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And They're Off . . .

by Sadie Killian

coverage by Sadie Killian and Christy Parsons

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Each year, the multi-day Kentucky circuit opens on derby weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park. Going into the show, a couple of questions often surround the minds of many in attendance: What will the weather be like? And, who will win the derby? This year will be remembered for very tolerable weather -- relatively sunny days with cooler, but dry evenings -- and Funny Cite, the New York-bred gelding that surprised one or two or many people at Churchill Downs on Saturday evening.

Kentucky Spring Premier, held May 1-3, will be remembered for more than just weather and the Kentucky Derby, though. It’s where exhibitors catch up with friends and fellow competitors after a long winter away from the show ring. It’s the place where trainers test some horses out in new water. It’s where exciting debuts take place. It’s also the place where old time favorites remind us why we love this business.

“This year was a wonderful show,” said Show Manager Scarlett Mattson. “The quality was great and I really appreciate the support we receive at the Kentucky Spring Premier.”

In the middle of all of this year’s excitement was Bob Griffin of Northern Tradition Farm in Illinois, who was called in to act as official judge; Show Manager Scarlett Mattson; Show Secretary Beth Snider; and Doug Shiflet, show photographer. In addition, there were several other “behind the scenes” people who helped the show run along smoother than ever before.

Classes began on Thursday afternoon and went through Saturday evening. The Academy “marathon” session the spring premier is known for was judged by Emily Webster. The session went incredibly smooth and even finished in time for all involved to catch a quick break before Saturday evening’s concluding session.

Stake night was exciting as it always is, with well-filled classes making Judge Griffin’s duties quite challenging. The open stakes were held Friday evening, which left for most of the amateur championships on Saturday evening. Finishing off a fantastic week in Lexington, Carol Hillenbrand was on top of her game for stake night, claiming tricolors in both the Country Pleasure Championship with Callaway’s Blue Agate and the Show Pleasure Championship with The Bess Yet. We saw other exciting duos make their mark as well...Ali Judah and CH Radiant Success are really coming together as a pair. They claimed the junior exhibitor walk/trot championship -- and James Lewis with Jennifer Lynn Fisher, under the direction of Tammy DeVore, made an outstanding debut to capture the Five-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship. Also clearly worth mentioning...Jewel’s Teton and Tammy DeVore were the talk of the show after a knock out performance in Saturday afternoon’s Denver/Junior Five-Gaited class.

While there was certainly enough action going on inside the covered arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, there were also activities to keep things interesting out of the show ring. The show put on two exhibitor’s parties -- one held Thursday night and the other after Friday evening’s session. Also, the Horse Park always offers the chance for exhibitors to explore the wonderful Saddle Horse world with the American Saddlebred Museum and other various exhibits located on the grounds. This year, the Horse Park featured the special exhibit “All The Queen’s Horses,” which many were able to visit while not in the show ring.

Inside the ring... Five-Gaited

The gaited competition at the Kentucky Spring Premier was impressive and crowd pleasing. Included in this great excitement were none other than the gaited ponies. In her first time out of the walk and trot division, Jessica Salley prevailed with her bold pony, Scoot Boot & Boogie. Salley’s proud parents, Fred and Cecil Salley, were joined by the entire McConnell crew to cheer the pair on to victory.

Christine Broder was on top of the cards several times throughout the weekend. Riding Callaway’s Gossiper, Broder experienced one blue ribbon ride in the Novice Five-Gaited class.

One of the most intense and talked about classes at the spring premier was the Five-Gaited Denver Junior class where spectators witnessed 2002’s world’s champion Jewel’s Teton swiftly work the ring. Tammy DeVore rode this flashy chestnut to the win for Lucinda Hartley. Melissa Moore happily exited with the red ribbon in the 11-entry class, riding Ya Ya for owner Beth Clifton.

