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Saturday Highlights from The American Royal

The final day of the 2008 show season brought a brighter, slightly warmer climate to the American Royal. Phase One of the USEF Saddle Seat Medal National Finals brought the equitation crowd out early to Kemper Arena, followed by a nice matinee performance that culminated with Phase Two of the Medal. Jacqueline Beck picked up the second jewel of the triple crown in her last day of competition as a junior exhibitor. Her triple crown dream was only lacking the NHS Good Hands National Championship, a final she was reserve in for the past three years. Earning the Reserve National Championship was Belle Owen. Owen also picked up the Breyer horse award for being the youngest entry to make the cut. She still has another year left in the Junior ranks! It was a great accomplishment for this DeLovely star.

Sandy Currier opened the daytime session with a win in Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited with Reserve World’s Champion Bebop Lady. It has been a great year for the young horses from Bluebonnet Farm.

The Country Pleasure Driving National Championship went back to the Hollow Haven aisle, as CH Callaway’s Pretty Penny and Nancy Anderson drove down victory lane for the sixth year in a row.

The first qualifier for the 2009 UPHA Walk and Trot Challenge Cup also went to a Hollow Haven entry, as Kaitlyn Creekmore made the winning ride. Reserve National Champion Molly Codeanne was reserve today as well.

The Remington and Juliet McDonald made the National Championship drive in the Harness Pony ranks, while Kohler’s It’s Magic earned the top spot in Three Year Old Five-Gaited with Tracy James aboard. Known primarily for their phenomenal Morgan breeding program, the Kohler team has a top young star in this Yorktown Magic filly. Virgil Helm, always popular at the Royal, was reserve with What Was I Thinking for TNT Investment Enterprises.

Finishing their 2008 campaign in style, Toreador and Dr. Catherine Gallo jogged to a tri-color performance in the Western Country Pleasure Championship. Under the Arcuri banner, this team also earned a World’s Championship in the division this year.

An elated Tanner Parham put it all together with Jewels For A Lady to win the Five-Gaited Pony Stake for Steve Myers. Abigail Mutrux made another successful catch-ride aboard The Lucky Charm as the Reserve Champion for Larry Gilpin.

Doc Raun had the top entry in Junior Harness Pony. Heartland Undeniable was the choice in that one. The switch to the Pleasure Driving division at Midwest Charity proved to be a smart one for CH Titleist Symbol, Rachel Machamer and the Hollow Haven crew. After two wins there, the team went on to lose just one class the rest of the year, ironically enough in that very same ring as they were Reserve Champions at Mid-America Mane Event. Today there would be no stopping them as they left the ring as the ASHAF Youth Pleasure Driving Challenge National Champions.

The following class featured the one horse that beat Titleist Symbol in the driving ranks this year, the gorgeous black mare, Open Arms. New to the Pleasure Driving ranks, “Amy” has been untouchable so far with her skilled driver, Jane Mueller. They were National Champions today, ahead of Unclaimed and Jan Beardsley Blanco.

As would be expected of a National Championship show, another show ring superstar followed. This time it was in the Three-Gaited Pony Stake, where Hunter Chancellor and The Attache Orchid earned the vote of all three judges. Their campaign this year included nine victory passes and one reserve tie, that being in the World’s Championship.

Speaking of World’s Champions, Mollie Kregor had her 13 and Under Country Pleasure World’s Champion of Champions, The Petite Princess, moving in high style today to add the National Championship to her resume. Qualifier winners Future Vision and Ashley Baird were reserve.

Maureen Lydon found her way back to the ever-familiar winner’s circle with Sandra Surber’s Junior Hackney Pony winner, Heartland Spindazzle. Reedannland had another young pony winner a few classes later, as Peg Johnston earned the top spot with Velvet King in the Junior Road Pony division.

Carol Hillenbrand finished her first full season with League Of Nations as the Country Pleasure National Champion. They were Reserve National Champions last year. They show under the Carriage Lane banner. Hillenbrand and the Conatsers would be heard from again later. Joellen Fisher Blount made one of her best performances with Cheetah’s Admiral to take the Reserve National Championship.

Cary’s Moonraker figured prominently into the Three Year Old Fine Harness class, as she produced the top two finishers. MBA’s Royal Shadow Phax was driven to the blue by Pat McConnell for MBA Equestrians, while Smith Lilly had Platinum’s Moon Over Pluto up for reserve for Platinum Stock Farm. Shadow Phax is by Attache’s Royal Assets, while Moon Over Pluto is by Belle Reve’s Renaissance Man. That is an impressive feat for a broodmare. Definitely one that would be hard to duplicate.

The always deep and competitive Amateur Park division saw its World’s Champion of Champions take the National Championship as well. Jacqueline Manzo made the tri-color ride aboard CH His Supreme Reflection for Kimberly Jones. Supreme Reflection was the Open National Champion just a year ago. Traci Massaro had CH Phi’s Phortune Teller working in top form once again to take reserve. This will be a battle to watch for all throughout next year as well.

Rebekah Cloninger laid the smack down with Smackdown to top the Junior Exhibitor Road Pony division. Kaitlin Whatley and Surprize Surprize were reserve. Courtney McGinnis and Amandari were the final winners before the USEF Saddle Seat Medal National Championship. They were tops in 10 and Under Equitation. Aleia Brown made her cantering debut in reserve under the Cape Cod banner.

