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All success brings changes, and Lemon is no exception. He has been transformed from a Peck's bad boy into a prima donna who could give even Maria Callas some lessons in being temperamental. No tie stalls for him, as are sometimes offered at small shows where he is exhibited solo as a special treat: he must have a box. And once, when he was placed in a box stall with no tail boards, he spent the night busily rubbing his tail against the stone wall until he had an embarrassing bald spot. Lemon had to wear a wig until the hair grew out.
He is just as particular about his stablemate as he is about his stall. He has developed a grand attachment for a five-gaited mare named Stonewall's Princess, and when she isn't there he paces and nickers in lordly anguish. But heartbreak turns to outrage if, when the mare is returned to her stall, she is fed and watered first. If his peevish squeals for attention are ignored he becomes more vehement and kicks the walls of the stall. If this rouses no interest he turns downright sulky and gets to work methodically shredding his blanket.
Saucy and serious
Lemon also gets a deep satisfaction out of teasing new grooms. He will leave the stall with newcomers like a perfect Little Lord Fauntleroy, but then, as quick as a snake, he will clamp his teeth on arm or shoulder. He doesn't really bite. He holds on long enough to see how easily they scare.
When it comes to showing, however, Lemon is all business. Every piece of tack, each strap, must be exactly where he wants it. If the backhand is a little too far forward, he'll twitch, twist and shrug until he gets it just right. Then, like a boxer on the ropes, he starts warming up, lifting first one leg and flexing the muscles in the forearm, next the other, until he is hitched. Then—into the show ring.
And on the rail, owners and trainers whose memories are long and jealousies often sharp, run down the list of fine harness immortals—Vanity, Noble Kalarama, Regal Aire—and acclaim The Lemon Drop Kid as greatest. They may sigh with envy but they watch him with pleasure and affection. Everyone knows it will be a long time—if ever—before there's another like him.
The Lemon Drop Kid, memorable as usual, just last week added another star to his championship diadem by again winning the stake at Kansas City's American Royal. And winning in Kansas City, as everyone well knows, is no small achievement. This year the show drew a staggering 1,124 entries, while at Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania National, which ran during the exact same days and cedes prestige to no one, drew close to 800.
That one owner could simultaneously win stakes at these two great shows seems slightly improbable, but that is exactly what did happen. In Kansas City, Lady Carrigan, winner of the World's Five-Gaited Championship at Louisville earlier this year, finished off an undefeated season with victory at the Royal. Garland Bradshaw was again in the saddle, but now he was riding for a different owner; 22-year-old Jolie Richardson of Atlanta had bought the horse from Molly Moody. "We got so tired of always being second to Carrigan that we finally bought her!" explained Jolie. "You know how it is: if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em." And as an indication of what there was to beat in Kansas City, there were 90—yes, count them, 90—horses entered in the stake. As usual, only a small percentage of those listed felt it worth-while, when the eighth day of competition rolled around, to put up a fight. Lady Carrigan, who is just as touchy to ride as The Lemon Drop Kid is to drive, might as well have been in a class by herself. The fight was for second place, and it was finally won by Susan Richtmyre's chestnut gelding, Red Gold.
Meanwhile, on the same Saturday, at the opposite end of the country, Jolie's other horse, the big bay Garrymore, was being shown at Harrisburg by Garland Bradshaw's brother Frank.
Garrymore too faced top stock, but, working like a picture horse, he pleased both crowd and judges. It came as no surprise when for the third year in a row he was named the champion five-gaited horse at the Pennsylvania National.