The starring ingénue of the Lexington, Ky. Junior League Horse Show, first big saddle horse event of the year in the Midwest, was, appropriately enough, a chestnut filly named Local Talent. Bred and owned by the Dodge Stables of Lexington, Local Talent had made her 1961 debut at Devon (SI, June 19), and at Lexington she was unquestionably the hit of the 3-year-old Fine Harness class.
In fact, she was considered so superior that she was lined up in the center of the ring while the judges sorted out the rest of the class. The railside consensus was that Local Talent is so highly gifted that she is a freak. Ironically enough, she was not sired by the Dodge Stables' most famous freak, the record-shattering Wing Commander, but by a stud named American Dictator who, at the age of 24, was bid in at auction for a mere $500.
In other respects, Lexington will doubtless be remembered for a number of lively incidents. Rain sadly plagued the show's last four days, turning the famous Red Mile into mire. One evening two horses fell full length in the molasseslike clay, and the blacksmith did a thriving business replacing pulled shoes. During the Minton Memorial—a three-gaited event for junior riders—two horses lost front shoes almost simultaneously. Since a saddle horse shoe is carefully weighted to suit the individual horse's needs, the lost shoes in this case were retrieved from the mud, swiftly attached and the class resumed. Only later was it discovered that the horses left the ring in each other's shoes.
The shoe problem was shared by humans as well. On Saturday afternoon the show was held on the infield cinder track, while sand was spread on the clay to improve the footing for the night events. Many of these matinee classes were horsemanship events for children and, naturally enough, most of the spectators were anxious parents. Riding in the under-11-year-old equitation class was a young lady named Virginia Nugent whose mother, Virginia Cronin Nugent, had ridden in the same event 25 years ago. After tension-building individual workouts the winner was revealed—little Virginia. Excited big Virginia jumped so high with joy that she fell backwards into a rain-filled moat; in scrambling out, she left a shoe stuck to the muddy bottom.
August 6, 1961
Light feet, heavy footing
Although the footing was less treacherous on stake night, the going was heavy and, as Lexington's judges were of undecided minds, many of the classes turned into endurance contests. Although R.C. Tway's Plainview's Julia retained her title of five-gaited grand champion, the three-gaited stake, earlier in the evening, was a different story. An apparently invincible champion met defeat. Delightful Society, winner of 39 consecutive blues, made a cautious show rather than her usual explosive one, with her head constantly turned to the rail as though counting the house. Garland Bradshaw, riding in his usual flamboyant manner, made a dashing show on Elizabeth Culley's Starlite Heiress, a pretty mare just out of the junior classes, while Earl Teater, solemn as a chief mourner, stayed on the rail and put his seasoned Belle of the Delle to work. Belle lost none of her animation through the long workout and became the leading lady, defeating Delightful Society for the first time. Starlite Heiress was reserve, and Delightful Society this time had to be content with third.
Lexington also saw a new fashion, introduced by Delightful Society's owner, Mrs. Don Decker, who wore a jeweled pendant attached by a Band-Aid to her chin—surely the most original personal decor since one of my Kentucky cousins had a diamond set in his front tooth.