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Tears, Cheers and National Championships

Coverage by Leeann Mione, Bob Funkhouser, and Kelley Colvin

Lead In Story by Bob Funkhouser

KANSAS CITY, MO. - Year two of the new UPHA/American Royal had all of the elements to make it what it is: a unique season ending show with many different national championships and finals held in a fun city in a venue that is now clean and efficient. So far it has been a nice relationship that has resulted in a show horsemen were extremely pleased to be a part of.

Although they were up in the number of barns showing, the Royal was actually down approximately 75 horses from last year’s packed house and a few of the early classes felt the sting of those missing horses and ponies, however, from Thursday on this was a tough horse show. The Classic Championships...full and competitive; the Equitation Finals...full and competitive; the AHHS Medallion Finals...growing and competitive; Junior Exhibitor, Ladies, Amateur and Open Championships...full and you better have a good one to be in the top ribbons; the music, world class horses, ponies and riders, green shavings and an announcer that gave the audience more than just the horses’ names, riders and what place they finished; and the Audience...oh yes, there was an audience. The completely packed houses of the hunter/jumper and FFA days are over, but there were still healthy crowds with both sides of the arena full for the championship performances.

A desire for the American Royal to be a National Championship has been evident on the part of the UPHA as well as the American Royal committee and manager Fern Bittner. The facility was ready to host this event and the footing was the best it has ever been. Only two shoes were lost in the ring the entire week. The ramp leading down to the ring, which in years past could have been used to plant corn, was in excellent condition.

“Compared to where we were three years ago, this was an excellent show,” said UPHA Board member and Hackney Pony trainer Randy Harper. “It has been both sides working together, the UPHA and the American Royal board. George Guastello (American Royal President and CEO) has been easy to work with and nothing but positive. That entire organization wants this to be a great horse show. They were willing to listen to the feedback and take the criticism with the good. I think that today exhibitors believe if they do have a problem, something will be done. The attitude of the exhibitors and both boards is 100 percent better than it was three years ago.

“The pony division is still the weakest part of this show and we’ve got to do something about that. Pony exhibitors need to support this show and not have the attitude that, ‘We’re going to be third behind so and so before we ever go.’ Competition is what makes a great show and on any given night one of these good ponies can make a bad show.”

Debbie Foley, Lonnie Lavery and Jack Nevitt were charged with determining the Saddle Horse champions for the year, while Denny Lang, Foley and Lavery judged the ponies. Several different panels (listed elsewhere in this coverage) ruled over the equitation events. Peter Fenton was again the voice of the American Royal while Howie Schatzberg was center ring to capture the national championship photos. Besides sounding the horn and calling for the line up or a change of gaits, ringmasters Marion VandeWall and Kent Moeller were called into action a couple of times during the week.

It is a grand week for the horse enthusiast. Restaurants, shopping and a schedule that allows you to do both and see plenty of horse show are big attractions. Going into the weekend the pace picked up drastically with 73 horses and ponies showing in eight UPHA Classic Championships which offered $133,000 in prize money. Thirty-four different teams showed in six different AHHS Youth Medallion National Finals. The different Equitation Finals all started with riders numbering in the low 30s and the performance championships were all filled nicely. What more could a horse show want?

“I was very happy with our show. We just have to try and figure out how to get bigger and better next year,” said manager Fern Bittner. “I can’t say enough about the work of both committees. They have given a lot to see that this is a showcase event. Jimmy Robertson and Jim Taylor were out here early working with us on the footing in the ring and I don’t know if I’ve ever been to or managed a show where the footing was as good. We had several comment that they wished Louisville could get their footing like this.”

There were lots of elements that made this a success. In addition to the facility being in top condition, prize money and awards were substantial. There was a $50,000 Five-Gaited National Championship, a $25,000 Three-Gaited National Championship, a $10,000 Adult Pleasure National Championship and a $5,000 Fine Harness National Championship. The remaining National Championships were all $2,000 classes, not to mention the $133,000 paid out in the UPHA Classics Championships and the $37,328 paid out in the Missouri Breeder’s Challenge Weanling Stake.

And that’s not all. Trainers received bonus money for their stock winning major championships. The winning trainer in the Five-Gaited Championship went home with $5,000, the winning three-gaited trainer $2,500, the winning fine harness and adult pleasure trainer $1,000 each. Junior exhibitors were also well rewarded. Ever Glades Farm provided $500 scholarships to the winners of the junior exhibitor three-gaited, five-gaited and show pleasure championships, while thanks to the generosity of the Lanny Greer family the AHHS Medallion program awarded $500 savings bonds to the winners of its finals.

And finally, the bottom line of any horse show is what took place in the ring. You can offer the facilities, the prize money, the parties and the officials, but if the exhibitors don’t participate then it is all for naught. People went away from Kansas City feeling like they had been to a good horse show. What took place in Kemper Arena, especially on the weekend, was an extremely competitive, well run horse show with horses from 39 different states represented. The pony people do have to step up and start working together to figure out how they are going to get some numbers in the ring at a major show like this, but the rest of it was good. You always want more horses, but those that were there were high in quality and they did show.

It made for many great moments with both tears and cheers. Seeing the expression on Nancy Leigh Fisher’s face as she maneuvered the powerful Callaway’s Forecaster around the ring to add a National Championship to their Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship was a thrill. There were plenty of cheers for this team.

