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UPHA Classics Championships Feature Classic Battles

by Bob Funkhouser

Thursday evening at Kansas City is one of the most unique experiences in the entire industry. While stake night at most any show features the best of the amateur, open and junior exhibitor divisions, no single session at any show in America offers as much hope and enthusiasm as the UPHA Classics Night at the American Royal. A majority of the nation’s best young Hackney Ponies and American Saddlebreds take center stage on the same night for great prestige and a decent payout compared to most classes.

Breeders, trainers and owners alike take keen interest in these Classic championships to study what has been working in the breeding shed and where the next stars will come from. Debuting in 1974, the UPHA Classics are a part of one of the longest running added money programs designed to encourage the breeding of performance horses and ponies.

Many of our greatest performers have come from the winner’s circles of these UPHA Classic Championships. It has also been proven over and over and over that a good number of horses and ponies that took lower ribbons in these same championships have gone on to be long lasting, winning campaigners. A quick look back 10 years ago found the popular gray gelding, Creative Spirit’s Lottery Ticket placing third in the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic Championships. Showing for Chris Larson, Tom Volz had won the ASHA Three-Year-Old Sweepstakes before taking third in the Classics championship. Now 10 years later Creative Spirit’s Lottery Ticket is still showing and still winning titles. He is but one example found in division after division.

Prize money from the UPHA Classics on the local and national championship level has helped owners campaign their youngsters. The UPHA office reported that a little over $133,000 was paid out in Saddlebred and Hackney championships at the Royal this year. Decent prize money spread down through the ribbons keeps horsemen and owners coming back for the Classic championships year after year.

“I thought this was one of our better years for the Classics,” said Jimmy Robertson. “From top to bottom there were some very competitive classes.”

A total of $18,200 was up for grabs in the 11-entry UPHA Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Classic Championship. Like last year the Fine Harness Classic was one of the most competitive events of the evening. Of the 11 showing you couldn’t find anyone who didn’t belong and it took a solid performance to get one of the larger paychecks.

Known as breeders of world class Saddlebreds, Morgans and show dogs, Stonecroft Farm claimed the first UPHA Classic Grand Champion of 2003 as Nelson Green drove the just purchased world’s champion, The Great Gaspar, to the unanimous decision and a check for $6,580. Dr. and Mrs. Simon Fredricks bred the son of Merchant Prince and Denmark’s Radiant Society, making him a full brother to World’s Grand Champion CH A Sweet Treat, and World’s Champion Simbara’s Samba Jamba, as well as a half brother to World’s Grand Champions Be Happy and Simbara’s Audacity.

A check for nearly $5,000 was presented to John Conatser as the driver of the unanimous reserve grand champion Last Tango In Paris. Owned by Nunley Saddlebreds, Last Tango In Paris is sired by the former fine harness champion SA Arborlane Tangos Wee Pee out of Runabout LLC. World’s Champion Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Mare I’m Irresistible Too suffered her first defeat, but the Attache’s Born Believer daughter still gave an outstanding show to receive a third place check of $2,500 for trainer Lisa Strickland and owner Bonnie Lee. Pistolero, It’s Double O Deuce, Day’s Grecian Grey, Wee Pee Meadows and Havana Harry collected the remaining ribbons.

Just a few classes later eight road ponies shot through the gate for their UPHA Classic Grand Championship. Ponies are shown age four and under for their Classics and this was a ring full of good youngsters. Judges Denny Lang, Lonnie Lavery and Debbie Foley all thought Calvin Hobbs had the look of a champion. In his return to Kemper Arena, Chris Gantley had the unanimous winning drive for Hackney enthusiasts Steve and Leeann Golden. A product of Seventh Heaven and Duncannon Katie Coy, Calvin Hobbs earned $5,380 for his championship performance. Four-thousand and twenty dollars went the way of Heartland Victory Maker, the consistent reserve champion shown by Bob Griffin for Toni Nastali.

“These two ponies (Calvin Hobbs and Heartland Victory Maker) stood looking at each other all week,” laughed Bob Griffin. “It was a lucky aisleway as they were first and second.”

Randy Harper and Frickey Farm continued their strong support of the UPHA Classics as Mastercraft’s Captivator LF was the third place finisher and received a check of $2,000 for doing so. Next up for a ribbon was Pure Country, an entry shown by David Cunningham for Charlotte Goodman. They were followed by Public Defender, Regal’s Storm Cloud, Heartland Yankee Strutter and Pretty Impressive.

Junior Hackney Pleasure Driving World’s Champion Heartland Special Special (Dun-Haven Bandolier x Heartland Princess) added another prestigious title to an already star-studded record as Jackie Stred delivered another winning drive. Rich Campbell greeted the world’s champion combination in the winner’s circle of the UPHA Hackney Pleasure Driving Four-Year-Old & Under Classics Championship. Reserve money went to Darrel Kolkman and Heartland Flurry, also trained by Rich Campbell, followed by Wait & See’s Postmaster, Romeo’s Poet LF, Heartland's Celebrate Celebrate and Regal Magic Lady LF.

It was no surprise to see 18 entries flood the ring for the UPHA Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure Classics Championship as this class has long been the largest attraction. To be seen and separated in this class took a pretty impressive performance and that’s exactly what Nurse Goodbody (a full sister to Metro Heirea) and Rob Byers gave as the champions and winners of $8,600. Bred by Mary Gaylord McClean, the daughter of Supreme Heir and Family Album had already won the World’s Champion ASHA Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure Futurity this year for owners Bruce and Pam Milligan. Reserve to Nurse Goodbody was the Finally Attached son, Daniel O’Kelly, an entry ridden by Bret Day for Bill and Coe London.

