A yardstick for the measure of sure greatness in a show horse is where he can win. Certain shows are synonymous with quality competition, and for the Saddlebred no win ranks higher on the measure than a championship at the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show. Always special, it was this year spectacular, not only because quantity as well as quality was present, but because the show finally took place in the coliseum of the long-planned, new $16 million fairgrounds outside Louisville, in a show ring tailored for the most advantageous exhibition of the horse.
Around the ring, on the walls that supported the tiers of gay boxes, were painted the names of the five-gaited champions of past years, names to conjure up memories of great horses—Mass of Gold, Edna May's King, Chief of Longview, Sweetheart on Parade and, more recently, the extraordinary seven-time winner, Wing Commander. A blank white space awaited the name of this year's champion. But before that climactic moment well over 500 horses and ponies vied for other honors.
One of the show's early events, the fine harness for stallion or gelding, brought together for the first time two famous horses who also happen to be full brothers. Undefeated for over a year, the dazzling Lemon Drop Kid, owned by the Sunnyslope Farms of Scott City, Kan., continued his sweep, defeating his younger brother, last year's champion, High Button Shoes. The Kid, whose gaudy coloring and airy way always catch the audience's attention as well as the judges' more practiced eyes, moved forward in the glare of two spotlights to get his award—and the term show horse seemed to have acquired added dimension.
The stallion division of the five-gaited stake was only lightly filled, and it was handily won by last year's winner, Mrs. H. G. Wittenberg's Gallant Guy, with Fritz Jordan up.
The mare division, on the other hand, was popping with 14 entries, and many felt it was the standout class of the show. After several demanding workouts the class was tied and the spotlights focused on Delaine Farms's Something Wonderful, ridden by Mrs. Henry Hart Jr.
All eight horses entered in the gelding division appeared for the class, and Lloyd Teater, up on Miss Susan Richtmyre's recently purchased Red Gold, accepted the challenge trophy that had been awarded Dodge Stables' Socko last year.
During the winnowing process for the five-gaited championship stake, other important classes were decided. Jean McLean Davis of Portsmouth, Va. personally won more of the top awards than any other owner—including, in the ladies three-gaited stake, victory on Sashay for the third straight year.
Another kind of a winning record was established in the five-gaited pony division. Thirteen-year-old Lynne Girdler rode her 13-year-old pony, Everlasting Joy, to victory in both the open and stake classes, thus finishing the season undefeated. To Rider Lynne went a large silver bowl for her ever-expanding trophy collection and to her hard-working pony two Cokes, a lemonade, a handful of potato chips and several ice cubes.
The big stake night, during the course of which the fine harness, three-and five-gaited champions would be decided, attracted 13,500, the largest crowd ever to attend a horse show in the state of Kentucky. In the fine harness championship event The Lemon Drop Kid repeated his earlier performance, which was received with such delight that the audience refused to allow him to leave the ring.
The long-awaited event, the five-gaited world's championship, was the last class of the six-day show, and to the strains of My Old Kentucky Home the eight contenders burst into the ring.
Before the first workout was finished, Mrs. Hart pulled Something Wonderful into the center and Trainer Charlie Huston came out to adjust a bit and fix a quarter boot. But the bay mare never did settle, and Mrs. Hart asked and was allowed to leave the ring. If it was a wrong night for one mare it was definitely a right night for another. The full sister of the famous Wing Commander, Dodge Stables Dream Waltz, with veteran Rider Earl Teater in the saddle, made a brilliant show at every gait, demanding and receiving the coveted blanket of red roses. For the Dodge Stables and Trainer Teater this was the 11th world's championship—a record that may never be equaled.