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A Night With The Grand Ole Champions In Northampton

by Bob Funkhouser


The Morgan Horse industry prides itself on history and tradition, more so than many of its show horse peers. At several shows each year Hall of Fame ceremonies honoring past stars are held. New England has taken that a step further on a few occasions and each time it has been met with overwhelming response.


This year Fred Nava and Jackie Ross organized an evening with the Grand Ole Champions of the New England Regional Morgan Horse Show. Thursday evening was dedicated to this presentation, giving everyone a needed break from the show ring and time to pay tribute to those who have meant so much to the breed and this horse show in particular.


The Boston Swing Ensemble, headed by Rick Hammett, opened the evening with the sounds of the Big Band era to set the mood for a visit with history. Twelve champions from New England’s storied past paraded in front of a large and appreciative audience.


Each horse entered the ring individually to ringmaster Grace Yaglou’s bugle call. At the sound of the bugle and sight of the crowd, these heralded champions as well as their respective trainers and owners got to relive a few moments from the past when these grand champions used to rule the ring. Announcer Peter Fenton read the scripts, some rather lengthy, for each champion as they performed to the upbeat swing music playing in center ring. They also rose to yet another level as the audience screamed and cheered their every pass. You could tell, most of these stars loved the opportunity to experience their glory days one more time.


The first of the Grand Ole Champions to enter the ring was the 1998 Amateur Park Saddle World Champion Simply Maserati. Born and raised in California, he became a once-in-a-lifetime horse for Jennifer and Nicole Panek of MorningView Stables. Under their ownership “Spider” was the Youth Park Harness and Youth Park Saddle Finals winner at Oklahoma directed by Rock Walker Stable. He returned with Luman Wadhams as trainer to take the Amateur Park Saddle World’s Championship with Jennifer Panek.


Simply Maserati and Jennifer Panek-Keuhn


As a breeding stallion, Simply Maserati has been represented by champion offspring like And The Beat Goes On, JNP Simply Delorean, Patchwork Simply Amazin, SLB Andiamo and Lamborghini In Black, winner of the 2007 East Coast Park Saddle Grand Championship here at Northampton.


The quintessential Morgan mare who “wrote the book” on Western pleasure elegance, Pond View Portrait was the next Grand Ole Champion to grace the ring with her longtime trainer, Judy Nason. Melanie Small has been both her owner and best friend for all these years. In 1991 Portrait won three Grand National and three World titles in Oklahoma City. The next season there were two Grand National and two World Champion titles added to her bejeweled crown.


Pondview Portrait and Judy Nason


Pond View Portrait also excelled as the belle of the broodmare band. Her first foal – Pondview Unforgettable – won the $70,000 Breeders’ Sweepstakes in 1996. Tonight she had the beautiful 2007 foal sired by Treble’s Tanqueray, the 2006 and 2007 East Coast Western Pleasure Champion, at her side.


Bred and raised at Hillfield Farm, Hillfield Nightrider was a product of Shaker’s Destry and Sparkle Lightly, a mare Judy Cherry had bred and shown as well. When Nightrider was foaled in April of 1985 some around him thought he was going to be special; his owner took a more wait and see approach.


Hillfield Nightrider and Judy Cherry


It didn’t take long, however, as Rider won his very first class, the Yearling class at Vermont Morgan in 1986 among 13 entries. In his early years Rider was trained by Les Parker, Richard Boulé and Larry Bonnell, and John and Sheri Lampropoulos. During that time he won many pleasure driving, pleasure saddle and in hand titles.  Hillfield Nightrider and Judy Cherry won the 1995 World Champion Classic Pleasure Saddle title among 22 entries and would return in ’96 to take the Reserve World Champion Classic Pleasure Saddle title. Still under the direction of John and Sheri Lampropoulos, they came back in ’98 to again win the World Championship. They also won New England’s Classic Pleasure Saddle Championship for three consecutive years. Hillfield Nightrider is the sire of World and Regional Champion Troika’s Black Russian, an amateur Western pleasure star.


A Sharper Image and Joyce Thoma


A talented mare that in 1992 was the Four-Year-Old English Pleasure World Champion with David Rand, A Sharper Image took control of the New England ring one last time with longtime owner Joyce Thoma. A Sharper Image was in her familiar saddle seat tack after earning many memorable titles with Joyce Thoma in the classic pleasure division. The beautiful bay then made her mark with a change to the hunter division in 2002 with Chris Thoma in the irons. Many victory passes followed for this crowd-pleasing mare.


The next champion to be honored really got the crowd going. Twin Pond Disco Kid entered the ring to many cheers. His show career spanned nearly two decades as he triumphed in the Classic Saddle, Classic Driving, Hunter Pleasure, Western Pleasure, Over Fences and Reining divisions. Reining is where Twin Pond Disco Kid became a household name winning seven Grand National and World Champion titles.


Twin Pond Disco Kid


Now 26 years old and still sliding and spinning into the hearts of his many fans, “Bucky” was ridden by his owner of 16 years Karen Myers as they excelled under the direction of legendary reining trainer Ed Cridge.