Third place honors in the deep class went to Max Campoli and the athletic entry of Linda Roos, Treasured Memories. Reserve world’s champion My Southern Charm was fourth with Smith Lilly riding for Bent Tree Farm. Also in the money were Shady Creek’s Sensation, Tuffy’s Commander, Simply Enough and MTO.

Gib Marcucci has prepared champion ponies for many different customers over the years and this time he did it for his family. Austin Powers (Unique Creation x Feature Presentation), an entry of Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Ireland [Gib’s son-in-law and daughter], marched a bold trot to take the UPHA Hackney Pony Classic Championship with Marcucci at the whip. The judges were very scattered in their decision making in this championship. One of three ponies to receive a first place vote, Callisto was the reserve champion for Joy Lazarus and Gail Asch. Jim Spurrier drove Truly Impressive to a third place finish while Junior Schut and Kingsley Acclaim went home with fourth place money.

Saddlebred numbers stayed good with 11 entries competing for the UPHA Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited Classic Championship title. Extremely collected, extremely gifted, I’m A Hot Ticket garnered two of the three first place votes given by Debbie Foley, Lonnie Lavery and Jack Nevitt. Winner of the Royal’s Two-Year-Old Three-Gaited class in 2002, I’m A Hot Ticket (Periaptor x Starbound P.V.) was again expertly presented by Jackie Tanner for owner/breeder Joan MacFarlane of LaJolla, Calif. Besides the tricolor, a check for $6,720 was presented to the winning team. Reserve grand champion honors were bestowed upon Victoria Lynn. A daughter of For What It’s Worth (Worthy Son x CH In Reality), Victoria Lynn had plenty of crowd support as Minnesota trainer Tom Scott rode up for the red streamers. Owner Robert Ratte would also have a check for the filly before the week was out as Nelson Green selected her for Kenny and Ceil Wheeler.

Third place among the 11 contenders went to Callaway’s Haley Comet, an expressive gelding ridden by Larry Hodge for Kaaba Inc. Wyatt DeHart and Booger were fourth, followed by Scott Matton aboard Callaway’s Little Dipper. The remaining ribbons went to Secret Admirer, Luxury Tax and Sue She. Secret Admirer was seriously injured in a shipping accident on the way home from Kansas City and had to be put down. A winner of several classes this year, Secret Admirer had been shown by Carter Cox for Stacey Kipper.

It would be hard to find a better long-tail class than the one that took place Thursday evening in the UPHA Harness Pony Classic Championship. Three of the top four from the Junior Harness Pony World’s Grand Championship were on hand as well as two talented entries relatively new to the scene.

Earlier in the day trainer Tom Lowry said, “Who ever wins this one is going to have to be on because there are some nice ponies showing.”

As it turned out it was the Lowry trained Shake Don’t Stir that was “on” as driver Mary Gaylord McClean collected three first place votes on the way to the winner’s circle with the recently crowned Junior Harness Pony World’s Grand Champion. Bred by Steve Kildow, Shake Don’t Stir is by Arthur B and out of Caliente. The Golden Creek entry won $4,480 for her performance. Last year’s UPHA Classics Grand Champion Heartland Expectation had to settle for the reserve grand championship in his four-year-old year. The son of Dun-Haven Awesome Creation was driven by Randy Harper for Frickey Farm. Representing the late Mrs. Alan R. Robson, Gib Marcucci drove Totally Enchanted to third place honors ahead of Heartland Summer Storm and Seamair Sensation.

The finale of the evening was the nine-entry UPHA Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Classics Grand Championship. Eight veteran professionals had a brave junior exhibitor among them and the battle was on. When it was all said and done most on the rail had it narrowed down to two entries and the judges already had that decision. Stronger on her last pass than she was on her first, Gaitway’s Once In A Blue Moon (Northern Blues x Prowler’s Pagan Princess by Night Prowler) was racking and trotting up a storm with Jenny Taylor aboard for Luman Wadhams and Memory Lane Stables. It was only the second show of the filly’s career as she qualified at Dayton in August and then made her next stop in Kansas City to pick up a check for $6,480.

“She was just starting to shake her head when we saw her as a two-year-old at Wes Bowling’s,” said Jenny Taylor of the newly crowned Classics grand champion. “I brought her out at Dayton, but she wasn’t ready for Louisville so I just waited for Kansas City. She’s a lot of fun.”

“I have the utmost respect and admiration for what those guys (Jim and Jenny Taylor) have done with this filly. It’s been all them,” added winning partner Luman Wadhams.

World title holder Harley Rally was the reserve grand champion with owner/breeder James Orr being represented in the saddle by longtime friend and trainer Mark Hulse. A son of Capitol Fire, Harley Rally picked up $4,860 for his second place finish. After losing her beloved Callaway’s Regatta to colic, Maguire Hall was teamed with Michael Bulleigh’s three-year-old sensation Shame On You. Patty Milligan directed new owner/rider Maguire Hall to a third place finish. Full of expression, Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves was next in line for a ribbon with Allison Pendry riding for Wildernest Farm and Nelson Green Stables. Heartfelt Legacy, Gillette, Pepper Jack and Dollar For Dollar also earned ribbons to wrap up another great night of competition in the UPHA Classic Championships.

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