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A show horse," remarked Hugh Richardson in Louisville during the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show, "is as temperamental as a Follies girl. You can spend $100,000 a year to keep one, and she may slap you in the face. And she can also make you look and feel like a big shot." At the show's end Richardson, beaming as he poured the victory champagne, was definitely in the latter category. His daughter Jolie's mare, My My, had won the five-gaited World's Grand Championship for the third consecutive time, setting a record for mares. (Jolie's Lady Carrigan, another one of those volatile females, won the championship four times, the last in 1958, but not in a row.)
Stake night in the Freedom Hall Coliseum, with a capacity crowd of 14,784, was hot and humid enough to wilt a jungle orchid. With 11 entries in the ring all eyes still were on the open gate. The three top contenders—Frank Bradshaw on Jolie's My My, Earl Teater on Dodge Stables' Star of the Show, and Tom Moore on Knolland Farms' The Contender—were trying to upstage each other. Each wanted to make a dramatic last entrance. Moore outlagged the others and once in the ring began his stalk of My My. At first, his bright gelding seemed to have the edge; My My had not yet slipped into that extra gear that leaves her rivals standing still. But before long she did so. "She's too big and too tough," sighed one Contender fan as My My became more and more dazzling and The Contender faded away, hot and out of heart. He was awarded second, displacing Star of the Show, who had been the reserve champion last year.
For Jolie, this triumph was especially satisfying. With great difficulty she had coaxed a temporary release from the Atlanta hospital, where she had lain seriously ill since July, in order to spend one night at the show. And the ensuing success and elation were some compensation for other miseries of recent years. First a soft-drink bottle had exploded and cut her leg, forcing her out of the show-ring. A severe illness and a kidney operation followed. When she was recovering from that her champion mare, Lady Carrigan, caught the equine virus and died. Next, her champion stallion, Captain Denmark, and 28 other horses perished in a stable fire. Then, happily, she purchased My My and the mare has never been defeated; neither has Jolie's morale.
Another consecutive three-time winner at Louisville was the crowd-pleasing black mare named Supreme Airs but called Sweetie Face by her owner, Mrs. J. W. Gallagher. ("After all, you can't say, 'Come here, Supreme Airs,' " she explained.) Sweetie Face has now won the fine-harness stake for 2-, 3- and 4-year-old horses at the Fair, a feat never before accomplished in the memory of anyone present.
The Dodge Stables, winner of more world championships over the years than any other owner, added still another trophy to an impressive collection. With Trainer Earl Teater in the saddle, Local Talent, a consistently animated chestnut mare, became the World's Grand Champion three-gaited horse for the second time. Earlier in the week Dodge had set a different sort of record. After winning the weanling class the stables announced that the filly had been sold to Mrs. J. R. Sharp of Tulsa for $10,000, the highest price ever paid for a show horse prospect. That hardly leaves Dodge without stock for the future. The stables' Flight Time was the winner of the gaited stake for 3-year-olds.
This year, for a change, the open fine-harness division was full and competitive largely because of the absence of that invincible stallion, Colonel Boyle, whose trainer, Art Simmons, apparently did not like one of the judges. So the new Louisville champion was an elegant chestnut gelding named Thunderbird, owned by Mrs. A. J. Kavanaugh and driven by Trainer Dick Hadley. Another Hadley triumph saw The Cock Robin, a remarkably little horse who thinks big, add two more titles to his already-amazing record by winning both the ladies' and amateur fine-harness stakes for Mrs. Kavanaugh. This chestnut gelding, durable as Satchel Paige, seems as bright as when he won his first world championship six years ago. "He acts younger all the time," said the 35-year-old Hadley. "I wish I could figure out how he does it. I just feel older each year. He's such a perfect little horse, just like a toy or a watch fob. You almost think you should invite him into the house." At home in Oklahoma City, Hadley keeps Robin in a stall that is specially built up so that he seems to be as normally horse-size as his stablemates. Visitors, accustomed to seeing him in the show-ring, are usually surprised at his diminutive stature when he is not in motion. But when Robin hits the tanbark, he clearly is certain that he is bigger and better than any other horse in the ring, and the judges generally agree with him.
The only sour note at this extremely successful show was again the inclusion of the fancy-pony turnout class on stake night. In it a little boy, dressed in top hat and tails and looking like a miniature undertaker, drives a pony with a little girl for companion. She wears a huge skirt that totally covers the buggy and looks like a turtle shell of pastel tulle. The rouged and lipsticked girl-child simpers at the audience and finally kisses the equally rouged boy when the ribbon is awarded. The children obviously are not responsible for this ludicrous display; it has to be parental delinquency. And just what the judge uses as a gauge to reach his decision is one of those horse show mysteries that is best left forever unexplained.