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Remembering Wild Eyed and Wicked

by Bob Funkhouser

His time with us was way too short. CH Wild Eyed and Wicked was a horse with so much charisma and personality that he was loved and admired by fans both young and old, novice and veteran. He will be forever remembered for his ability to burst down the rail like he was shot out of a rocket, never losing form. He will be remembered for bowing to the crowds following his grand championship performances at places like the Devon oval and Freedom Hall. He will be remembered for his two consecutive Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships followed the next year by the Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship. He will be remembered for losing his life in a bizarre mystery that remains unsolved.

“He was absolutely fabulous. A dream horse,” said owner Sally Jackson. “I’ve never been on a horse as quick or with as much power and it was always there. If you wanted more you just squeezed a little bit and it was there. He had such a big motor. There’s no way to ever replace him.”

Bred by David Mountjoy, Wild Eyed and Wicked was sired by My Genius King, a son of Valley’s Desdemona Denmark who was a full brother to the famous family of grand champions CH Belle Elegant, CH Summer Melody, CH Glenview’s Radiance and CH Denmark’s Grand Duchess. Wicked’s dam was Penny’s Free Spirit, a daughter of the Superior Odds stallion, Penny’s Superior Stonewall. His second dam was by the gaited world’s champion Chief Of Greystone. He was bred to be a gaited horse and a gaited horse he was!

Mountjoy sold Penny’s Free Spirit to Katy Theodoreau while she was in foal with Wicked. Michigan breeder Dr. Robert Mossman ended up with the foal who he ultimately named Wild Eyed and Wicked. Kentucky horseman Dave Clarke and Eddie Cockriel started the youngster’s formal education and it was Clarke who sold him to California trainers Mike and Liz Martin.

"Mike and I were there on a cold November day to look for an amateur horse and saw Wicked working," said Liz Martin [Shatner]. "We were really interested in him so they take him outside and he throws his tail up over his back and lets out a big snort.

"We knew right then we had to have this horse. We couldn't get him off our minds and were trying to figure out a way to buy him. I went to my parents and my dad had never paid over $1,500 for a horse in his life. He was in the early stages of alzheimers disease so I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but he agreed to be a partner with Mike and I.

"We had him shipped from Kentucky to California and when he came off the truck he again threw his tail over his back and snorted. We knew we had bought the right horse."

The Martins worked at getting Wicked stronger because physically he wasn't much at the time. They were even worried if he would have enough front motion. Mike finished gaiting him and was getting close to being ready to show when he was stricken with cancer and couldn't ride any more. Liz took over and started working him slow during the week, with his canter needing the most work.

"I would blow him out once a week on Sunday. I'd put the full bridle on him and I had a groom that knew what he was looking at and we would work him. With what I was going through at the time that horse was my savior. It was the best part of my week.

"I took him to Monterey in the Spring of '97 and just worked him at night after the show. I knew I had to go slow and I didn't want to blow his mind. Then I took him to Santa Barbara to work him and he was phenomenal. I ran into Bridget [Parker] and told her I had a horse she needed to see. She and Dena [Lopez] watched him one night after the show and after I had ridden him and then Dena we lined him up, took the saddle off and he turned and looked at us and snorted."

Bridget and Dena bought Wicked for David Latham and once again the gelding was a savior to the Martins. All of Mike's medical bills were paid off due to the sale of Wicked.

That was July and in August Lopez took Wicked to Dayton to show him. In the first class he was not too fond of the big grandstand on one side of the ring. They called the Martins to keep them up to date on the progress. In between the qualifier and the championship Mike died. Wicked came back and won the championship.

"They called me after the stake and told me Wicked had won because Mike was up in heaven riding with us every step," recalled Liz. "It was a spiritual union. It seems like there have been a few spiritual moments with this horse. The first year Dena won she rode up to the in-gate while they were tabulating the class and I was standing there. Wicked nudged me as if to say hello. A year later someone brought me a painting. They had captured that moment when he nudged me.

"We have a Memorial Trophy for him and Mike at Pomona. Douwe Blumberg did a trophy of them, Mike Martin and Wild Eyed And Wicked."

In ‘98 Wicked came out under the ownership of Laura Cunningham’s LLC Enterprises and dominated the west coast winning qualifiers and championships at Del Mar, Santa Barbara and Reno before heading to Louisville where they were sixth in the World’s Grand Championship.

