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SWISH Another Spring Premier Crosses The Finish Line

SWISH Another Spring Premier Crosses The Finish Line

by Bob Funkhouser

LEXINGTON, Ky., - Next to the Super Bowl the Kentucky Derby is the greatest known sporting event in the world. The fact that the Derby is held an hour up the road on the same weekend each year as the Kentucky Spring Premier has made it a chore for the early season show to fully prosper, although it is in its fifteenth year. Many in the Saddlebred and Hackney worlds want to and do take in the Derby festivities which abound around the Bluegrass state the first weekend in May.

Then there are some who chose to do both, therefore you never know quite who to expect in the championship round of the Spring Premier and this year there was everything from top of the line, competitive events to sad, but true one-horse championships right here in the middle of Kentucky.

“It seems like many exhibitors make up their minds that they’re just coming for one class,” said committee member Brent Jacobs. “I don’t know if it’s all because of the Derby or that’s all they plan on doing this early in the season.”

The classes and divisions where there were some numbers provided many entertaining moments for those who converged on the Kentucky Horse Park. Those barns were mainly from central Kentucky and Ohio and they brought with them a good group of household names looking for an early season test.

Judge Donna Pettry-Smith got a good opportunity to sort through some high profile horses and riders before the weekend was over. Sandra Lilly held the judge’s card during Saturday morning’s academy division. Manager Scarlett Mattson had a strong group of officials to go with her two judges. North Carolina photographer (and Duke fan) Doug Shiflet was seen sporting a University of Kentucky hat during the Spring Premier. Shiflet was joined in center ring by ringmaster Charles Wilson as Gene Wright kept the beat on the organ and Beth Snider kept everything flowing from the horse show office.

Several of the highlights from this year’s show came from the gaited division starting with the star of the show Swish. Just formed last fall this new team was awe-inspiring in Thursday night’s finale, the Amateur Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding class. As more than a few people said from railside that evening, “I don’t know if there is a better gaited horse in the country.”

Trained by John Biggins, Hillenbrand and Swish did come back for the championship round as well to be named Amateur Five-Gaited Grand Champions. As outstanding as Swish was in the qualifier there was another horse in the class that managed to grab the attention of many and that was reserve winner Callaway’s Kit Carson. Susan Shepherd did a great job presenting the reserve champion in their only show of the weekend. Linda Wheeler made it back from the Derby in time to present Believable to the Amateur Five-Gaited Reserve Championship on Saturday night.

The very first session of the show Mary Gaylord McClean and Take Me Away cruised through all five gears to take a competitive ladies class which featured Callaway’s Independence Day and Misdee Wrigley in reserve and Olympic Fire with Vicki Reed in third.

You can always count on Kelsey Price making it to the show ring and for the third year in a row the top riding young lady from Pleasantview Farm won the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Championship and qualifier with Fox de Jour. They too were pressed for the top spot, this time by Will Harris and She’s Bedazzled, twice reserve champions.

Open championships are held on Friday night without qualifying classes. Master showman Don Harris showed his younger peers that he still has more than enough touch as he paraded Lucrative up and down the straightaways like few have ever seen this gelding before. The Karla Kucera entry left little doubt as to who the 2004 champion would be as Harris made one last pass at the slow-gait to the lineup. Merrill Murray and Hero’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash proved to be their strongest competitor in the reserve slot.

The gaited division was the best of the show from top to bottom and it seemed that everybody had one in the Denver Junior Five-Gaited class. Infinity Stables had the big win in this class with Jerry Hutson putting a decisive ride on Your Eminence to win the title for Dr. and Mrs. Louis Johnson. Steve Wheeler and Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves were reserve among the 12 teams.

Neil Visser and Only In New York were the best of the novice gaited teams for James Orr, while Rob Byers and Top It Off trotted up to receive reserve honors.

