General Mariles, in the 1956 National Horse Show's final event, rang down the curtain on the competition in typical Mariles style. Mexico had a team total of four faults, and Ireland four and a quarter. Mariles, the last rider, had to ride clean. Ten jumps later the international jumping Perpetual Challenge trophy was again Mexico's for the ninth time in 11 years. Mariles has gotten used to having it around.
San Francisco's Grand National, which is the last big show of the Pacific Coast circuit, also drew exhibitors of fame from far and near. One of the most famous came from nearby indeed—Mrs. William Roth of San Mateo. Mrs. Roth, who has campaigned her champion ponies and horses from coast to coast for four decades, is the person most directly responsible not only for the big show at the Cow Palace but for the interest in show horses in all of California. Chief of Longview, her several-times winner of the world's championship five-gaited stake at the Kentucky State Fair, remains unforgettable, and the mention of her great mare, Sweetheart On Parade, still wrings nostalgic sighs from lovers of the fine-harness classes. This time Mrs. Roth's Hackney ponies, bought from Josephine Abercrombie (SI, Nov. 1, 1954), won all classes in which they were entered—which was every class possible for a Hackney to enter.
There were plenty of fine horses on hand in the fine-harness events. The most famous, and the winner of all his classes, was the bold California-bred chestnut, High Button Shoes, now owned by the Pace Petroleum Co. Button has been defeated at only one show during his career, and then by his brother, The Lemon Drop Kid. The open classes were the special territory of High Button Shoes, but the ladies and amateur events were dominated by 27-year-old Jean McLean Davis' chestnut gelding, The Encore. For the last four years he has been the ladies' and amateur champion fine-harness horse and during this time has won 59 blues and 6 reds—he has no lesser colors. As Jean readied for the Amateur Fine-harness Stake, she remarked quietly, "This is his last show. No matter what he does, he will be retired after tonight." She spread her full, pink, satin skirt, pulled thick rubber bands with attached safety pins up to her knees and anchored the hem of her dress to keep it from flying during the class. "I never will forget," she said as she pinned her dress in place, "one night in Dallas when all my rubber bands broke..." and looking as cool as her pink satin, she drove The Encore to his 60th, and final, first place before he went to his new and final place in the pasture, back home in Virginia. The Encore was not, however, the only blue ribbon winner that Jean McLean Davis had brought west. Her 4-year-old walk-trot Salute Me won the stake for three-gaited horses over 15.2 in height, the ladies' three-gaited and the big, three-gaited stake.
THE TOUGHEST CLASS EVER
In the five-gaited mare class, Trainer Lee Toby rode her "blond" Enchanted Hour to victory, while Jean placed third with her Twilight Walk. Sandwiched in between was Vignola Farms' Heavenly Daze, with Buford Waller up. These classes, as were all the events at the Grand National, were filled with horses. In fact, after judging the Three-gaited Amateur Stake (which was won by Ella Mae Shofner Hansen on Dream Street Doll), Judge Robert Brown of Indianapolis commented that in his 30 years of judging it was the toughest class he had ever faced.
The hunter and jumper events were equally well filled and, after 10 days of competition, the champion in this division was declared: Wikid Storm, an aged, chestnut gelding owned and ridden by Eva Taverna Martinelli, a schoolteacher from Sacramento. The hunter division crowned its champion earlier in the day, and the tricolor went to a big bay named Debated Issue, owned and ridden by Barbara Worth, a professional horsewoman.
The Five-gaited Championship Stake was the last class of the horse show, a dramatic ending for a colorful show and season. Vignola Farms' Heavenly Daze, second in the mare class, kept working better and better, but Enchanted Hour seemed to have decided that she had had enough. A second workout was called for but the blond-tailed mare never did settle down. When the decision was given, Heavenly Daze was the champion five-gaited saddle horse of the Grand National for the second year.