published Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Mike Walden: He, I'm Copperfield still winners

Chad Baucom and Walk Time Charlie take a victory lap around the arena.
Chad Baucom and Walk Time Charlie take a victory lap around the arena.
Photo by Alyson Wright.
  • photo
    Knox Blackburn rides I'm Copperfield, owned by Chattanoogan Mike Walden, during the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Copperfield was named Reserve Grand Champion at the event early Sunday morning.

2012 Champions*

• World Grand Champion: Walk Time Charlie, owned by Holland, Kilgore & Callicutt of Decatur, Ala., Seagrove, N.C., and Shelbyville, Tenn.

• Reserve World Grand Champion: I'm Copperfield, owned by the Mike Walden family of Chattanooga.

• Junior World Grand Champion (4-year-olds): Honors, owned by Dan, Keith and Kelley McSwain of Gainesville and Duluth, Ga.

• 3-year-old World Grand Champion: Jose It Ain't So, owned by Deborah Williams of Argyle, Texas

• 2-year-old World Grand Champion: Nine Gold, owned by Bill and Denise McMillan of Satillo, Miss.

* There are 177 classes in the 11-day event. These are the top professional winners.

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — The big red stallion named I'm Copperfield was a clear crowd favorite Saturday night at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

His picture was on the front of Saturday's edition of Walking Horse Report, a trade publication published daily during the Celebration, and a billboard at the gate of the Calsonic Arena showed him off with his trainer, Knox Blackburn.

But the golden-maned 5-year-old owned by Mike Walden didn't take the title of 2012 World Grand Champion. Instead he is the 2012 Reserve World Grand Champion, coming in second to another big chestnut red stallion, Walk Time Charlie.

Walden, with family and friends at the barns behind the Calsonic early Sunday morning, was clearly disappointed but still able to joke.

"Reserve" means "first loser," he quipped, but he patted his horse affectionately.

"That's five people's opinion," he said about the judging. "I've agreed with their opinion most of the week, so I guess even though things didn't go my way, I'll still have to agree with their opinion."

Before the show, Copperfield's major competition -- and another crowd favorite -- was expected to be Honors, a world grand champion in the 4-year-old stallions class.

Honors, from Georgia, was listed on the program Saturday but did not take the field.

Jennifer Baker, consultant and spokeswoman for the Celebration and other horse industry groups, said his owners had decided to wait until he is 5 years old before entering him in the world grand championship walking horse class, the top contest.

In the end, the surprise winner was Walk Time Charlie, who also garnered crowd applause. The show announcer said Charlie's horseshoe of roses came with a unanimous decision from the five judges.

On Aug. 25, Copperfield nabbed a blue ribbon finish as a world champion 5-year-old walking stallion. Rider/trainer Knox Blackburn said that title will be listed beneath the reserve grand champion honor.

Walden, a veteran of the signature Tennessee walking horse event, said this was the best Celebration ever.

"I'd like to have been the world grand champion, but instead I'm the grand champion and the reserve world grand champion. That's not half bad."

But Walden and his four show horses actually did even better than that during the 11-day Celebration:

• Walden himself rode Private Charter, a 15-year-old horse, to win the world championship in the "classic [older] horse" division.

• Walden also rode He's Wildeyed & Wicked to became world champion in the owner-amateur riders on 5-year-old walking mares or geldings class.

• Blackburn rode Walden's Ted Who to take a first-place blue ribbon in the 4-year-old park performance [low hoof pads] class.

• Walden rode Ted Who to a second-place finish in the owner-amateur riders park performance class.

As for Copperfield's future?

Walden said time will tell. He may let Copperfield make another run at the big title. Or he, said with a grin, he may just ride the big beauty himself to try to expand on his own amateur world champion titles.

"He's a great horse, and he'll be competitive for years to come," said the Walden Security founder, owner and operator. "I like to watch Knox win, but I really like to watch me win."

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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