A couple of world class ponies battled it out for the one blue offered in that division. The 2004 Five-Gaited Pony Champion was Champagne In Winter, ridden by Ali Judah. World’s Grand Champion Jewels For A Lady was reserve this time with Lowe Thompson in the irons.

CF Burn Out and Renee Biggins overcame a reserve in the ladies qualifier to march as the Three-Gaited Grand Champions for owner Rita Wheeler. Their tricolor performance was followed by Ed Gunn and Juanita’s Prize. Sarah Byers rode Pas de Deux to that ladies blue for Louis and Rose Marie Fernandez.

While they had only one other team to compete against, Mark Webster and A Great Day’s Cummin were convincing as the Denver Junior Three-Gaited Champions. From the Nelson Green Stables Red Hook made the victory pass as the Novice Three-Gaited Champion for Meredith Neal.

The deepest class of the walk-trot division was the pony section which featured five world title holders going head to head. Sharp riding Shelby Gregory and CH Highpoint’s Fantasia were on their A game that night to return to the McConnell Stables tackroom with the blue prize. Yasmin Wazir and Lost Token were reserve champions, followed by SS Catch My Act, Santana’s Twist & Shout, and Our Sunbeam.

In My Heart and Carol Hillenbrand were the best of the amateur division. The Carriage Lane trained team won the five-entry Amateur Three-Gaited Under 15.2 class and then came back uncontested in the finale. Brooke Jacobs and Sky High Money defeated one other team for the amateur over 15.2 blue.

After placing reserve to Melissa Milligan and Callaway’s Buttons and Bows in their debut performance, reserve champions Elizabeth Rhoads and No Casual Affair were the lone team in the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Championship.

Having gathered a large following last season the expressive Breathe was back for another season with Alexa Loudon winning the Amateur Three-Gaited Park Championship and qualifier under the direction of Jack Noble. Kelley Hollowell and Callaway’s Twister stepped up with a big performance to take reserve grand champion honors ahead of reserve qualifying winners Cheryl Allison and CH The Billy Bob. Chris Reiser presented Cloudburst to win the open park class for Willowbank.

The best of the four harness classes offered was the Novice/Denver Junior Fine Harness class in which Danette Mussleman drove Giovanni Villani to the winner’s circle for Lenore Farm. The home-bred A Revolution was the reserve champion with Chad Graham driving for Rigby’s Green.

Dena Lopez presented an impressive youngster in UPHA Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Classic Champion Lady Bella. The top check in this class went to owner Brad Bacon as Wing May Farm boasted the reserve champion in Wing May’s Kissin Kate, driven by Jack Noble.

I’m An Early Riser was the first name called in the Amateur Fine Harness class as Joan Adler drove under the direction of Melissa Moore. Reserve honors belonged to Charlotte Kurtz and Images Of Blue.

There were several Road Horse Under Saddle participants as Danette Musselman and Valiant topped six other entries including reserve champions Kathy Evans and Victoria’s Secret. Danny Bugg and Geronimo flew by long enough to pick up the winning check from the Roadster To Bike Championship. Of the five entries Fly By Night and Jimmy Robertson were reserve for Elizabeth Deknatel. Todd Shaw and Homewrecker picked up the blue streamers from the open class as did Brad Bacon and African Queen in the amateur section.

In competition for the smaller speedsters, Ken Kirk and Cabana Boy turned back all challengers in both rounds to win the Road Pony Championship and qualifier. Holli McDowell and Pure Country were twice reserve winners.

It was great to see seven entries in the Amateur Road Pony Championship and among them Buckwheat and Ann Fitzpatrick had the pistons churning to take the tricolor honors back to the McConnell Stables tack room. They had qualified with a victory pass in the amateur class. AHHS Road Pony Medallion Champions Richmond DeHart and Seamair’s Nobility were amateur reserve grand champions for Hart To Hart Stables.