“It’s not real,” said Fisher of her season with Callaway’s Forecaster. “We all live with hope and it’s been a dream, however, I’ve always loved the journey. That’s the best part of this. The blue prizes are just the icing on the cake. I still just love being around this horse. He tries so hard to please you with every thing he does.

“I’ll have to admit in the first class here I felt the pressure and I’m so mad at myself for it. I didn’t enjoy that ride one bit and that’s the reason I do this, for the enjoyment. I felt the pressure of having won at Louisville and being a woman and a true amateur.

“Lynda Freseth is an amazing human being. She got a hold of me after that class and said, ‘Look, they can’t take it away from you. You’ve won it. It’s yours forever. Just enjoy your horse and ride him like you know how.’ That is the one thing I’ve learned, enjoy the ride, it could end tomorrow.”

No one knows that better than Sally Jackson. As the owner/rider of both CH Wild Eyed and Wicked and Cat’s Don’t Dance, she had her rides suddenly taken away from her in what still remains a well-documented mystery. There were both tears and cheers for Jackson this week as she did return to the ring with Cat’s Don’t Dance to take a reserve in the Adult Five-Gaited Pleasure qualifier. The crowd gave them a great ovation for their gutsy performance. Then Saturday evening Jackson was in center ring for a ceremony which honored her late world’s grand champion Wild Eyed and Wicked. Winner of the Five-Gaited Championship at the American Royal twice, Wicked was honored as the show officially retired the famed Kansas City Star Challenge Trophy in his honor.

There was also another extremely touching moment Saturday when Gib Marcucci and Heartland Triumphant King were named the winners of the Hackney Pony National Championship. It was announced that this would be the 12-time world’s champion’s last show in honor of his late owner, the recently deceased Isabel Robson. With that announcement the entire crowd stood and cheered giving the pony and his unforgettable owner a well deserved standing ovation.

Saturday night was a power packed evening and it all began with the opening class, the seven-horse Fine Harness Championship. Bill Waller made his first appearance with Candle Dan and what a show that was to take the National Championship for Carl and Kathryn Nichols. Reserve World’s Grand Champion Royal Messenger looked like a horse seasoned well beyond his four years of age, and he was flat out awesome taking Melissa Moore to the winner’s circle of the Three-Gaited National Championship while representing Robert Lilley.

The amateur gaited division was the strongest of the show with Tigerlee and Swish trading classes. Carol Hillenbrand and Swish came out on top in the national championship. It was a great week for Hillenbrand who also won the Adult Three-Gaited Pleasure National Championship for the sixth time, the third with The Bess Yet.

Long the mainstay of the American Royal, Equitation was again a highlight as Danville, Kentucky’s Betty Cox became the seventh rider in history to score the Triple Crown; NHS Good Hands, UPHA Challenge Cup and USAE Medal all in the same year. She joined an elite group which included Sarah Thordsen (2001), Amanda Arrick (1994), Catherine Schuessler (1988), Kate Harvey (1987), Jama Hedden (1982) and Janice Christensen (1980). Cox’s parents, professional horseman Carter Cox and his wife, longtime exhibitor Karen Cox, were reduced to tears as the lifelong goal was achieved.

“You don’t know what it took to get her here,” exclaimed Karen. “She was stuck in the airport in Philadelphia for nine hours and then we had to charter a plane from St. Louis to get her here in time for her first ride. I don’t know how she’s done it.”

Cox’s instructor, Lillian Shively, holds the record of instructing four of the seven Triple Crown winners. She also claimed the USAE Medal Reserve National Champion Jessica Harrison. It was also quite a moment for this young Missourian.

In the UPHA Challenge Cup National Finals it was New Hampshire’s Devon Garone taking reserve to Cox. Also the daughter of professional trainers, this was Garone’s last rides in the equitation division. Last year’s USAE Medal Finals National Champion, Garone finished the week as the American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion with Knollwood Farm’s Kelsey Nicole Smith taking reserve grand champion honors.

Gary and Marsha Garone also instructed their second UPHA Junior Challenge Cup Finals National Champion as former Walk and Trot Equitation World’s Grand Champion Kyle Gagnon was named the Junior UPHA National Champion. Ten years ago Kathryn L’Heureux represented Fairfield South and the Garones in the winner’s circle.

Reserve to Gagnon was another rider from the Northeast, Jessica Moctezuma. Riding a pleasure horse and instructed by her mother, Nealia McCracken, with assistance from Fran Crumpler, Moctezuma was thrilled with her finish especially since they weren’t even planning on coming to Kansas City.

“Fern [Bittner] called me two weeks ago and asked me where our entries were,” said McCracken following the class. “I told her it was the end of the year and it’s such a long ways we just hadn’t planned on coming. Fern said she would really like to have us and needed our Western horses so we said okay. We’re glad she made that call.”

There was also a Triple Crown of sorts in the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup Finals. For the first time in its three year existence, a good crowd was on hand early Thursday evening to watch these exceptionally skilled riders display their talents. Renee Biggins has given so much to make this National Championship a success and all the reward she needed was seeing the faces of Kathy Gray, winner of the Overall Championship for the third consecutive year, and her mother/instructor Morgan trainer Betty Gray. The Royal crowd gave all of the championships in this class a warm Kansas City reception.

