Daily photo by Paul Huggins|
Not Much Doubt, winner of the Racking Horse Spring Celebration, with owners Jenna Sue Lakes and Conley Tyra; Josh McQueen, Tyra's nephew; and trainer Michael Wright.
’Not Much Doubt’ erases doubts
Spring Celebration winner emerges as grand championship contender
By Paul Huggins
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PRICEVILLE — From time to time during the past 20 years, Conley Tyra imagined competing for the racking horse world grand championship, but it seemed too large a dream.
The McKee, Ky., man is taking it seriously now after his horse won the Racking Horse Spring Celebration late Saturday.
Not Much Doubt was the top pick of all three judges during the final, alerting the racking horse world to one of the top contenders for the world grand championship in September.
Spring Celebration is the breed's second biggest show, and the winner here often finishes near the top in September.
"For a long time you dream of it, but I never thought the opportunity would be there for me," Tyra said.
That opportunity came from the urging of Michael Wright, the trainer who rode Not Much Doubt to the championship Saturday. He raised the horse in his Reagan, Tenn., stable, and before it was 2 years old could see its championship ability.
Wright repeatedly urged Tyra to buy it, and Tyra refused. After four or five attempts, Tyra said, he realized Wright had always been trustworthy on horse recommendations and agreed to buy Not Much Doubt sight unseen.
A special horse
When Tyra first saw the young stallion, he knew the horse was special.
"We pretty much talked from the beginning that he would be the one we would take to the big time, show him for the world grand championship," Tyra said.
"He was just easygoing. He did the rack so naturally. He never struggled with anything. We've never been disappointed with him. If he stays healthy, we feel like he's as good as any horse in the industry."
Not Much Doubt — the son of Generator's Fame, a top walking horse stud — quickly showed his potential. He won the 3-year-old world grand championship in 2004 and was the 4-year-old reserve grand champion in 2005.
If Wright can duplicate his Saturday finish at Celebration Arena in September, it will be his first world grand championship. He couldn't contain his excitement at that prospect hours after winning Spring Celebration.
"I've won every kind of championship around here but that one," said Wright, 36, a professional trainer since age 12.
Wright won the 2001 Spring Celebration atop Touch of Camelot and was on the verge of winning the world grand championship after winning his preliminary class. But the horse developed a leg problem and couldn't compete.
"I feel like we've got a great chance (with Not Much Doubt) if he stays healthy," Wright said. "He's a tough knot. He's a hundred percent show horse, and he gives it all he's got."
Spring Celebration proved a pivotal achievement for the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America.
A year ago it faced a multimillion-dollar lawsuit and saw many members depart to another association.
The association put the arena up for sale last summer, and supporters feared the group wouldn't survive the year.
The lawsuit was dismissed in March, membership losses stopped, and members are slowly returning. Spring Celebration drew 488 entries, down 11 from 2006. Show Chairwoman Barbara Johnston said that number would have been higher had some trainers not been scared off by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections.
They stayed away because the horse inspectors have been making the rounds at shows this spring and disqualifying trainers. Many trainers say the inspections are inconsistent and therefore won't take a chance at being cited as rule breakers, she said.
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