Beth Campbell presented a nice pony which had several railbirds talking. Heartland Painted Creation was the winner of the Limit Road Pony class with Campbell driving for Jerry Cummins. Chris Gantley and Wait & See’s River Queen were reserve winners for Christy Gantley. A road pony blue was also presented to Ashley Waller and Mario in the AHHS Road Pony Under Saddle Medallion.

A class that’s quickly catching on, the Roadster To Pony To Wagon class was great fun as Lanny Judd and Riding Shotgun were the best of the three entries.

There was good news and bad news in the other pony competition. Bad news was only one cob-tail in both the open and championship, although it was a different pony in each class. The good news was five long-tails competed for the Harness Pony Championship. Winner of the Kentucky County Fair Championship and Harness Pony National Championship in 2003, Heartland Triple Crown and Heidi Bowie are back stronger than ever this year as evidenced by their tricolor performance as well as their win in the amateur qualifier. Geoff Dixon and Heartland Summer Storm were reserve grand champions among the five entries.

Moving from third to first, Lee Walker and Highlife’s Pride made the victory pass from the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Championship. Among the eight entries in the qualifier, Betty Jarrell and Bristol Fashion were the best of the bunch and they returned as the reserve grand champions.

Two more winning ribbons were hung on the Cardinal Farms tack room as Adam Clauson and Bourbon County Rose topped both the Pleasure Pleasure Championship and qualifier for the Rives family. They defeated eight other teams in the qualifier and four others in the championship, including reserve grand champions CH Hear The Beat and Suzanne Hubbard.

You can always count on Brian Chappell to bring out a nice young horse and this week it was Roseridge’s Tip Top, winner of the Denver Junior Park Pleasure class for Chappell and owner Jim Salerno. Dena Lopez and Been To Paris turned in the reserve performance for Belle Reve.

Beth Campbell enjoyed victory passes while driving and riding. She finished on top in the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic for Barbara McDaniel. Eddie Cockriel and Callaway’s Torch Bearer were reserve among the four entries.

The pleasure classes did stay consistently full with only a few light spots. Jackie Wahrmund and Doubletree’s Confederate were the best of the Five-Gaited Pleasure Championship entries. The Mike Felty trained team topped qualifying winners Ashley Dickinson and Admiral’s Gifted Miss who finished as reserve grand champions, as well as 10 other qualified teams. Pam Milligan and High In The Sky earned the blue from the novice gaited pleasure class among six other teams.

Lightest of all the pleasure sections, the Show Pleasure Driving Championship only had three entries after eight competed in the qualifier. Moe Anson always makes a show lively and she did just that driving Atmosphere to the tricolor title for Anson and Gail Kline. Reserve grand champion honors belonged to Becky Smith’s Highpoint’s Majestic Flame. Joan Sylvester and Shamanic Dream were the first ones called from the lineup in the qualifier.

Kendra and Shelly Fisher enjoyed and outstanding week at the Kentucky Horse Park and part of their success came with Kendra’s winning rides in the Adult Show Pleasure Championship and qualifier aboard Broadway Tune. Of the nine other entries, Callaway’s Betty Hearnes and Stacie Herron applied the most heat in both rounds.

From the novice pleasure division, Jessica Fildes and CH Preferred Prince were standouts in the novice horse B section, while Kelli House and Heir Brained Scheme topped the first division from Infinity Stables.

ASHAT members turned out to support their pleasure class with Alexa Loudon riding Drop Dead Gorgeous to the title for Toree Hefner. Vicki Gillenwater and K Town’s Precious Prince held reserve honors in the ASHAT Show Pleasure class.

Making up for some of the light classes, the competition in the Juvenile Show Pleasure Championship was intense, especially for early season. The world’s grand champion combination of CH Riva Diva and Ali Judah were outstanding again to win the Kentucky Spring Premier title. They had a great challenge from newcomers Megan Kucera and The Bess Yet, winners of the 15-17 age group from Biggins Stables. Riva Diva had warmed up with a victory pass from the 14 & under competition.

