The Kentucky State Fair Horse Show, that king-making event in the Saddle Horse world, a fortnight ago drew a fine group of old favorites back to Louisville for new triumphs, turned out-of-favor candidates into new champions, and with a fairy-tale touch elevated one dark horse to fame.
Among the champions of past and present, however, none tingled the spine and tightened the throat more than that incredible fine harness horse, The Lemon Drop Kid. "Louisville loves Lemon," said Irene Zane, Sunny-slope Farms' manager, before the show, "and Lemon just loves applause. He'll do well." "Well" is hardly the word to describe what Lemon did, since unfortunately all the right words have been used too often on ordinary horses.
But Louisville's discriminating spectators knew how to give voice to his excellence. Once Jay Utz had driven him through the gate into a ring that was full of good horses, they singled him out, and the applause that Lemon loves never stopped. With the verve and joie de vivre that all great showmen have, Lemon floated regally over the tanbark. Master showman that he is, his performance literally moved one judge to tears—and moved everyone to proclaim him a champion again.
The Lemon Drop Kid was unforgettable, but so was the combination of blonde Joan Robinson and her beautiful gray mare, Beloved Belinda. The mare had placed third earlier in the week, but when she came back in the amateur five-gaited stake she was more than ready to do battle with her archrival, King Lee, owned by Kathryn Means. The more Beloved Belinda worked the better she got and the easier it all looked. King Lee left the ring before the class was tied. So Joan rode Beloved Belinda into the spotlight and the amateur championship for no less than the fourth time.
And then there was Storm Cloud, an obscure bush league horse who burst into the big time. Actually, it was no accident. Louisville's Helen Crabtree had been watching Storm Cloud as he was shown with limited success in Iowa, biding her time until his owners were ready to sell. Then she pounced and bought him for Lynne Girdler.
Storm Cloud was a dark horse literally as well as figuratively, and as the Minton Memorial three-gaited class got under way it was clear that he was stealing the show. But for a moment Storm Cloud seemed about to lose his hard-earned honors; a blemish was found in one eye. If he were blind he would face disqualification. Although Helen Crabtree and Lynne were well aware of the blemish, there were some anxious moments until their knowledge was publicly confirmed by the show's veterinarian. Storm Cloud was proclaimed sound and the winner.
The five-gaited world's championship stake brought the real climax of the show. All week long, owners and spectators had eyed the blank space on the wall, waiting to see which horse would join the five-gaited greats whose names decorate Freedom Hall. Then the gate opened, and to the strains of My Old Kentucky Home the 11 contenders burst into the ring at a trot.
In that first expectant hush no horse was going higher and bolder than two-time world champion Lady Carrigan, who last year could not even qualify for the stake. But that was last year—this season Garland Bradshaw had ridden her to victory at every show they entered. His brother Frank Bradshaw, however, was also on a high-powered horse, Jolie Richardson's Garrymore.
After the horses were stripped and their conformation considered, the judges sent all the horses but Lady Carrigan and Garrymore out for a second work. Then the railbirds settled in to await the duel for first between the brothers. But the judges had seen enough: the new world champion had been decided—Lady Carrigan. Molly Moody, her 19-year-old owner, thus won a double victory—her other horse, Sunshine Carol, had won the three-gaited world's championship. Drowned in flowers, Molly shyly accepted congratulations and invited well-wishers to a champagne party.