Tedwin Taurean and Helen Michaud


Tedwin Taurean was a name heard in the winner’s circle of every major Morgan show in the East as well as the most coveted of all, Oklahoma City. Twenty-seven years young, Taurean is still the love of Helen Michaud’s life. The highlight of their tricolor career came in 1992 when they paraded down the straightaway in Oklahoma City as the Amateur Park Saddle Reserve World Champions. Most recently Tedwin Taurean was inducted into the Connecticut Morgan Horse Show Hall of Fame.


Longview Sundance and Bonnie Sogoloff


Those who have been fortunate enough to have seen him will never forget the beauty and presence of Longview Sundance. Even now at 32 years of age, the majestic stallion carries himself in a manner that few others can replicate. Loved and presented for all these years by the Sogoloff family of Cedar Spring Farm, Longview Sundance was the World Champion English Pleasure Horse in 1980, ’81 and ’82 before also becoming a successful sire. Led into the ring this year with a blanket of championship roses, Longview Sundance was stopped along the rail in various locations and the Sogoloffs picked roses off of the blanket to give to adoring fans in the stands.


Rum Brook Immortal Bliss and Sheri Lampropoulos


The Queen of the Pleasure Driving division, Rum Brook Immortal Bliss was the next guest star and she looked as if she could take on the best New England ’07 had to offer. Bred by Meg Preston’s Rum Brook Farm, “Bliss” was purchased as a yearling by John and Sheri Lampropoulos for Jerry McLoud. “She was absolutely breathtaking,” said Sheri. Bliss made the trip to Oklahoma twice and both times won Grand National titles in Ladies Pleasure Driving Mares and Open Pleasure Driving mares. It didn’t matter if it were Jerry, John or Sheri driving, Bliss captured title after title over the years at the major shows.


The sire of Rum Brook Immortal Bliss, Immortal Command, was the next star presented on this beautiful night. One of the last sons of the great Waseeka’s In Command, Immortal Command was a prominent sire for two decades. In fact, it was 21 years ago that Rick Lane, just a youngster himself, reassured Meg Preston that her new horse would not need the farm’s prefix because his outstanding Morgan qualities would make him a new standard for the breed and that he himself would become synonymous with Rum Brook Farm.


Immortal Command and Rick Lane


Some of the championship get sired by Immortal Command have included Festival Calypso, Rum Brook Immortal Mystic, Sweet Georgia Brown, Rum Brook Immortal Bliss, Prindle’s Mere Mortal, Dancity Infatuation, Andrea’s Radiance, and Intrepid Immortal Beloved.  


Sired by the legendary Oldwick Crusader and out of Tedwin Toccoa, Syndicat Legaltender was bred to be a champion. His beauty, athleticism, and desire to please paved the way for a long career decorated with championships from seven divisions: In Hand, Park Harness, English Pleasure, Pleasure Driving, Hunter Pleasure and Dressage.


Syndicat Legaltender and Erin Van Steenburgh


Phyllis, Christine and Erin Collins were looking for an equitation horse for Erin but instead found a young stallion at Hobby Knoll Stables that showed a lot of promise. Over the next six years Christine and Erin both showed Legaltender with great success. In 1994, at the age of 10, Legaltender began a new career with Erin as a Dressage horse. For the next several years he was a great ambassador for the Morgan Horse.


Burkland Nicholas and Judy Nason


Bred and raised by Dr. S. Robert Orcutt of Burkland Farm, Burkland Nicholas combined all of the traits that “Dr. Bob” insisted of his Morgans: beautiful, strong, sound and sensible. The team of Burkland Nicholas and Judy Nason carved a niche in Western Pleasure classes and created a new level of excellence. They charmed audiences and winner’s circles from New England to Oklahoma City for current owner Marjorie Miller. In addition, Burkland Nicholas has sired 37 foals.         


Wrapping up a wonderful evening under the Northampton stars, Beams Nighthawk was the last of the Grand Ole Champions to be presented. With patriotic music and costume, Chris Cassenti and Beams Nighthawk had this audience clapping along to their performance. The black stallion son of the legendary Beamington was purchased by the Summit International Partnership in 1986 and began his winning career right here at New England as a four-year-old under the direction of Chris and Larry Cassenti of Chrislar Farm.


Beams Nighthawk and Chris Cassenti


He won the Road Hack division at New England Regional and Oklahoma more than any horse in history and was thus voted Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice Road Hack Horse Of The Century by Horse World Magazine. Beams Nighthawk has been a celebrity for the Morgan breed appearing on the nationally televised The Good Day Show in 1986 and 1991 and on Chronicle in 1991. Additionally he has twice performed at the UPHA 14 Symphony of Horses as well as the Pet Expo at the Bayside Convention center.


As Beams Nighthawk exited the ring, the music struck up again and Simply Maserati led the parade of champions as all 12 made one last victory pass to a standing ovation.


The lights then went dim for a few minutes before coming back up for the dedication to Noble Flaire. The great stallion’s longtime owner Herbert Kohler and trainer, Tom Caisse, stood in center ring as Bill Carrington told the tale of Noble Flaire and his many contributions to the breed and the New England Morgan Horse Show.        

It was a truly a night for goose bumps and fond memories!

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