If you owned a world champion five-gaited horse that suddenly started believing it was Napoleon, and if in addition a seemingly innocent pop bottle suddenly exploded and sliced open your leg, you might have reason to suspect that Evil Eye Fleagle was in the vicinity. Fleagle or no, that is just what happened to Jolie Richardson shortly before the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show, where the world champion saddle-bred horses are selected.
The obvious favorite in the five-gaited class was Jolie's four-time winner and defending champion, Lady Carrigan—but Lady Carrigan's many victories apparently unhinged her. She went on strike sometime before the show, refusing to work on the rail; instead she preferred an elegant center-ring victory pose. With Lady Carrigan thus demented, Jolie's only hope at Louisville was her world champion gelding, Garrymore, whom she had converted into a three-gaited horse. She entered Garrymore in the amateur and ladies' classes. But even this chance was lost when Jolie, driving home one day in Atlanta with a carton of soft drinks, fell victim to an exploding bottle.
With the five-gaited title undefended, the sentimental favorite became Gallant Guy, five years the winner in the stallion division. Afire and King Lee, who had placed one and two in the gelding division, were expected to finish much the same way in the stake. Not much money was showing for Plainview's Julia, the mare division winner who in the past often has seemed an equine equivalent, temperamentally, of Mme. Maria Callas.
All told, 11 horses were entered, and they worked in an atmosphere of extreme suspense. And what horse was least bothered by all this tension? Why, temperamental Julia, of course, who this time worked to perfection. In the end, the blanket of roses and world champion title were hers. Lee Shipman, the young rider who successfully cued Julia, provided a "small-world" note: he learned his trade from Trainer Garland Bradshaw, the Svengali whose Trilby—Lady Carrigan—rebelled.
The three-gaited championship event starred a mare that also has a reputation for either brilliant or berserk behavior. Delightful Society, a fine bay who sometimes has acted like a kangaroo, this season looked like a show horse. With Trainer Owen Hailey up, she has shown 14 times this year and collected the top award at each appearance.
Challenging her in the championship, however, was a young and brilliant newcomer to the Louisville scene: a junior mare named Scarlet Flame, who had shown 19 times this year without defeat. The two walk-trot mares had never met, and many believed that Trainer Tom Moore would not dare to bring his new sensation into the ring with Delightful Society. But both appeared when the class was called and the judges put the two on the rail alone to work it off. In a showing as dramatic as it was beautiful, Society upstaged her younger rival without difficulty and took the title.
When the favorite of favorites, that veteran campaigner, The Lemon Drop Kid, entered the ring with eight other contenders for the fine harness championship, the Louisville audience started to cheer. The 11-year-old gelding took the occasion to prove to those who had been saying he was over the hill that he was, instead, still very much king of the mountain. Lemon, who is well known for having tasted a piece of anyone who works near him, has now tasted every possible success as well. He won the world championship for the fourth consecutive year and has now broken every existing record for fine harness horses.