(Photos courtesy Shane Shiflet Photography)
Saturday night the 74th World Grand Champion will take its place in history. Listed in no particular order are the expected top seven contenders for the crown.
Will trainer Knox Blackburn and I'm Copperfield make it three in a row?
In 2010 the duo won the 3-Year-Old World Grand Championship and followed that with the Junior World Grand Championship in 2011.
Blackburn and the 5-year-old sorrel stallion with a flaxen mane and tail won first place votes from all five judges in the "A' division of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class.
"He is a talented horse," Blackburn said. "He is flawless most of the time.
"He has an easy-going gait. When I lined up the other night he had not broken a sweat."
This season they have first place finishes at the Gulf Coast Charity Show and the Celebration Spring Fun Show, their only two shows prior to the Celebration.
Blackburn has been working with I'm Copperfield since the stallion was a 2-year-old.
"I thought when I first saw him that he had the potential to win the big stake one day," Blackburn said. "I like his look, his presence and his gait."
Blackburn rode Masquerading to the World Grand Championship in 1998.
I'm Copperfield is owned by the Mike Walden family from Chattanooga.
The 5-year-old chestnut stallion with a white mane and tail was the unanimous pick of the five-judge panel in the "B' Division of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class.
It was only the second time in a show ring for Walk Time Charlie with trainer Chad Baucom in the saddle. They were tied first at Lewisburg.
"We were thrilled with the show he made," Baucom said. "He has a lot of walk and a lot of shake. He is a true walking horse."
Last year Baucom and Walk Time Charlie finished reserve behind I'm Copperfield in the preliminary of the 4-Year-Old Stallions class. But an injury hampered their performance in the Junior World Grand Championship and the duo finished fourth.
"He was out for eight months," Baucom said. "It has taken him a long time to get back to where he was last year, but I think he is finally there. We are optimistic."
Baucom has twice ridden horses to reserve honors in the World Grand Championship Stake with Star and Star of the Future.
The stallion is owned by Holland (Decatur, Ala.), Kilgore (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) and Callicutt (Seagrove, N.C.).
Puttin' Cash On The Line came into the Celebration undefeated this season. The chestnut stallion and trainer Tim Smith finished second in Division B of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class.
"I've had my eye on the horse since he was three," Smith said. "Every time I saw him he was trying hard. He has a lot of natural walk and shake about him.
"He is awesome. There are not many that can go like he does."
Smith started working with Puttin' Cash On The Line in the fall of 2011. He has proven to be worth the wait. This will be the first time the two have worked together in the big stake.
They have teamed up for five blue ribbons this show season -- Mississippi Charity (two classes), National Trainers' Show, Columbia Spring Jubilee and the Money Tree Classic.
"I feel good about him," Smith said. "He is smart. He learns quickly. I figure he will learn something else for Saturday night."
The 7-year-old stallion is owned by the Tommy Jowers family of Leesburg, Ga,
John Allan Callaway and Ozone's Cut Above All were the unanimous selection for second place in Division A of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class.
The trainer and the chestnut stallion have had a long relationship in the show ring. They were third last year in the "big stake" class in 2011. The previous year they won the 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship.
"I've had him since the end of his 2-year-old year," Callaway said. "I've known him for so long.
"He gives you everything he's got. He is consistent every time you show him. He is a true walking horse _ he walks, shakes and is showy."
They have won blues at Gallatin and Pulaski this season, the only two shows prior to the Celebration.
The 8-year-old stallion is owned by George -Ann Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kan.
Brandon Stout took over the training of Rowdy Rev in June. Their fourth place tie in the "B' Division of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class was only the third time the two had been together in the show ring.
They finished second at Wartrace and third at Lewisburg this summer.
The 11-year-old sorrel stallion has finished as reserve World Grand Champion three times, all under the direction of trainer Bill Bobo.
Stout wasn't disappointed with fourth, but knows his horse can be better.
"There were three good horses tied in front of us," Stout said. "We will try it again this Saturday. I hope people will notice how he is stepping and start clapping.
"I still haven't peaked him out yet. I hope he is waiting for Saturday. We'll have to see what happens when everybody gets there."
The stallion is owned by Harlinsdale Farm in College Grove.
When Steve Dunn rides Folsom Prison Blues he is reminded of the 6-year-old stallion's father, Out on Parole, the 2002 World Grand Champion. Dunn was in the saddle that night at the Celebration.
He hopes to be back in the winner's circle again Saturday night.
Their only previous show performance this summer was at Pulaski.
"He walks a lot like his daddy," Dunn said. "He has a whole lot of back end and front end to him."
Folsom Prison Blues, the third place tie in the "B' Division of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class is owned by the Jimmy Smith family of Oliver Springs.
"I was tickled with his performance," Dunn said. "We are going to try to be better."
Last year Folsom Prison Blues was the reserve World Grand Champion with a different trainer.
Winky Groover guided He's My Main Man to a unanimous third place ribbon in Division A of the Walking Stallions, Over 15.2, Five Years Old and Over, class.
"He made a great show Saturday," Groover said of the 5-year-old. "I was pretty pleased. He seems to be peaking at the right time.
"He is a big, powerful-going horse with a strong behind. He is a beautiful animal. He is really talented. He has just not been shown that much in his lifetime."
They have campaigned heavily with eight appearances this summer. Their only blue is at the Liberty Lions Club Show.
"I got this horse in December of last year and had him all winter," Groover said. "We started showing him in the aged division this year.
"He has been getting better all summer long. I personally think he is the dark horse, but he happens to be one of the few black ones in there."
He's My Main Man is owned by Shelbyville's Rising Star Ranch.