It was nice to see Kelsey Price rewarded for her wonderful ride in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited class, where five entries made the gate call. Price rode the impressive bay gelding Fox de Jour to the win with her mom, Kris Price Knight, greeting her for the victory pass. The pair went on to claim the championship on Saturday evening. Gypsy Remedy and Victoria Hatcher claimed reserve in the championship.

The amateur gaited division kicked off rather light, but spectators watched Millenium and Margaret Schmitt put on a nice show nonetheless. Later in the week, Callaway’s Gossiper and Christine Broder took home the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship where Callaway’s Holy Moly and Rachel Seifert took reserve.

Competition really got rolling in the ladies gaited class. Melissa Moore riding Swish, and Deborah Butler riding Carolina Cat came face to face in a remarkable class. It concluded with Swish on top of the cards for Belle Reve. Riding under the direction of Nelson Green, Deborah Butler received a very warm applause for her outstanding ride aboard Carolina Cat.

Standing out whenever they enter the ring, it was none other than the chestnut gelding known for his flaxen mane and tail and fabulous ring presence, Callaway’s Weatherman took the blue ribbon in the Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding class. Gabe Deknatel elected not to show the gelding back in the stake in which I’m A Treat and Neil Visser garnered the tricolor for James Orr. Our Secret Weapon and Wyatt DeHart were reserve in the open stake for Sandra Henson.


Under the direction of John and Renee Biggins, Yasmin Wazir completed one of several great rides in winning style aboard Lost Token. The talented team claimed the blue in the Three-Gaited Pony class.

Starting the weekend in blue ribbon style, Melinda Moore and Rich Woman finished on top of the cards in the Novice Three-Gaited class.

Sacre Bleu and John Conatser were one of the more talked about pairs of the show after wowing the crowd in the covered arena, where they won the Three-Gaited Denver Junior class for I 80 Auto Parts.

Another eye catcher for the week...CH Radiant Success and Ali Judah. This pair, getting better and better with time, came to the Kentucky Spring Premier in great shape to win the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited class. Under the guidance of Jo Cornell, they performed flawlessly on Saturday night, too, leaving as the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Champions. Star Standing and Lindsey Hensler had a solid go for reserve for Horizon Saddlebreds, LLC.

The amateur walk/trot competition was split into the under and over 15.2 categories. Five entries made the call in the under two class with Callaway’s Abigail Adams and Sally Groub Gayeski taking the victory pass for Double G Farm LLC. City Lady and Melody Adler had a successful ride for the blue in the Amateur 15.2 and Over Three-Gaited class where four showed up for the challenge.

Carol Hillenbrand chose to show her Carriage Lane-trained entry, In My Heart, in the Ladies Three-Gaited class. Not a bad idea as the pair finished with the victory pass. Finishing up behind Hillenbrand was Renee Biggins, who rode CF Burn Out for Rita Wheeler to the red ribbon.

The Amateur Three-Gaited Championship seemed a little light, however the entries that showed up were certainly nice to see. Margo Hattery and Worthy Of March Madness were worthy for the tricolor ribbon. This excited pair is trained by Biggins Stable. Callway’s Kiss and Tell and Angela Gibson finished as the reserve champions.

Always a favorite, Pas De Deux, who is now trained by Rob and Sarah Byers, was right on the money for victory in the Three-Gaited Championship. Under the direction of Nelson Green Stables, Steve Wheeler put in a reserve performance aboard Strapless.

Thursday evening’s amateur park class featured a nice trio vying for the blue. Griffin tied the deserving pair Gotta Secret and Susan Shepherd. Twelve entries entertained the stands in the open park class on Thursday afternoon. HMS Royal Winds was a sight to see with Chris Reiser riding to win for Amanda Bell. Danette Musselman was next in line, riding CH Dances on Air to the red ribbon for Misty Hills Farm. HMS Royal Winds once again caught Judge Griffin's attention in the the Park Championship. Now a Kentucky resident and no stranger to the winner’s circle, Chris Reiser was once again up for the win. Jack Noble and Breathe finished as the Park Reserve Grand Champions.

