Louisville, Kentucky - It's an annual tradition in Louisville. Champions are crowned, history is made, dreams come true, and sterling silver trophies glisten under the lights of Freedom Hall. American Saddlebred Horses, Roadster Horses and Hackney and Harness Ponies compete to be called a World's Champion, a World's Champion of Champion, or the most desired title: a World's Grand Champion. On Saturday, it was a three-peat triumph for rider/trainer Merrill Murray, who celebrated his third - and final - $100,000 Five-Gaited World's Grand Championship victory atop the American Saddlebred gelding Courageous Lord.
The crowd cheered, clapped and whistled on Stake Night - the final night of the weeklong event - for Courageous Lord, clearly the fan favorite. After a crowd rousing victory pass, Murray thanked God, and his wife, blacksmiths, chiropractor, vet, farm owners, and fans of Courageous Lord. And mentioned the ride was no longer his. The 10-year-old chestnut, trained by Murray, was sold to Peter and Lynn Via of Fox Grape Farms about a month ago. Murray announced after his grand performance, which included a work off, the ride now belongs to Dr. Owen Weaver.
In other stakes, Real Action, ridden by Peter Cowart, won the Three-Gaited Grand Championship, and Gabe Deknatel and The Daily Lottery repeated as champions in the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship.
Attendance was strong for the 108th Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show and many who couldn't be there in person watched on computers via USEFNetwork.com's livestream. This is the first year the webcast has been offered courtesy of the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA).
The event is highest paying United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) competition - paying in excess of $1 million in prize money. The first show was in 1902 with the title of World's Champion being designated in 1914.
To watch Merrill Murray's ride - and all of Friday's competition - and view photos and results from the entire week, please visit USEFNetwork.com's World's Championship Horse Show page at: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/WCHS2011.
Photo: Merrill Murray and Courageous Lord. Photo credit: Jen Corcoran/E Motion.