Then came the move to Kentucky as Dave and Dena Lopez moved their Double D Ranch to Versailles. Wicked won the Five-Gaited Championship at the Kentucky Spring Premier to start the season then went on to Devon where he won both classes and bowed to the crowd. It was the start of something grand. At Lexington he would be reserve to Boucheron and a few weeks later won the championship at Mercer County. He was again reserve to Boucheron in the gelding stake at Louisville but would come back to beat him in the championship, placing second to World’s Grand Champion CH Garland’s Dream. He was on the doorstep to greatness.

The year 2000 started out like 1999 with the Five-Gaited Championship at the Kentucky Spring Premier. Next was a ground covering performance on the Red Mile that had the horse world a buzz. Wicked and Lopez had set themselves up as the leading contenders going into Louisville and he did not disappoint. The Lopez camp was putting some fun back into stake night at Louisville. Wicked paraphanaleia could be seen everywhere. He was becoming the people’s horse.

With two convincing performances he was crowned World’s Champion Five-Gaited Gelding and the World’s Grand Champion Five-Gaited horse. Meeting all challenges the Lopez/Cunningham team closed the year by winning both classes at the American Royal and completing a sweep of the Triple Crown (Lexington, Louisville, Kansas City).

There would be a new owner for Wicked the following year. “We had loved him the year before [2000] and we started talking about buying him in March of 2001,” explained Sally Jackson. “He was at the top of my short list. The thing that attracted me to him was his charisma. He had so much power and pizzazz. I was dying to get to ride him.”

He had already won the open and stake at Asheville that year. Then in July the Jacksons completed the deal and for the second consecutive year he was Lexington Junior League’s Five-Gaited Grand Champion. With a league of followers the hype was even bigger for Wicked at Louisville ‘01. Buttons, hats, Wicked good luck pennies. There were few that didn’t love what was going on.

Again Lopez and Wicked hit the green shavings wide open. She would flap her elbows when they came out of a turn as if to wind him up and in a flash they would be at the other end. He again bowed to the world with a blanket of red roses over his withers. And again, they finished the year winning both classes at the American Royal.

Now Lopez faced another challenge. Could this same blast of speed and presence be duplicated by an amateur rider? Like always, there were many that questioned it.

“There was lots of talk about if I could show him or not,” said Jackson. “We both worked at it and Dena had him prepared wonderfully.”

Jackson and Wicked debuted at Shelbyville, Tennessee’s World Cup Show in 2002 and handily won both amateur classes while also answering many critics. Bonnie Blue would be their next test and again they passed with flying colors.

With the gaited stake seemingly wide open at Louisville there started talk about which way they would show at Louisville. Staying in their division, Jackson enjoyed the experience of her life riding Wicked to the Amateur Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding title and the Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship.

“The pressure had been incredible all year long,” said Jackson in an interview with Saddle Horse Report following her win. “So many people were wondering if we could do it. Dena had him ready to roll, but you never know what will happen once you ride through that gate. The opportunity to show a horse like Wicked is just a joy. I won’t forget this one.”

The Jackson/Lopez team was set for another year and another chance at adding to Wicked’s status in the history books. Then came the unimaginable.

Just a week prior to the start of Lexington Junior League it was reported that unknown assailants broke into the Double D Ranch and injected five horses with a substance that caused great swelling and pain to all five’s front left legs. It only got worse. On July 17 CH Wild Eyed and Wicked and stablemate Meet Prince Charming were put down. The following day Kiss Me had to be euthanized as well.

“We were on a plane within an hour and half of when we received the call from Dena,” said Jackson. “It wasn’t like we thought we could do anything, but he was like a family member. We had to be there for him.

“People have been so wonderful. There have been so many cards and flowers. You don’t realize how many friends you have or how many people loved this horse, until something like this happens. It breaks your heart because it didn’t have to be this way.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. One day I want to find another one and other days I don’t want to ever ride again. It’s just now sunk in that he’s gone for good. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. The good news is Cat [Cat’s Don’t Dance] is doing much better. He’s at the Hagyard/Davidson/McGee clinic and the girls there just love him. He still has a long way to go to see if he will ever show again, but I can say he is much better.”

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