The second chapter of the UPHA/American Royal National Championships came to a close on a definite upswing. With the same grit and desire that our horses and ponies showed, the people in charge of making this is showcase event rose to the occasion with a tricolor performance. The only things left to do for the exhibitors were to close out several horse deals which were in the works and get out of town before the bottom fell out. Snow was forecast for Sunday so by late Saturday night and early Sunday morning this part of Kansas City was nothing short of a ghost town.

Just think, 359 days until the next Tubby’s Burger!

Five-Gaited Division

By far the strongest division of the horse show, the gaited section had world’s champion stars in the open, amateur, ladies and juvenile divisions. A majority of the country’s finest made a season ending appearance in Kemper Arena and the green shavings were flying because of it.

Eight entries vied for the $50,000 Five-Gaited National Championship and what a line up it was. The current Five-Gaited Gelding and Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion was represented as was the current World’s Champion Five-Gaited Stallion. They each won their respective qualifiers here. Last year’s American Royal Five-Gaited Mare Champion was back and repeated her title. Last year’s UPHA Five-Gaited Classic Grand Champion was thrown in the mix as was last year’s Junior Five-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Champion and a former Five-Gaited Stallion World’s Champion. There was no shortage of talent and no shortage of horsemanship.

A world’s grand champion who has been truly campaigned, CH Callaway’s Forecaster was just as convincing and at the slow gait even more so than he was at Louisville. Besides all of the power, this Callaway’s Blue Norther son set back and really excelled at the slow gait with his amateur owner Nancy Leigh Fisher again in the irons. Fisher and Forecaster put on a unanimous performance to garner one last championship for Hollow Haven Farm in 2003.

Riding for all he had, Merrill Murray and World’s Champion Superior’s Successor were the reserve grand champions for owner Joan Hammond. Like they always do, Virgil Helm and the beautiful stallion Desert’s Supreme Memories had the crowd going as they received the third place finish. Lonnie Quarles had his last show on My Chanel to take fourth. The highly regarded mare will be shown by Owen Weaver in the ladies division next year. Behind My Chanel were Walterway’s Remember Me, Jewel’s Teton, Molligny Don’t Worry Be Happy and My Gypsy Tambourine.

Just a few classes before the gaited stake 14 entries competed for the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Championship and these juvenile riders were still thirsty. Back Wednesday morning, world’s grand champion Chandler suffered a rare defeat at the hands of the brilliant junior mare Ya Ya, who was ridden by Hayne Clifton. Chandler and Lisa McClaren did take home the reserve streamers in that 15-17 qualifier.

Also Wednesday morning, Calee Dillon and Blazing Day PHF turned back all challengers for the 14 and under blue. Rachel Singer and Sunken Treasure were the closest competitors to set the stage for a large championship with both age groups combined.

In the championship round the Arnston family of Country Meadow Farm had McClaren and Chandler tuned to perfection claiming two of the three first place votes to add the National Championship to their already crowded trophy case. Moving up in the standings the Walnut Way team of Margaret Schmitt and CH Millennium had a first place vote to receive reserve grand champion honors. At the top all season long, Kaitlyn Grom and Diamond Flight were third among the 14 championship contestants while showing under the direction of Terry Stephenson.

The division of the entire show had to be the amateur gaited competition. The amateur stallion/gelding class was every bit a Louisville caliber class and the 10-horse amateur championship wasn’t far behind although a few of the contestants were not quite as sharp as they had been in the qualifier.

Carol Hillenbrand debuted Swish with a red ribbon in the Amateur Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding class behind Jackie Stred and Tigerlee, who were absolutely fabulous. They were making their first show together with trainer Melissa Moore, who had just sold Swish to Hillenbrand. Of all the championships Hillenbrand has won in her career she was more elated following this qualifying ride than at any point in her career.

“I’ve never felt anything like that,” said Hillenbrand referring to her ride with Swish. “That was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had.”

It would only get better in the championship round. This time the John Biggins trained team of Hillenbrand and Swish left no room for doubt as they never missed a beat on the way to a unanimous Amateur Five-Gaited National Championship.

“I haven’t felt like this since I had Gypsy Supreme,” said Biggins of his winning team.

Stred and Tigerlee had to settle for the reserve championship on this evening, and making them all sweat were third place finishers Gabe Deknatel and Callaway’s Weatherman. This world’s champion combination was much stronger than it had been in the qualifier. To make it even deeper, last year’s amateur grand champions Misdee Wrigley and Callaway’s Independence Day were fourth, followed by the multi-titled team of Kristen Pettry and Cash Back. The other three ribbons went to Himalaya, Desert’s Favorite Memories and Downtown Strutter. This was indeed a National Championship class.

Other than Himalaya, it seems that the amateur mares stepped aside for the boys in the championship round. It was, however, a grand debut for Ann MacMurray Cox and Summer Sweet in the Amateur Five-Gaited Mare class. Recently purchased with Rick Wallen as agent, Summer Sweet and Cox were assisted by former trainer Nelson Green to defeat five other contenders including reserve winners Himalaya and Dr. Owen Weaver.

There was also a lot of fire power in the ladies division. And of course what could be a better setting than Kansas City for a world’s grand champion Missouri team to put on a world class performance? The feel good story of the year was Missourian Gayle Lampe winning the Ladies Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion with the former Missouri breeding stallion Callaway’s Born To Win. The unanimous Ladies Five-Gaited National Championship was the icing on the cake for the Mike Roberts trained team. They had warmed up with a convincing show in the ladies gelding class.