Fine Harness

The fancy black mare, Harlem’s Santa Fe was on top of her game, taking home the blue with Susan Bartlett behind the lines in the Novice/Denver Junior Fine Harness class.

It was wonderful to witness Don Harris picking up the top prize at the spring premier. Harris drove the lovely chestnut mare, Amelia Heir Cat to the UPHA Fine Harness Classic win for wife, Judy Whitney Harris.

John and Tammie Conatser directed Eleanor Pedersen and Metro Heirea to a well-deserved Amateur Fine Harness win in their only appearance of the the show. The Fine Harness Championship went to the very polished entry of New Millennium Equine Endeavors, Sass With Class. Dena Lopez was behind this champion for the win. Final Solution and Sally LaPlant took home the reserve.


The UPHA Three-Gaited Park Pleasure Classic was filled with some solid young prospects. One being the class winner, A Day On The Town BH, who was ridden to the win by Jackie Tanner for the O’Brien Family Trust. Mike Tunstall rode Affair Of State to a good second place for Judy Werner.

The Denver Junior Park Pleasure class was taken by Joyce Cashman’s very nice, up and coming entry, Spirited Edition. Danette Musselman was up for the win. Armon Effinger was next in line, riding the impressive One Wish for Paul D. Crone.

There was nothing stopping the bright bay Justa Rascal at the Kentucky Spring Premier. John Conatser rode the gelding to the Open Park Pleasure win and the championship win for Candace and Fritz Meili. Reserve both times out was Green Top with John Biggins up for Jim and Carol Graf.

Heidi Bowie made a great start to 2003 and also a great debut altogether, riding Callaway’s Hit Man to the Novice Five-Gaited Show Pleasure blue. This new team is trained by Pat and Julie McConnell.

To no surprise, Cats Don’t Dance and Sally Jackson were explosive in their only appearance at the spring premier. The Sunrise Stable-trained pair took the blue in the Five-Gaited Show Pleasure Adult/Junior Exhibitor class, however they did not come back for the championship. Another new team to debut at the show was Deborah Butler’s former star James Lewis. The tried and true gelding’s new owner, Jennifer Lynn Fisher, turned in a fabulous performance to capture the Five-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship on Saturday night. A very excited Tammy DeVore greeted the pair for the victory pass.

A highly competitive Show Pleasure Driving class finished with crowd favorite, River Dance and Dr. Randall Finken adding another win to their already impressive resume. George Knight guided the game pair to the championship win as well, where Foxy’s Delight and Rebecca Salley made a strong show for reserve.

The Novice Show Pleasure class featured 15 horses. Making every pass count, Delightful Fascination and Debi Chylek happily exited with the blue.

Junior Exhibitor stars Ali Judah and CH Riva Diva added another blue to their grand collection in the 14 and under show pleasure class, which featured 11 great pairs. Who Needs Mama and Tate Bennett took first in the 15-17 age group. In the championship, both winners came face to face and gave it their all. After a tough ride, Judah and her big-hearted mare settled in for the reserve while Tate Bennett and her flashy chestnut exited with the tricolor.

The adult show pleasure division also exhibited talented entries. One such entry was The Bess Yet with Carol Hillenbrand up. Looking sharper than ever, this pair came back to capture the championship too, where Lightnin’ Lil and Nicolle Bettz moved up a notch for reserve.

Despite an injured foot, Vicki Gillenwater was in the ring for the ASHAT Three-Gaited Show Pleasure class at the spring premier. Aboard K Town Magic, Gillenwater garnered the blue ribbon for Scenic View Farm.

Making a beautiful combination as they always do, Sultry Heiress and Joan Adler earned top honors in the Country Pleasure Driving class. Melissa Moore happily greeted the pair once again for their championship victory pass Saturday evening.

The Novice Country Pleasure class was one of the largest classes of the show with 17 entries working the ring. Callaway’s Sweet Harmony and Angela Gibson were right on the money for the blue with Kendra Fisher picking up the red ribbon aboard Cabochon Sultan.