Carol Hillenbrand was right on the money all weekend long. In addition to her winning performance horses, Hillenbrand rode world title holder Callaway’s Blue Agate to the Adult Country Pleasure Championship and qualifying blue. Of the 10 entries in the championship Callaway’s Cassandra was the reserve grand champion with Bob Funkhouser catch riding for Christy Parsons. Great teammates on Saddle Horse Report, Parsons and Funkhouser shared Cassandra as Parsons had a top ride for reserve honors in the qualifier.

Vicki Reed and Callaway’s Hail Liberty have been successful no matter their division. Directed by Kris Knight, Reed and Hail Liberty were the toast of the 16-horse Novice Country Pleasure class in which Lauren Pope and Sing My Song were reserve.

The blues and tricolors keep flowing from Chris Bowen’s Whistle Stop Farm. Twice he met Julie Greenlee and Sir Patrick Stewart in the winner’s circle from the Juvenile Country Pleasure Championship and qualifier. Tiffany Parrott and Magnolia Butterfly were twice reserve champions.

With great enthusiasm, Donna Smith entered the show horse world last season driving the former Amateur Harness Pony World’s Grand Champion Bold Lad in Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony competitions from McConnell Stables. This year with her own horse, Kentucky basketball’s first lady wore the blue ribbon from the Country Pleasure Driving class as she debuted Heirithmatic. A previous engagement kept her from showing back, but friend and stablemate Heidi Bowie did the honors and made a victory pass as well. Joan Adler and world’s champion Sultry Heiress were reserve grand champions.

Competition for Western Country Pleasure found Arlys Solien and Gunsmith in first place as was Betsy Reiter’s Capture The Dream in the Hunter Country Pleasure class.

Hanna Whitfield was aboard Franklin M Edwards to win the Walk and Trot Pleasure Championship. She had all kinds of competition from Sarah Bushell who was riding twice reserve champion In A Blue Moon. Megan Thomas and Extended Warranty had won the qualifier.

Young riders also had the opportunity to show their Three-Gaited Pleasure Ponies and in that competition Alyssa Lopez turned in the winning ride with I’m A Sunbeam. The winning performance was followed by Lee Walker and Amazing Fire.

The largest numbers in the equitation section came in the Pleasure Equitation Championship and qualifier. Both times Lindsay Haupt displayed all the attributes of a champion. Toria Heck was reserve grand champion among the 10 riders, while Anna Hormann was second in the 14-rider qualifier.

Instructed by Suzanne Hubbard, Katelan Elizabeth Crabtree represented the Hillview Stables family in tricolor fashion by winning the Saddle Seat Equitation Championship. She had been reserve to Tate Bennett in the UPHA Challenge Cup. Casey Morgan Tibolet commanded reserve grand champion honors after placing reserve to Sydne Huntoon in the Open Equitation class.

Amber Lynn Lowry was right on the money to win the UPHA 13 & Under Challenge Cup as she was followed by the heavily decorated former Walk and Trot Equitation World’s Champion Chelsea Jo Roby. Brooke Jacobs is keeping her equitation form in top order and she started the year winning the UPHA Adult Challenge Cup ahead of Erin Sparks.

The Fisher sisters had two more winning ribbons to take back to Ohio as Kelsey McDonald made the top of judge Donna Pettry-Smith’s card twice in the Walk and Trot Equitation ranks. She won the UPHA Walk and Trot Challenge Cup as well as the championship. Coming from the academy division last year, Logan Gregory is ready to make her presence known in the walk and trot division and did so with two reserve rides on her new mount Radiant Revival.

These were the highlights from the fifteenth annual show. Scarlett Mattson, Chuck Walker and the entire Kentucky Spring Premier board keep striving to provide a nice season warm up show for exhibitors and in spite of the Derby and shortcomings with the Kentucky Horse Park they keep attracting an array of Louisville quality horses, ponies, and riders to go with a solid group of grass roots supporters including a large academy division.

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