’s Champion of Champions Marching Orders in a stunning two-horse workout. This year, they came in as the incumbent champs, and they did not disappoint. They are undefeated on the season, a perfect seven for seven. Tonight, Tara went with the monochromatic look on top, with a matching pink formal jacket, vest, tie and shirt. She paired that with a brown top hat and pants, with white gloves completing the picture. She took the tri-color once again, making a scintillating victory pass that was capped off in less than ideal fashion as Gracie pulled a shoe about 10 feet from the gate. The crowd always adores the team of CH Sue-She and Jeffrey Schab. Jeffrey and partner Wade Giles capitalized on that this time around, handing out fans that said “Everyone loves Sue-She!” Louisville is seemingly the only show in our industry where promotional products have a place and are accepted as the norm. It was a fantastic touch, made all the more fabulous by Jeffrey’s performance under the direction of Jannie Giles. The Amateur Gentlemen’s World’s Champion worked the ring to perfection, coming away as the Reserve World’s Champion of Champions. Perhaps the only benefit of not having Peter Fenton in center ring for Saturday night this year was that he got to be on the rail to assist Jannie in calling out instruction for Jeffrey’s top performance. Always a crowd pleaser, this team came through in high style tonight. Boston Legal had his best Louisville week since winning this class in 2007, as he earned two top three prizes this week with Elizabeth Shatner. The Belle Reve entry just keeps improving under the direction of Grey Ridge Farm. Dylan Hines was absolutely thrilled to grab the white streamers in fourth for Yvonne Hines and DeVore Stables.

The Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Championship also featured a unanimous repeat winner. Gabe Deknatel has found his perfect match in CH The Daily Lottery. They are four for four in this ring together and 15 for 15 overall. They have never been beaten. And if you watch them work, it becomes clear. They work as a complete team, going wherever they please in the ring and absolutely crushing each and every pass. They never let down, and they leave the ring last every single time they show. For The Daily Lottery, this was his sixth world title, as he famously swept the junior division in 2008 with Mandy Martin. This was a class that got a little frantic in some places and messy in others. Sometimes it is important to watch center ring, and especially the ringmasters. They were communicating for the judges, asking each other if a workout would be needed. The longest tenured of the group, Bill Whitley, finally gave a sign like tying a bow, indicating to ringmaster Kent Moeller and John Frye that the judges should tie their cards. No workout would be needed tonight! John Conatser and Scooter Scheurich trotted down to the winner’s circle to greet the High Hickory Farm champion. If a class is going to be slightly out of control and all over the place, there is no better rider to calmly guide her mount through the chaos and out the other side to a top prize than Ceil Wheeler. She did it at Lexington in a class even bigger than this to take the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship. Tonight, she and CH Pucker Up came away as Reserve World’s Champion of Champions. Trained by Mercer Springs, Pucker Up was also reserve in the amateur mares class earlier in the week. Pucker Up is by The Talk Of The Town and out of the Broodmare Hall of Fame mare, One Parting Kiss. Jo Ann Griffin had Debbie Foley smiling with her ride aboard Callaway’s Karla in third. Karla has long been a favorite of Debbie’s, and she always seems extra tickled when Jo Ann puts in a strong ride aboard the daughter of Callaway’s Blue Norther out of Callaway’s Twice The Spice. This makes her a full sister to Debbie’s Ladies mount earlier in the evening, Callaway’s Best And Brightest. Amateur Mare Reserve World’s Champion a year ago, Turning The Page finished fourth in this class for the second straight year with Amy Dix Rock riding under the Premier Stables banner. Sired by Belle Reve’s Renaissance Man and out of the great My Front Page Lady, Turning The Page looked exquisite once again in fourth. While Harlem’s Go To Man and David Rudder finished fifth and Ava Gardner and Carol Hillenbrand finished sixth, it is seventh where we will focus briefly. This was where Cydni Simmons finished with Hey Joe. Owner of a second-place vote in this class, Cyd also had a little smile on her face when the champion was called out, as it was her boyfriend, Gabe Deknatel, who took those top honors. While she was certainly plenty happy for Gabe, there isn’t anyone who would love to hand him his first loss more than this tough competitor!

We hope you have enjoyed following the sage of the greatest week of horse show of the year. We’ve brought you all of the highlights, both in print and in video, throughout the whole week, giving you detailed accounts of the week that was, not just a cursory glossing over of who won and who was second. If you liked it, let us know at If there’s something we can do better, we are always looking for suggestions, so feel free to send those in as well. And if you are one of the few people that hasn’t done so yet, stop by our website at and click on the ReporTV link to watch highlight reels and interviews from every session! We’ve had nearly 10,000 views from Louisville. Come see what you’ve been missing all year long!

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