Sarah Byers was all smiles making a catch ride on Amusing to win the ladies mare class before owner Amy Dix Rock could make it to town to win the Ladies Five-Gaited Reserve National Championship with three second place votes. Making some eye-catching passes Mahvalous Asset was all show horse for Donna Pettry Smith in third.

The Mo/Kan Tom Bass Memorial Five-Gaited Stake is part of the Thursday evening championship line up. With the history of the legendary, black Missouri horseman behind this championship it is a coveted prize each and every year. When the dust had finally settled John Wallen and Radioactive RWF had three first place votes next to their names as they proudly made their way to the winner’s circle for Carole Eastman. Reserve grand champion honors belonged to Ron Hulse who was riding Champagne’s Red Gold for another pair of legends, Dale and Glenda Pugh. They had made the victory pass in the Mo/Kan stallion/gelding class in which Kent Swalla and Singsation were reserve.

When ribbons were passed out in the Mo/Kan Five-Gaited Mare class Gayle Lampe’s She’s Out And About were first in line. Robert Stezovsky and Peridise Danse were reserve winners.

Twelve entries came back for Saturday morning’s Mo/Kan Amateur or Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Stake, and leading the pack was An Heir Of Magic, a flashy white legged entry ridden by Rachel Henry Kufeldt under the direction of Sonny Sutton. Cryst-A-Kell’s Karen White-Coup was riding hard and claimed one of the first place votes with Reedann’s Steppin Out to take the reserve championship. These two entries were also first and second in the qualifier.

Friday evening a strong group of 11 Junior Five-Gaited entries filled Kemper Arena for a highly entertaining class. Memories Paragon and Virgil Helm had been good all year long and they closed out the season with another unanimous decision for owner/breeder Walter Bush. Right behind them was the new combination of Scott Matton and Pucker Up. This top young mare is owned by Jonelle Chovanec. Merrill Murray and Roseridge Gold were right there for a third place finish.

Tom Scott finished what would be a solid week for him on Saturday morning with the Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited class. Riding Heir Dazzle for Robert Ratte, Scott again had the judges’ and the buyers’ attention. Heir Dazzle was the unanimous Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Champion, and then had people waiting at the out-gate to buy him. Reserve honors went to the always expressive Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves, an entry ridden by Allison Pendry for Nelson Green Stables and owner Wildernest Farm.

The final class for gaited horses was the Two-Year-Old Five-Gaited Stake in which three babies competed for the American Royal blue. Coming out on top was Sir York’s First Edition (Sir York x Cameo’s Cotillion), an entry owned and ridden by Merle Hoff Jr. Reserve honors went to Callaway’s Aspiration, ridden by Ronald Honaker for Callaway’s Hills Stable.

Three-Gaited Division

The three-gaited division provided some of the most talent-filled classes of the show and competition was strong across the board. The ladies, amateurs and junior exhibitors were all required to be on top of their game in their quest for a blue and a national title.

The open division pitted champions together, none of whom was a stranger to the winner’s circle, in several exciting classes. Audrey Hepburn, ridden by trainer Steve Joyce, claimed the blue in the under two class for owner Morgan Wolin. Caramar was the reserve champion for Live Oaks Limited with Melissa Moore up. In the over two class, reigning over two world’s champion Royal Messenger went to the top of the cards to put Melissa Moore in the winner’s circle for Robert Lilley. Bret Day and Bill and Coe London’s Sensational Heir exited with the reserve title.

Royal Messenger and Sensational Heir both returned in the Three-Gaited National Championship to face Steel In Love and Fran Crumpler, I’m Sky High and Gary Garone, and Callaway’s Abigail Adams with Rob Byers. All five entries turned in strong performances and the appreciative crowd cheered for their favorites, but when the cards were turned in the panel was in agreement that four-year-old Royal Messenger was the Three-Gaited National Champion. Steel In Love, who has garnered a long list of top ribbons this season, was the reserve national champion.

After an 11-entry over two class for the ladies and a five-entry under two class, seven lady riders returned for their national championship. Winner of the big Ladies Three-Gaited Over 15.2 class, Pas De Deux and owner Rosemarie Fernandez turned in the unanimous win in the Ladies Three-Gaited National Championship under the direction of Premier. Page Me and Melissa Moore were reserve in the championship for Strathmore Saddlebreds. CH Supreme Inheritance and Michelle Hartman were reserve in the over 15.2 class. Audrey Hepburn added another blue to the Cameo Stable total with the win in the under 15.2 class. Caramar was reserve for Live Oaks Limited with Melissa Moore.

The amateurs also faced competitive classes and their 10-entry national championship was one of the toughest of the three-gaited division. In My Heart won the amateur 15.2 and under class with owner Carol Hillenbrand and the opportunity to compete for the national title. Tipitina was the reserve champion in the qualifier with owner Dori Zandy in the irons. Hayden Fox topped the over 15.2 class with Robin McKenzie Vuillermet riding under the direction of Mercer Springs Farm. Just Special and Doug Lindstrom were reserve showing for Volz Stables.

All four returned for the amateur championship and were joined by six other teams. Once again, the panel reached a unanimous decision and when Peter Fenton announced the winner it was Just Special and Doug Lindstrom going to the winner’s circle for Diane Lindstrom. Tipitina and Dori Zandy were the reserve national champions and were followed in the ribbons by Strapless and Ceil Wheeler.

The Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited National Championship, with 14 entries, featured a long list of title holders and all 14 teams worked hard for the panel. Just as every other national championship in the three-gaited division, the junior exhibitor winner also received a unanimous decision by the panel. Heir To A Star, reserve winner of the 15-17 class behind The Super Nova and Kelsey Nicole Smith, was the national champion with Kristen Koenig on board. Pagan Prince, owned by Diane Sembler and shown by Laura Dozer, was the reserve national champion. Mega Volt was third with Kaitlyn Grom and Mr. Revere followed in the ribbons with Rachel Singer. CH Undulata's Perfect Gift won the 14 and under class with Aaron Stump riding for Clover Leaf Stables. Firestorm of Genius was reserve with Kayla Wooters.

The junior walk-trots faced a top group of competitors. Mark Hulse went to the winner's circle in this class with the gifted High Heat for owner Nancy Bryan. The junior horse winner was awarded the title with a unanimous decision from the panel. Exotic Times and Lana Gilpin were reserve winners.

Current world's champion Amelia Heir Cat topped seven other entries in the three-year-old class with John Conatser riding for Laura Gralton. Ostentatiously claimed the red ribbon with Mark Hulse riding for James Orr.

A winner all season long, Mountainview's Nite Sky with Smith Lilly up, finished at the top of the class in the two-year-old class for owner and breeders Jones Mountainview Saddlebreds. Also gifted with his legs, Brookhill's Periday was reserve for the O'Brien Family Trust with Jackie Tanner in the irons.

The Missouri-Kansas classes are always a highlight with American Royal exhibitors and for the three-gaited horses, their classes were well-filled and competitive. Champagne Suzie went to the top of all three judges cards in the Missouri-Kansas Three-Gaited Stake with Lisa Hillmer-Pope on board for the Elcock family. Kent Swalla rode Martini Shot to the reserve tricolor for Christine Bell Kaplan. Both horses finished in the same order in the Mo-Kan 15.2 and under qualifier. Supreme Baywatch won the Mo-Kan over 15.2 class. Trainer Brenda Benner rode for Whitney Fuchs. No Other was second in the class with Leesa Clement riding for Janet Harvey.

Callaway's Sunday Edit was the unanimous champion in the Missouri-Kansas Amateur Three-Gaited Stake after having won the amateur qualifier. Primarily a Morgan exhibitor up to this point, Dawn Fire was in the irons representing Peeper Ranch for both wins. Paragon's Jolie claimed the reserve grand championship title with Victoria Carlile up for William Woods University. Owner Cindy Gadberry rode Absolute Courage to the red ribbon in the amateur qualifier.

The three-gaited park division has been strong for several years and continues to get bigger and deeper every year. The open park horses had well filled classes at the American Royal, but the amateur park horses faced even deeper competition in their qualifier and championship.

CH Ramses won the Three-Gaited Park Stake for James Dellinger Jr. Steve Old rode to the win in the six-entry class and it was Ramses' third time winning the Park Stake at the American Royal. Very Presidential and Lana Gilpin claimed the reserve grand championship for LVG Stables. Another Bay topped the nine-entry open qualifier with John Biggins up for Brennan Baumer. Very Presidential went home with the red ribbon in the competitive class.

Eleven top entries competed for the amateur park stake title in one of the best championship classes of the division. Brennan Baumer and 14-year-old Another Bay, winners of the amateur qualifier, added another victory to their long list this season when they were named the unanimous grand champions. It was Another Bay's third win of the week. Callaway's Smart Angle and Emily Hess, directed by Gary and Marsha Garone, turned in the reserve grand championship performance in the deep class. Harlem's Gracious Lad and Vicki Reed finished in the top three after their reserve win in the 12-entry amateur class. Trainer A.J. Bruwer has had them on top all season long. The Top Banana and Andy Hutson claimed the yellow ribbon in the qualifier representing Strickland Stables.

Fine Harness Division

It’s been a while since the American Royal had a Fine Harness Championship that was as large and competitive as Saturday night’s opening class. Seven horses entered the ring and each of the seven had an impressive show record behind them. And as it turned out, new combinations secured the top prizes.

Bill and Lisa Waller recently selected world title holder Candle Dan from the Werry family for Carl Nichols. Nichols got a good prize in the amateur qualifier, and then Bill Waller came back in the championship with Candle Dan and what a horse show they put on. With lofty motion he was all harness horse to take the Fine Harness National Championship for trainer Waller and owners Carl and Kathryn Nichols.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to get to know this horse yet, but what I know so far I really like,” explained Waller. “He’s going to make Carl [Nichols] a really nice horse.”

Also newly teamed, Mary Sally Aylward and Metroheirea were reserve national champions. Aylward debuted the world’s champion performer to win the Fine Harness Mare class under the direction of John Conatser, who again had the Supreme Heir daughter sitting on go. After winning the Mo/Kan Fine Harness class with Cindy Sutherland, Ah What A Night! took third in the Fine Harness National Championship with Mike Roberts at the whip for the Sorenson family. Reserve world’s champion Dances On Air was fourth following her reserve performance in the Fine Harness Mare Stake with Danette Musselman driving for Misty Hills Farm. Next was the popular Dancing Up A Storm LLC and Kathy Capsuto, followed by Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding Reserve Champion In Touch, who was driven in the championship by Bret Day. The final ribbon went to multi-titled CH Mercer Raceabout, driven by Mia Blevins Morris.