Saturday night provided all the drama and emotion that a National Championship should bring. On this night of triple crowns and fantastic performances, it was pure emotion that ruled supreme. The standing ovation that Swish received as he took the final victory pass of his storied career will be a moment to remember forever. As John and Tammie Conatser ran to greet Carol Hillenbrand in the winner’s circle for her fourth Amateur Five-Gaited National Championship, the tears were already beginning to flow. When Swish pulled to the center of the ring and parked out, the entire crowd knew they were witnessing history. Peter Fenton read this great son of Supreme Heir’s list of accomplishments, before Swish carried his rider around the ring one last time, soaking in the appreciative crowd’s accolades. In no way was this an easy victory, as Theresa Vonderschmitt and I’m Something Wicked pushed them every step of the way as Reserve National Champions.

The night began with the Fine Harness National Championship. Castledream made a silky smooth performance for the big Kansas City crowd. Misdee Wrigley Miller always shines in these situations, as even a crowd of non-Saddlebred spectators can pick up on the grace and beauty she exudes in the show ring. It was another grand trip for this supremely talented team. A new face on the fine harness scene, Revolver, formerly Day’s Grecian Gray, was the Reserve National Champion with Bret Day driving for Dr. Chip Pugh.

It was the battle of the bays in the Ladies Three Gaited National Championship. Coming on strong to take the tri-color was CH Sue She, with Ericka Nelson aboard for the Hollow Haven team. Reversing their order of finish from the qualifier, CH Callaway’s Merry-Go-Round and Christy Bennett finished the year as Reserve National Champions.

Free Willy finished out his Majestic Oaks career in grand style, being crowned the Road Pony National Champion with a tearful and proud Maureen Lydon at the whip. Willy will head northeast now with new owner Jayne Romano and the Fairfield South team. He showed under the Majestic Oaks banner for four seasons, earning five World’s Championships victories and five wins here at The American Royal.

Lady Vol made her fans and connections proud as she floated down victory lane as the Amateur Fine Harness National Champion. She moves as if she barely touches the ground under the direction of Zach Duffy and the Mike Roberts team. Hi On Heir was reserve for Sally Jackson and Melissa Moore.

CH An Heir About Her topped the Junior Exhibitor Three Gaited National Championship for the second year in a row for Marjorie Townsend and Ever Glades Farm. It was a great performance for this team that only shows together a few times a year. Grandma Sarah Rowland is the mare’s usual partner. Rachel Singer made a thrilling show with I’m Bewitched to emerge as the Reserve National Champion.

Stephany Monteleone followed up her Hackney Pleasure Driving World’s Championship with a National Championship tonight behind Mastercraft’s Namesake LF. Tamra Arndt had Heartland Parade Time, no stranger to the Kansas City winner’s circle, working well in second.

Grande Gil and Misdee Wrigley Miller threw down the gauntlet in the Three-Gaited National Championship, putting the final seal on their first full season together and repeating their win from last year. Thunder Cloud Nine, the under 2 winner, was reserve for Darrell Case and Olen and Betty Wilford.

Zach Duffy always seems to get the best out of the full sister to Sir William Robert, Princess Mara. The athletic mare made another top performance tonight to win the Park Championship for Tom Galbreath. Jay Wood and The Paper Princess JJW, qualifier winners, were Reserve Champions tonight.

Debbie Foley made the winning drive in the Roadster to Bike Championship, providing the Kohler team with their second win of the day, as Trio Bolero G is owned by Steve DeBolt and Tommy Caisse, trainers at Kohler Farm. Charlie Jones and Mr’s Bones finished off a fantastic campaign as Reserve Champions. Showing under the Lukens banner, it has been a great year for Bones and Jones.

A deep and loaded Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited National Championship saw Hunter Chancellor work the ring well with Platinum’s New Look. Tonto and Hunter were definitely on their game tonight to take the tri-color. This division always requires a horse and rider’s best effort to come out on top. Angela Darrow made a great show with Freaky Links to finish as the Reserve National Champion under the Knollwood banner, while CH Callaway’s Independence Day and Victoria McCune were third in this competitive class.

Maureen Lydon drove Kilbro’s Code Red to the Hackney Pony National Championship for new owner Toni Nastali. Lydon and Code Red are undefeated on the season together, capping it off with two wins here.

As is the case at Louisville, the Hackney ponies set the stage for the Five-Gaited Championship. With the Saddlebred Triple Crown on the line, Peter Cowart hit the ring hard with CH Breaking News to vie for the title. Though the triple crown incentive program no longer exists, it is still a prestigious and difficult achievement to attain. The World’s Grand Champion would once again have to beat a field of the best to earn his crown. Bravo Blue and Virgil Helm received a lot of crowd support as the “hometown favorite” of sorts, while Mare winner Callaway’s Karla was putting on yet another consistent performance for Debbie Foley. Feel The Thunder and Kris Knight always elicit good ovations from the crowd for Sam and Vicki Reed, while Shame On You and Merrill Murray seem to continue to improve with every show together. I’m Royalty Too and Rob Byers, Pucker Up and Robert Gardiner, and Fight Night and Louis Louw rounded out the ribbon winners in this fantastically deep field of 10.

For all that talent to compete against, Breaking News rose to the top once again. His climb to the top of the Saddlebred mountain this season has been inexorable, much as his style in the show ring. He just keeps going and going and improving as the class wears on. He is just a ball of momentum that can’t be stopped. Peter Cowart is able to harness that momentum and energy and focus it into consistently great performances. Megan McClure and Beth Arndt, the ownership team behind News, are deserving of all the accolades and praise heaped upon this grand horse throughout the year, as they turned the reins over to Cowart and trusted in his vision for the Lexington, Louisville and American Royal Grand Champion. And a grand champion he is.

Bravo Blue was the only horse to beat Breaking News at one of the “Triple Crown” horse shows. He will certainly be back again next year with the TNT and Virgil Helm Stable team firmly behind him. It should be another interesting year at the horse show in 2009.

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