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Horse shows are getting bigger and better all the time, and a check of a few of the 100-odd equine competitions held during the month of June bears out the joyful prophecies of another bumper year. More horses, more money, more days of showing, more spectators.
The Pin Oak show in Houston, for example, an event that attracted a last-night crowd of 8,000, has netted enough money to build a children's hospital, and this year had to add more classes. The show, which in true Texas style claims to be the biggest outdoor show in the U.S. or even the world (several shows claim this distinction, but it probably really belongs to Devon, Pa.), attracted 450 horses and ponies and offered $64,000 worth of prize money. Newcomers to Houston carted off the biggest share of the cash. Mrs. William P. Roth, an invader from California (SI, Nov. 26), for one, took nine blues with her hackney and harness show ponies, a sweep which didn't leave much in that color line for anyone else. Another triumphant non-Texan was Mrs. Louise Hart of Morton Grove, Ill. She brought her veteran, fastmoving bay mare, Something Wonderful, to Houston for the first time and made it firsts all the way by winning the mare stake and the $5,500 five-gaited championship.
But all the champions were not new to Houston. That superfine fine harness horse, The Lemon Drop Kid, owned by the Sunnyside Farms of Scott City, Kan. and driven by Jay Utz, repeated his 1956 victory by defeating his brother, Pace Petroleum's High Button Shoes.
Near Chicago, at the Oak Brook Hounds Horse Show, new records also were set in equine entries and, judging from the complete sellout of programs, soft drinks and beer, in spectators as well. Although there was a Western Division, it was basically a hunter and jumper show, and the jumping classes were all judged by International rather than American Horse Show rules. The longest course, the Velvet Lassie stake, had 19 obstacles and 20 entries. When this field had been winnowed, August A. Busch's former Olympic jumper, Miss Budweiser, and Mr. and Mrs. George Sadlier's Short Cut were left fighting it out for first place. Bob Egan went first on Miss Budweiser, racked up eight faults but completed the difficult course in 1:10.2. Max Bonham took Short Cut slowly, but by the 10th fence he had eight faults. At the 11th he went off course and withdrew. He was licked on time and it was too hot to go on, so Miss Budweiser retired the trophy, having won it three times.
The $5,000 stake was won by a clever brown gelding named The Possum, owned by the Marilyn Farms, ridden by Mrs. George Jayne and trained by her husband. The working hunter champion was another Jayne horse, Apt Pupil, trained by George's brother Si and ridden by Dorothy McLeod. All in all, the Jaynes were busy pinning up the tricolors in the tackroom.
Meanwhile, at Darien, Conn, the Ox Ridge Hunt Club was putting on its biggest horse show in 28 years. Unluckily, the show coincided with an un-seasonal heat wave, which discouraged all but a handful of hardy admirers and fellow exhibitors from coming to watch the expanded program. However, the heat did not seriously affect the quality of the performances at Ox Ridge, and when it was time to award championships, the judges were faced with several ties. In the working hunter division Mr. and Mrs. Henry Paxson's gray Chappaqua was tied with Fairview Farms' consistent Bronze Wing. A hack-off decided the champion, and to Chappaqua, who had been ridden sidesaddle throughout the show by Mrs. Paxson, went the tricolor.
The green jumpers had a tie, too, this time for reserve. The championship went to stake-winning Regency Rake, a gaudy chestnut owned by the Fox Valley Farm and ridden by David Kelley. But Rocky Hill Stables' Rocky Hill and Sugar Hill Farm's Mr. Sandman were tied for second honors, and Betty Haight, riding Mr. Sandman, decided to jump to break the tie. Thus, to the annoyance of a sweating jump crew, the course had to be set up again. Rocky Hill went clean for Jack Amon and earned the reserve spot.
The hottest rider at the show, literally and figuratively, and certainly the happiest, was Hugh Wiley, who won the Open Jumping Championship on Mrs. Joshua Barney's Master William and was reserve on his own Nautical. Both horses are on loan to the U.S. Equestrian Team, which managed to duplicate the feat the following week at the Fairfield Hunt Club show with another set of horses and a different rider—Bill Steinkraus. Besides winning the championship with Miss Joan Magid's First Boy and reserve with Mrs. John Galvin's Night Owl, Steinkraus also captured the special Olympic course blue on Night Owl.
The hunter division at Fairfield was well filled; in fact, some voiced the opinion that it was the best collection of conformation horses of the year, despite the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Motch's Thou Swell, Devon conformation champion, who was off winning another championship at Grosse Pointe. The conformation hunter stake, the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED trophy and the championship went to Mrs. Deane Rucker's Spanish Mint. The Working Green hunter award went to a $21,000 miscalculation, a young gray named The Bellboy, owned and ridden by Miss Peggy Augustus of Keswick, Va. The horse had been purchased by Miss Augustus' mother at Saratoga as a track prospect but showed no great interest in running. He proved, however, to be more than satisfactory at jumping; Mrs. Augustus' loss seems destined to be her daughter's gain.
Peggy's new hunter was not the only topic of talk at Fairfield, for the show produced Chapter Two of what may become known as the Devon Epic (SI, June 17). At Devon, it will be remembered, the stewards set a precedent by disqualifying Mrs. Galvin's Night Owl when Rider Steinkraus preferred to save the horse and take second place instead of jumping off the tie.