Amateur drivers were taking over the open division. In addition to an amateur winning the Fine Harness Mare class, they were also first and second in the Fine Harness Stallion/Gelding qualifier. Bill Shatner drove his gifted stallion Call Me Ringo (Sultan’s Great Day X CH Eleanor Rigby) to the blue prize just ahead of Andrea Nelson and her young star In Touch. In fact, another amateur, Mia Blevins Morris was third with CH Mercer Raceabout.

All of this left the amateur qualifier a little light with just three entries, but they were three stars. Guy Smith and World’s Champion CH Kalarama’s New Sensation were right on top of it to take a unanimous decision for Hollow Haven Farm. Showing on consecutive days due to a filming commitment later in the week, William Shatner brought Call Me Ringo in for a reserve finish ahead of Candle Dan and Carl Nichols.

What a great year it has been for Margo Baird and Cary’s Moonraker. The Illinois team directed by Robert Gardner has won at all the major shows and the American Royal was no exception. They started the week winning the Ladies Fine Harness class with two of the three first place votes. World’s Champion Just About Perfect was right there with another stellar performance to receive one first place vote and the reserve placing. The Lisa Strickland trained entry was driven by owner Ellyn Dorsey.

Four world title holders competed for the Amateur Fine Harness National Championship, but none could turn back Guy Smith and CH Kalarama’s New Sensation. Prepared by Lynda and Andy Freseth, the beautiful bay mare had first place votes across the board. Reserve grand champion honors went to MBA Stables with Margo Baird in the buggy behind Cary’s Moonraker.

The seven-horse Junior Fine Harness class was rich in talent with two black stars taking the top votes. New to trainer John Conatser, Gone Platinum was a standout to win the blue prize for owner Mary Sally Aylward. Pushing hard every step of the way, 2002 UPHA Fine Harness Classics Grand Champion Harlem’s Santa Fe was the reserve champion with Chuck Herbert driving for Susan Bartlett. Mike Roberts had a third place finish with Toronado’s Tidle Wave.

Pistolero was the standout in the Three-Year-Old Fine Harness class. Danette Musselman drove the stretchy bay colt to earn a unanimous decision for owner Joyce Cashman. Rick Wallen had the reserve drive with Janene Becker’s So Fortunate.

Two-year-olds started the Friday morning session and the judges were in total agreement with all three entries. Scott Matton and Tommy James were called to the winner’s circle with three first place votes for the Chovanec family. Straight across the board in reserve was He Sure Is, an entry driven by Sandy Currier for Edmund Perwien.

Roadster Horse and Pony Divisions

A strong group of contenders put on a show in the Roadster To Bike National Championship. Just as they are at Louisville, the roadster classes are some of the most popular with the crowd at the American Royal. Power Ranger closed out another great season with Raymond Shively in the bike as the unanimous roadster national champion for owner Gloria Heath. Braveheart and Marilyn Macfarlane took the title in the open class before returning to finish as the reserve national champions. Power Ranger and Shively took the red ribbon in the open class.

Danny Bugg has been a strong presence all year in the amateur division with his road horses and he finished out the year as the Amateur Roadster To Bike National Champion with Bunker Buster. Jamie Bridgewater directed Merle Tracy and Master Charles to the reserve tie in the amateur championship for Mauri Tracy and Get A Grip & Stuff.

William Shatner and Spill The Ink made their only appearance in the division and went to the winner’s circle in the amateur qualifier where Bunker Buster and Danny Bugg claimed the reserve ribbon.

After a three-horse qualifier for the wagon horses, Judy McNeish and Free Agent were the only team to return in the Roadster To Wagon Championship. Another DeLovely team, Fox Valley Saga and Raymond Shively, claimed the blue ribbon in the wagon qualifier. Delorenzo and Kim Crumpler were reserve in the qualifier.

Elizabeth Shatner added another blue to the Sunrise Stables tack room wall when she rode All Glory to the title in the Roadster Under Saddle class for Belle Reve Farm. Valiant and Danette Musselman were reserve for Alliance Stud.

The roadster ponies faced deep competition across the board. World’s champions faced world’s champions and the panel of Dennis Lang, Debbie Foley and Lonnie Lavery had their work cut out for them to pick the winners.

Heartland Production put Mary Gaylord McClean in the winner’s circle with the unanimous win in the Roadster Pony National Championship topping four other teams for the victory. Seamair Strutter was the reserve national champion with Josh Greer driving. Both world title holders finished in the same order in their open qualifier.

The amateurs provided great entertainment in their national championship. Nine teams turned in strong performances in an effort to close out the season of deep competition at shows across the country. Heartland Sundust, winner of the amateur qualifier, once again went to the winner’s circle with Mary Gise for owner Priscilla Gise. Heartland Memory took the reserve national title with Mary Campbell driving and My Party Manners was third with owner Jane Mueller. Darrell Vaughn drove Zildjian to the reserve in the qualifier under the direction of Chuck Herbert.

Jimmy Robertson met Dylan Hutson to pin the winning ribbon after Tijuana Souvenir won the junior exhibitor class. Seamair’s Nobility was reserve with Richmond DeHart driving.

