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Taking The Crown Back To Crown Valley Farm



by Leeann Mione

      


Bustin Out was crowned the World’s Champion

Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding
with trainer David Blevins for owner Jennifer Sandefur.


David Blevins, although having grown up with horses and spending most of his adult life working in the Saddlebred industry, was a relative “unknown” to many when he headed down the ramp onto the green shavings of Freedom Hall.

      

No matter that he had never shown at Louisville before, he was part of a team that was calm, cool and collected. His wife, Leslie, had been right by his side all week keeping him grounded and focused.

      

David and Leslie Blevins are a rock-solid team

who made their first appearance at Louisville

and went home with a world’s title.

 

The big, handsome three-year-old colt he was riding was truly mature beyond his years. The stars aligned and the pieces fell into place and when it was all over, Busting Out was the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding World’s Champion for owner Jennifer Sandefur.

      

The journey to this point began in Ft. Payne, Ala., for David Blevins. He grew up with his father, Charles, mother Rhonda and younger brother Adam and horses were part of his life from the beginning. “I was riding before I could walk,” said Blevins. His father wanted to be a Saddle Horse trainer and worked for Dewey and Nancy Smith in Mentone, Ala. Blevins rode racking horses and always knew that horses would be part of his life.

      

His first job was rubbing horses for James and Jackie Hale. Over the years, he honed his skills and learned as much as he could from trainers including Steve Old, Sam Brannon and Tammy DeVore.

      

Eventually Blevins ended up in California working with trainer Derek Repp at Fair Hills Farm, owned by Maynard and Linda Brittan. He stayed for five years and grew to love the California climate and way of life. “If I have anything to do with it,” said Blevins, “I’ll never live anywhere else.”

      

Blevins has so many reasons to stay. A great job, a great family that is about to change dramatically and a great boss. Jennifer Sandefur had been a customer at Fair Hills Farm while Blevins worked there. When she made the decision to buy her own farm, Blevins went with her and Crown Valley Farm opened last year.

      

Leslie grew up with horses as well, but not Saddlebreds. She had been involved with Quarter Horses and in fact met David when she brought a Quarter Horse to Fair Hills Farm to see if he would work it. David was skeptical at first and worried that she might not understand his training methods. Leslie seemed to have complete faith in him from the beginning and that was a sign of things to come.

      

At Louisville in 2006, Blevins was on the lookout for a horse to develop for the amateur ranks for Sandefur to ride. A striking chestnut sired by CF First Night Out and out of Suzy’s Lady Bug, by CH The Talk Of The Town, caught his eye. Matt Shiflet showed in the two-year-old class, lost two shoes and had to be excused. The colt made such an impression on Blevins that he asked Shiflet what he thought about preparing the youngster for an amateur rider. Shiflet replied that the colt was a good thinker and he believed it was a great plan. Blevins tried the colt on Sunday morning after Louisville ended.

      

Anyone who has tried to drive a car or a golf cart in the vicinity of Stopher Walk on Sunday morning has some idea of the congestion and chaos as horse van after horse van blocks the road while being loaded.

      

Busting Out wasn’t fazed a bit. “He walked through all that traffic,” said Blevins, “like old broke Shep. He wasn’t bothered in the least and I knew then that no matter what it took, he was the colt I needed for Jennifer.”

      

Blevins wasn’t the only one enamored with the big colt. “He’s the most personable Saddlebred I’ve ever met,” said Leslie Blevins. “He just wants to please you and do whatever you ask of him. He’s like a big Labrador Retriever and would climb in your pocket if you let him. He loves attention and is always happy-go-lucky.”

      

It seemed Busting Out was even out to charm the media. Standing and literally posing for the camera when his picture was taken no matter how long it took, how hot it was or how tired he was.

      

Busting Out headed to Somis, Calif., after Louisville in 2006 and soon after began making a name for himself. That’s sort of misleading however. Busting Out was already a reserve world’s champion. He’d finished reserve in the Yearling Breeders’ Open class at Louisville in 2005 with Sam Stafford.

      

Deep in the midst of remodeling her beautiful farm in preparation of fulfilling a lifelong dream of being able to get up in the morning, walk outside and watch horses in the pastures, Jennifer Sandefur has been busy this year. As a high-powered executive her job takes much of her time, but she has been able to watch numerous victories in California by Blevins and Busting Out. They began the year by winning the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited class at UPHA Chapter 1 - Woodside and followed it up with wins at both Del Mar Charity Fair and Santa Barbara National.

      

“His pedigree is what makes him such a big, mature, good thinking horse. He gets his size and maturity from First Night Out on his topside and his willingness and ability to rack from his bottom side,” said Blevins.

      

After a great season in California, it was time to head to Louisville. Blevins’s faith had never wavered but he was a bit shaken up when he realized that there would be 19 horses in the three-year-old class. He wondered if his colt, which had never competed in classes of more than two or three entries, could handle the big crowd of horses and people. Leslie was his rock. She knew they could win it, that they both had it in them to do so and she anchored Blevins and kept him calm and focused.

      

Busting Out looked every inch the veteran as he hit the ring that Thursday night. As he trotted down the rail, heads turned and the words “Who’s that?” followed him around Freedom Hall. On the reverse, the big colt just continued his powerful, yet contained, performance and never backed an ear.

      

As people were still asking each other who number 1800 was, announcer Peter Fenton called out the number as the champion selected by the panel of Rob Wilson, Mitch Clark and Jack Noble.

      

“It’s still so surreal,” said Blevins. “Some people spend their whole lives showing at Louisville and never earn a blue ribbon. To do it in my first try is incredible. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of a great team. It was truly a team effort.” Leslie Blevins seconded that thought. “I knew they could win it, but for it to actually happen is unbelievable. It’s hard to put into words what it meant other than to say thank you to everyone that helped us get here.”

      

As the crowd of well-wishers headed back to the Crown Valley Farm stalls, there was one very important person missing. Jennifer Sandefur had been unable to get away from work to make the trip from California to watch Busting Out’s world’s championship performance. Soon enough however, her grand young colt was back home to receive her love and attention for a job well done.

      

David and Leslie Blevins have much to celebrate:

David’s 33rd birthday on Sept. 1 and the arrival

in only a few weeks of son David Clark Blevins.


Sept. 1 is David Blevins’s 33rd birthday, an exciting day to look forward to. However, it’s not nearly as exciting as the day he and Leslie and sons Don and Greg are looking forward to the most - the day, in just a couple of weeks, when their son David Clark Blevins arrives to become another proud supporter of the Crown Valley Farm team.

      

An inaugural appearance at Freedom Hall and a world’s championship title when it was over for the young trainer and the colt he had believed in from the beginning. Seems that was probably the last time people on the rail will be asking, “Who’s that?”

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