Last year's Grand Championship might have slipped through their fingers, but there was no denying rider and trainer Peter Cowart and his horse Champion Breaking News on Saturday night at The Red Mile.
A year after a disappointing second-place finish — a ride Cowart thought was worthy of first place — Champion Breaking News captured the $10,000 Five-Gaited Grand Championship at the 72nd annual Lexington Junior Horse League Show.
Courageous Lord and Feel the Thunder rounded out the top three.
“They can't hold him back now,” Cowart said of his horse. “He's proven what he is.”
Cowart described the win as bittersweet because his horse has always had the potential to win a show of Saturday night's magnitude.
“He's been a really good horse,” Cowart said. “Sometimes he's been looked over and beat by horses that he would come back and whip the next year.”
Now that they have the first leg of the Triple Crown, Cowart believes they can follow the win with an even bigger victory at next month's World's Championship at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.
“I think he's got what it takes,” Cowart said. “He's sound, he's a real seasoned horse, he's smart and he's real happy.
“He likes his work,” Cowart said. “I don't have to make changes on him, and that's kind of what it takes a lot of times — they have to get to a point where things start to flow.”
Cowart, who said his experience with the 10-year-old gelding was a huge factor in the win, has been aboard the horse for five years.
Beth Arndt, who co-owns the horse with Megan McClure out of Taylorsville, N.C., called the moment exciting and exhilarating.
“It's the top for us,” Arndt said. “It's the biggest win we've had with him.”
While Saturday night's victory might have been the biggest in Champion Breaking News' career, it was just another night for Grande Gil and rider and owner Misdee Wrigley-Miller.
The two captured the $5,000 Three-Gaited Grand Championship, continuing a two-year undefeated streak.
Wrigley-Miller was reluctant to talk about the winning streak, even knocking on wood so as not to jinx it, but admitted the two have an unbeatable team.
“We're just a good combination,” Wrigley-Miller said. “From the first time I rode the horse, we just clicked. It was like we've known each other for a long time. Kind of love at first sight.”
Wrigley-Miller said she expects to enter her 6-year-old gelding into the World's Championship.
Several other horses trotted away with victories Saturday on the final day of the Lexington Junior League Horse Show. Joe Friday clinched the $3,000 Fine Harness Grand Championship, and Colonel Hoss won the $1,500 Five-Gaited Amateur Stake earlier in the night.