SHELBYVILLE -- Game World, ridden by Gary Edwards, was named World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse on Saturday night to close out the 73rd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. The horse is owned by Chester and Lynda Stokes of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Folsom Prison Blues, ridden by Rodney Dick for the Jimmy Smith family of Oliver Springs, was in the reserve position, while Ozone's Cut Above All, John Allan Callaway in the irons for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas, was third.
"It feels great, I'll tell you," said Edwards, trainer of Game World, tearfully. "I just need to thank my brother, my cousin, my barn family ... I can't even tell you what this means..."
A total of seven entries competed. Eleven had qualified and were listed in the championship program, but some of those were multiple entries for riders Justin Harris and John Allan Callaway.
The World Grand Champion traditionally comes from the qualifying class for stallions over 15.2 hands high, held on the first Saturday night of the Celebration. But an unusually high number of entries were eliminated from the two divisions of that preliminary class. That left open the possibility that a dark horse entry might arise from a non-traditional qualifying division - four-year-old stallions, for example, or mares, or geldings, or stallions smaller than 15.2 hands.
It was not to be. The top two places went to the winners of the two aged stallion classes from the previous week. Ozone's Cut Above All came from the stallions under 15.2 division.
The Owner-Amateur Riders World Grand Championship was won by NYPD, Kenny Compton up for Jack Compton of North Tazewell, Va. Strollin' Thru The Ritz was in reserve, ridden by Brian Reece for the Jimmy Reece family of Pikeville, and Suzanne Moore rode On The Line to the third tie for Bud Moore of Catherine, Ala.
It was a warm evening for a horse show; ring announcer Bobby Sands urged the crowd to stay hydrated and said during the first class that several people had already needed assistance due to the heat.
The evening began on a reflective note; prior to the invocation, Sands noted the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and called for a moment of silence in memory and honor of the military men and women engaged in conflicts since that time. Flag horse Counterfeit Dollar and rider Bud Seaton were joined by Boy Scouts from Troop 370 carrying an oversized U.S. flag provided by Select Trailers.
At one point in the evening, Sands recognized various persons in the audience who have been attending the Celebration since it began in 1939. Sands began the presentation by asking first-time attendees to applaud, and was surprised by the number of responses.
Walking Horse Trainer of the Year Chad Baucom was honored by the Walking Horse Trainers Association and the Celebration.
The Celebration often highlights another equine breed on the last night of the show, and this year, a speed racking horse exhibition between classes drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
A "stars of the future" showcase allowed winners of this year's World Grand Championships in classes for youth riders to make another pass around the Celebration ring and be recognized with special commemorative ribbons.
While recognizing the youth riders, Sands noted that the ages of riders winning blue ribbons at the Celebration this year ranged from 5 to 93, the latter being Dr. W.H. Hill of Powder Springs, Ga.
U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg) were among the dignitaries present for the final night of the show. Black participated in the presentation for the final class.
The Celebration often likes to begin an evening performance with a youth class, and Saturday night's performance began with the Lead Line Ponies, Riders 6 and Under, World Grand Championship.
Ace, ridden by Colton Trimble of Pulaski and led by Amy Trimble, won the class for owners Kyle & Tyler Bailey of Lynchburg.
The Owner-Amateur Riders on Ponies World Grand Championship was won by The Dixie Lineman, Gail Walling up for Judy McDonald and Gail Walling of Tullahoma and Wartrace, although third place winner Texas Joe Black, Kathy Zeis up, was a clear crowd favorite.
Chillin' The Most, Link Webb up, won the Show Pleasure Horses World Grand Championship (Riders Cup) for Steve Mozeley of Charlotte, N.C.
The Weanling World Grand Championship was won by Intimidator's Cover Girl, Amanda Wright at the halter for the Andrew Waites and George Wright families of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Mt. Juliet.
George Ann Pratt rode My First Dollar to the Owner-Amateur Riders on Mares or Geldings World Grand Championship. The horse is owned by Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
I'm Pushin N Line, Janice Fostek up for Joe Fostek of Roanoke, Va., won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Three-Year-Old Horses World Grand Championship.
The Owner-Amateur Youth Riders, 6-17, on English or Western Trail Pleasure Horses World Grand Championship was won by Suiza. Owner-exhibitor Allison Thorson of Huron, Ohio, was praised by Sands for having had several wins, both in regular classes, which recognize the horse, and in equitation classes, which recognize the skill of the rider.
Competition in Two-Year-Old World Grand Championship drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd. The ribbon was won, to the crowd's approval, by I Am Josť, Casey Wright up for Billy and Debbie Woods of Lexington.
Lil Wayne, Carlan Colton up for Jeff Gillespie of Tazewell, Va., won the Owner-Amateur Riders on Lite Shod Horses World Grand Championship.
Kay Green rode He's Vida Blue to the Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Horses World Grand Championship. The horse is owned by Dr. Jim and Kay Green of Meridian, Miss.
The Park Pleasure Horse World Grand Championship was won by BB King's Jazz, Brock Tillman up for Jeannae Patterson of Gulf Hammock, Fla. The horse was an across-the-board selection of the judging panel.
As always, the pride of Tylertown, Miss., organist Larry Bright, closed out the evening and put the 73rd Annual Celebration into the record books with his rendition of Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are." As Bright's music wafted over Shelbyville (where the Celebration's public address system can be heard miles away), the crowd dispersed to their vehicles, headed home for another year.