Golden Creek Farms added another blue to their total with Dasani’s win in the seven-entry junior/novice class. Jeff McClean drove for the victory pass. Dun-Haven Grand Performance was reserve with Rick Wallen driving for Denise Steinhauer.

A trio of ponies came through the gate for their Missouri-Kansas Open Roadster Pony class and it was another Heartland-bred pony, Heartland Sweet Lady, that took the blue ribbon. Owner Chuck Browning drove for the win. Out Fox’d Em was reserve for Glendale Farms with Kent Swalla in the bike.

Hackney and Harness Divisions

Heartland Triple Crown went to the winner’s circle at the show that’s billed as the third leg of the triple crown earning the title of Harness Pony National Champion with owner Heidi Bowie in the viceroy, directed by Pat McConnell. Gib Marcucci drove Impress My Daddy to the reserve national title for the late Mrs. Isabel Robson. Karen Frickey drove Ballet to the win in the open class for Frickey Farms, and Impress My Daddy was reserve.

Joan Jett won the ladies class with Mary Gaylord McClean driving, and was followed in the ribbons by Nacho Mama and Christy Weaver-Gantley. Gantley-Weaver, former owner of Joan Jett, drove the mare to her first world’s championship as a junior pony. Joan Jett followed up her win in the ladies class with the tricolor trip down victory lane in the amateur national championship. Heartland Lilac won the amateur qualifier with Kathy Capsuto driving before returning in the championship to claim the reserve national championship under the direction of Wendy Winstead. Tabitha Ireland drove Windstar’s Eclipse to the red ribbon in the amateur class.

Chris Gantley went to the winner’s circle with Woodwinds Blackout in the junior/novice class for owner LeRoy Wood. Totally Enchanted and Gib Marcucci completed the ribbon count for Alan R. Robson and the late Isabel Robson.

The Hackney Pony National Championship was one of the most memorable classes of the week. Three top ponies competed for the title including open winner Heartland Triumphant King, amateur reserve winner Classical Dancer and open reserve champion Man On The Town. All three ponies turned in strong performances, but when the cards were turned in it was Heartland Triumphant King at the top of all three. As the multi-titled cob tail took his victory pass with Gib Marcucci, it was announced to the crowd on behalf of Alan R. Robson and his late wife Isabel Robson that Heartland Triumphant King was being retired. Marcucci got out of the viceroy and walked the pony out of the ring for the final time closing out the career of one of the winningest Hackney Ponies of Albelarm Farm. Not to be lost in the moment, Man On The Town was the reserve national champion with Larry Bacon driving for Mary Campbell.

Jackie Stred drove the multi-titled world's champion Heartland Rain Song to the blue ribbon in the ladies class and then returned in the amateur national championship to claim the title unanimously. The winner of the amateur qualifier, Royal Canadian, was the reserve amateur champion with Muffy Ernster driving. Heartland Twice As Nice was reserve in the ladies class with Karen Frickey holding the lines. Classical Dancer was reserve in the amateur class with Ed Frickey driving for Frickey Farms.

Pacifico’s Standing Ovation has put Robert Anderson in the winner’s circle time after time since the Andersons purchased the pony just over a year ago. The reigning world’s champion closed out the season as the unanimous Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony National Champion and winner of the qualifier. Harry Potter, also a multi-titled contender, was reserve in the championship with Kim Matoza driving for Gail Asch. Jane Mueller drove Early Edition to the red ribbon in the qualifier.

Seven young drivers put their ponies through their paces in the qualifier, but none could top Portrait Of A Lady and owner Paul Pippin. Gabriella Flynn drove Cowboy Magic to the reserve in the competitive class, and Pride’s Perfection was third with Jacqueline Beck.

Park Pleasure Division

Ten entries answered the gate call in the ASB Three-Gaited Park Pleasure Stake. In a unanimous vote of the judge's panel, Kendra Fisher was aboard Broadway Tune for a ride to the winner's circle to claim the tricolor award. Knight of Steel and Ray Krussell were also impressive to take reserve for Wendy Carney. Simply Radiant and Judy Werner rode to the third place tie under the direction of DeLovely.

Out of 13 entries in the ASB Park Pleasure Open class, Broadway Tune and Kendra Fisher rode their way to the top. Money Train and Roman Marcos were reserve for Emerald Hills Ranch. Melissa Moore trotted Heirogant Rose to the third place tie for Robert Lilley.

George Foreman, with Sandra Currier up, claimed top honors across the board in the Three-Gaited Park Pleasure Junior Horse Stake for Edmund Perwien of Bluebonnet Farm. Star Spangled Steel and Robert Gardiner received the reserve tricolor ribbon for Margo Baird. Blue Grass Melody and Darrell Case received the yellow ribbon for Linda Dake Wilford.

Sandy Currier and George Foreman claimed top honors out of 12 entries in the ASB Three-Gaited Park Pleasure Junior Horse qualifier for Edmund Perwien. Star Spangled Steel and Robert Gardiner were reserve for Margo Baird. Paladin's Potentate and John Wallen rode to the third place tie for Courtney Lynch.

Show and Country Pleasure Divisions

In the ASB Show Pleasure Five-Gaited National Championship, Hear the Music and Jenna Vannoy were victorious for Vannoy Enterprises after their earlier win in the Show Pleasure Five-Gaited class for riders 38 years and under. The world's champion combination was again sent to the ring by John Biggins. While representing Premier Stables, High In The Sky and Pam Milligan were reserve in the championship after taking first in the 39 years and over qualifier for Bruce and Pamela Milligan.

