By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
I’ve successfully predicted the racking horse world grand champion several times, but my educated guess has never been easier than this year.
It’s Me Again, trained by Rick Parish for Arvolle Brown of Corinth, Miss., will take the top title Saturday night at the conclusion of the 38th annual World Celebration in Priceville.
Why am I so confident? Just keep reading.
I’ll go ahead and tell you now; I’ve never owned a horse. The only thing that comes close is I took a course called animal and dairy science at Auburn before I settled on my journalism major. It taught me a lot but nothing that made me so adept for frequently picking world champions.
My first successful pick came in 1998 — my third year covering World Celebration — when I chose The Finalizer, trained by the late Kenny Ailshie. But that was luck. I simply thought the name sounded cool.
As I continued to cover the shows, though, I began to understand what impressed the judges. For the 2003 world championship stake, I checked my score sheet against the judges and found mine was identical to three of the five. The horse I picked first, If Only, finished second, however, because another judge scored it fourth or fifth.
Still, I’ve predicted a good number of world grand champions without even seeing them perform. Starting with Finalizer, I was perfect three straight years, with Papa’s Choice in 1999 and Pursuing Perfection in 2000. My last perfect pick came in 2005, when Barbara Agnich became the first female trainer to win the grand championship atop Tragedy.
The best way to start picking a grand champion is to look at winners of either the aged stallions or style classes earlier in the week. The top horse often comes from one of these two qualifiers. The 2003, 2002 and 1999 champs all won the aged stallions class. Four other winners the previous nine years came from those two classes but didn’t win their respective qualifiers.
Surprises do happen, such as Jose’s Pushover last year. Even though it won the 2008 Spring Celebration, the stallion sneaked in under my radar by qualifying in a show class for 4-year-olds. This year, I also considered Totally Twisted, trained by Joe Dan Carter for Bill Easley of Marion, Ill.; Unreal, trained by Jamie Lawrence for S.A. Barber of Arab; and Dale Earnhardt, trained by Keith Ailshie for Jordan Fox of Limestone, Tenn.
Twisted was second in the aged stallions and open gentleman classes this year. Unreal, the 2002 champ, won the style class Sunday night. Earnhardt won the 15.2 & Under class earlier in the week and was the reserve grand champion last year.
So that brings me to why I picked It’s Me Again. I could say it’s because the 7-year-old stallion won the aged stallions preliminary seven days ago and won the Spring Celebration in April. I also could say it’s because he has a proven trainer, Rick Parish, who won atop Guaranteed Perfect in 1997.
The simple truth is I couldn’t get any trainers I saw Friday to say whether they planned to enter the championship. Just inside the side entrance of Celebration Arena, however, a large banner proudly displayed It’s Me Again would seek the world grand championship.
So my only confirmed choice is naturally my top choice. But you read it here, first.