The Junior League horse show of Lexington, Ky. is traditionally a happy compound of acute professional knowledge and easy sociability. The Bluegrass country, for all its overblown publicity, can still be enchanting, even in the languid heat of its midsummer.
But this year something awful was added: fashion innovations that could scare a horse.
As a matter of fact, some of the country's top champions were absent, though presumably not from fright. There were still plenty of good horses present, and as usual there was much interest in the youngsters. Some close competition was expected between Blue Lakes Farm's Regal Gold and the Dodge Stables' outstanding young filly, Local Talent, in the junior fine harness stake. Local Talent had won the 3-year-old stake last year. This spring Regal Gold defeated Local Talent at Devon, making an excellent show, while Local Talent appeared bored. But at Lexington, Local Talent was all attention and Regal Gold was in a near-uncontrollable mood, so surly that Driver Barney Reardon had to ask to be excused from the competition, giving Local Talent an easy blue ribbon.
Jolie Richardson's Coe Star, a dainty filly, defeated a nice field to win the junior three-gaited stake under the guidance of her trainer, Garland Bradshaw. This was another case of a junior repeating her 3-year-old triumph. The three-gaited grand championship was won, to no one's surprise, by the reigning world champion, Belle of the Dell, thus retiring the challenge trophy for Dodge Stables. The fine harness grand championship was captured by Daneshall Stable's Vanity's Gift, last year's winner of the junior title, now showing in the open division.
The 3-year-old five-gaited event attracted nine hopefuls of good quality who had, unfortunately, to make their shows during an unsettling driving rain. This stake, too, was won by the Dodge Stables with a chestnut gelding named Spark Around, a homebred by Sparkling Waters.
The last event, and always the one to stir the keenest general interest, was the five-gaited grand championship. For the last two years it has been won by R.C. Tway's brilliant and lively mare, Plainview's Julia. Julia's new trainer, Kenny Walker, broke his leg recently when a junior horse fell on him, so his Uncle Dudley rode in his place. Last year Julia was hard pressed for the title by Jolie Richardson's Captain Denmark. This year the handsome Captain Denmark was in splendid form, moving with elegance and grace for Trainer Garland Bradshaw, but Julia lacked her accustomed verve, and the stallion became the new grand champion. There was some feeling that the judgment was perfunctory, because no final workout was called between Julia and Captain Denmark, a courtesy often but not necessarily extended to a defending champion. Otherwise there was little criticism of the judging.
The same can't be said for the clothing on display. Some of the habits in the saddles made Lexington's historic trotting track look like the center ring of the circus. The bright-jacket fad at horse shows is nothing new, of course, but at Lexington last week there were garments of gaudy brocade that a chair wouldn't be caught covered in. There were also feminine riding jackets of orchid tones resembling a bad bathroom tile, a brown formal with matching brown top hat and even a riding coat completely covered with gold seguins that would have looked absolutely fetching on a Las Vegas showgirl. The horses, thankfully, still came in traditional colors. None of the ladies has as yet summoned up enough nerve to rinse her mount in lavender, to match her new jacket.