Ellen LaMont guided Jennifer Pitt rode Ebony Masterpiece to the top in the Missouri-Kansas Five-Gaited Show Pleasure class. Callaway's Twenty-Four Karat and Lenore Weldon were reserve for Callaway Hills Stable. Crusin On By and Jill Polsinelli took the third place tie for owners Diana and Jerry Polsinelli.

No stranger to the winner's circle, Kim Matoza drove CH Advantage Me to top honors in the ASB Show Pleasure Driving qualifier for drivers 39 years and over as well as the ASB Show Pleasure Driving National Championship for Sarah Asch. Harlem's Strong Will and Terri Dolan were reserve in the championship. Harlem's Proud Mary was reserve in the 39 & over class with Misdee Wrigley at the whip.

Nine entries answered the gate call in the Show Pleasure Driving 38 & Under class. CH Wild Harley was driven to the blue by Kurt Antonacci for owner Melissa Donovan. Callaway's Carnegie Hall and Elizabeth Coup drove to reserve under the Cryst-A-Kell banner.

With 10 entries in the ASB Show Pleasure Three-Gaited Adult National Championship, Carol Hillenbrand and The Bess Yet were victorious for the third time after a unanimous win in the ASB Show Pleasure Three-Gaited 39 & Over qualifier under the guidance of Biggins Stables. World's Grand Champion CH Blackberry Delight and Ericka Nelson trotted to reserve after their earlier win in the 18-38 qualifier for Marilyn Gaiswinkler. Show Me The Town, with Jamie Hitchin aboard, was rewarded with a reserve finish in the qualifier under the Cloverleaf banner.

Tonight's Deam and Kristie Cutting dominated a field of 11 entries in the Missouri-Kansas ASB Show Pleasure Three-Gaited Amateur Championship and a field of 16 in the qualifier. Tonight's Dream and Kristie Cutting claimed top honors for William Woods College. Sultan's Star Fish and Heather Digiannantonio were reserve in the championship. Lydian and Stella Taylor took the reserve tie for William Woods University in the qualifier.

In the ASB Show Pleasure Three-Gaited Junior Exhibitor 17 & Under National Championship the unanimous choice of the judges was CH Riva Diva with Ali Judah aboard for Judah Saddlebreds. After their victory in the Show Pleasure Three-Gaited Junior Exhibitor 14 & Under qualifier, the new team of Absolutely Exquisite and Abby Krempasky trotted to the reserve tie in the championship for Mr. and Mrs. Todd Krempasky.

Lookin' Yonder and Laura Dozer trotted to the top in the Show Pleasure Three-Gaited Junior Exhibitor 15-17 class. Firestorm of Genius and Kayla Wooters rode to the reserve tie for Martin Cockriel.

Worthiness and Natalie Stezosky claimed top honors in the Missouri-Kansas Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Junior Exhibitor class for William Woods University. Owner/exhibitor Justine Komin was aboard Undulata's Pretzel Logic for the reserve finish.

In a unanimous decision of the panel, the driving duo of Callaway's Pretty Penny and Nancy Anderson claimed the Country Pleasure Driving National Championship for Brown-Anderson Farms. Anderson and World's Grand Champion Callaway's Pretty Penny received a unanimous vote in the 39 & over qualifier as well. Ashley Hallock drove Sweet Intentions to the reserve in the championship after winning the ASB Country Pleasure Driving 38 & Under qualifier.

CH The Shadow Knows and Karen Smith trotted to the winner's circle in both the Adult Country Pleasure Three-Gaited National Championship and the Country Pleasure Three-Gaited Adult qualifier for Mr. and Mrs. Guy Smith with a unanimous vote of the judges. Callaway's Blue Agate and Carol Hillenbrand took the reserve championship back to New Jersey. CH BI MI Add Lib and Kendra Lee Fisher were reserve in the qualifier.

In the ASB Country Pleasure Three-Gaited Junior Exhibitor National Championship, Jessica Moctezuma finished a great year of showing to claim top honors aboard Itchy Foot Moe for Blackhawk Stables. CH Midtown Man and Kendyl Tracy received the reserve tricolor for Get A Grip & Stuff, Inc. The team also trotted to a unanimous blue in the Country Pleasure 14 & Under qualifier as well. Hometown Luck and Jessica Timmington rode to the top in the ASB Country Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 15-17 class for Sandra Oakes.

Roy Rodgers MC and Dawn Fire rode to the blue in the Missouri-Kansas Three-Gaited Country Pleasure class for amateur or junior exhibitors. Mountainview's Wild Review and Laurie Fowler trotted to the reserve for Stephens College. Jennifer Delong rode City Heir to the third place tie.

Jason Molback was aboard A Magic Surprise for several wins in the Country Western Pleasure division. Molback and A Magic Surprise trotted away with the tricolor in the ASB Country Western Pleasure Stake as well as claiming top honors in both the ASB Country Western Pleasure class and Saddle & Bridle’s ASB Shatner Western Pleasure class for Pat Johnson. CH Revelwood's Jacks Are Wild and Kristine Maloney were reserve in all three classes for William Woods University.

That brought an end to the divisional competition at the 2003 American Royal. Complete results and judge's cards can be found in this issue or go online at

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