Catch riding for Soquili Stables, Tate Bennett again claimed the blue in the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure Class. Bennett rode the pretty Ricochet Memories SF to this win and also came back for victory in the championship win, topping off a great week for Tate Bennett. Alyssa Lopez was up for the reserve in the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure Championship riding Callaway’s Splish Splash for mom, Dena Lopez.

The 10-horse Adult Country Pleasure class was another turn for Carol Hillenbrand to take a trip down victory lane. Making their mark in a new division, Hillenbrand was aboard her gorgeous mare, Callaway’s Blue Agate for this win as well as the championship tricolor. Christine Broder and A Perfect Lady finished as the reserve champions.


Riding for Alliance Stud, Sherri Musselman and Road Runner defeated some tough competition to be named the Roadster Under Saddle Champions. Behind the lines of Spill The Ink, William Shatner put on an show in the Amateur Roadster To Bike class. Another Belle Reve’s captivating entry, All Glory sped in for the blue with Melissa Moore driving. Reserve went to Dirt Devil and Deborah Butler. Driving for Melissa Moore, Danny Bugg drove The Secrets Out to victory in the Roadster To Bike Championship.

Another Scenic View Farm entry was in prime shape for victory at Kentucky Spring. Vicki Gillenwater was in control of Picture Perfect for the Limit Roadster Pony win.

The team of Elvis and Katelyn Elizabeth Crabtree was the lone entry in the AHHS Roadster Pony Under Saddle Medallion. Despite the lean class, the pair was in great condition for the spotlight. The AHHS Roadster Pony Medallion was slightly larger, with three answering the gate call. Dylan Hutson and Tijuana Souvenir came out on top.

Brooke Jacobs and Fit To Be Tide were two for two, claiming wins in the Open Roadster Pony class and championship. Lisa Bartman was behind the lines of Diamond’s Beauty for reserve.

Four competed for the tricolor in the Amateur/Junior Exhibitor Roadster Pony Championship. Garnering another top ribbon for McConnell Stables, Ann Fitzpatrick drove Buckwheat to the win. Under the direction of Walnut Way, Robin Haynes was reserve in this great class with Broadway Joe.

Hackney/Harness Ponies

The Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving class and championship were by far the most filled classes for the ponies. High Life Pride and Lee Walker sported the blue in the Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving class as well as the championship. Clever Disguise and Sharon Lewis turned in a reserve performance and exited as the show’s reserve champions.

Aristocratic Flair and Lawrence Carss put on a solo show in the Limit Harness Pony class. Shirley Chartrand was the winning owner.

The very capable Crystal Cates drove So Lovely CH to the Harness Pony Grand Championship for Lester Harmon. Cates also took home the Hackney Pony Stake, sitting behind the lines of Belle Starr, also for dad Lester Harmon. Larry Bacon and Boxford Bobbi Socks took reserve in the harness stake.


After a long winter of hard work, the adorable Jo Cornell-instructed equitation rider, Chelsea Jo Roby, appears to be ready to take on the challenges of 2003. This poised little rider took home the UPHA Walk and Trot Challenge Cup and the Saddle Seat Equitation Walk and Trot Championship. Proud parents John and Christi Roby cheered their daughter on to the win.

Instructed by Sugar Knoll, Christina O’Connell Carne finished off a great week at the spring premier by capturing the Pleasure Equitation Championship. She also won the 10-entry qualifier earlier in the week. The talented Lindsey Haupt was the reserve champion.

In her only appearance for the week, Whitney Irwin displayed her usual elegance and grace and earned the blue in the Saddle Seat Equitation 17 and Under class. Whitney Irwin is instructed by Kim and Fran Crumpler.

Clinton Jury was two for two in his season debut. He took home the UPHA Challenge Cup 17 and Under blue. Instructed by Suzanne Hubbard, this extremely polished rider was also the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion.

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