Skip to main content
Original Issue


Sports Illustrated's expert sees two shows a continent and a week apart and reports, from New York and San Francisco, on horses

Running almost simultaneously on opposite coasts, New York's National at Madison Square Garden and San Francisco's Grand National at the Cow Palace offered the greatest possible contrast in horse shows. Above a cellar crammed full of horses, the Garden ring bristled with white-tied officials, a red-coated ringmaster and boxes filled with formally dressed spectators. Ringed by spacious barns, the Cow Palace's arena was filled alternately with rodeo and horse show events, and the only top hats visible were worn by riders in the three-gaited classes. The two shows, however, shared the most important thing: lots of good horses.

New York, always a magnet for the owners of top jumpers, continued to exercise its pull, drawing not only a great proportion of the horses from the Pennsylvania National at Harrisburg but additional horses from the eastern seaboard and the Middle West. Despite the competition from far and near, the final jumping results duplicated those of last year. Acrobatic Al Fiore again rode Mr. and Mrs. Bernie Mann's Riviera Wonder to win the championship, and reserve for the second year was rewarded to Miss Eleonora Sears's Diamant, with Charles Dennehey Jr. in the saddle.

It came as no great surprise when General Humberto Mariles and his Mexican team managed to capture most of the international jumping awards. It came as more of a surprise when Canada and Ireland (each had won only one event in Harrisburg) were second with three each. The Canadians, who had not had a good year since 1953,. were the victors in the low-score challenge event. Their record in this event, furthermore, still stands—in 1951 they won the three-day competition with no faults. Credit for the Canadian wins, and even for the existence of a team, goes to its captain, Bob Ballard. Six of the eight horses are his (two of them were purchased from Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands), and he has supported the team almost single-handedly through both bright and dismal years since 1947. "When we don't do well," Ballard explained good-naturedly, "we take home our white ribbons and dye them blue."

For the U.S., sailor on leave Hugh Wiley carried off the honors, winning two individual events on Nautical.


The Chileans, last seen in the United States in 1949, came close to the top on several occasions, when they were second four times. "We won once at Harrisburg," said Carabineros captain, Leopoldo Rojas, "and now we want very badly to win here too." He produced a cablegram from the President of Chile, tendering congratulations and his assurance of their continued success. "Our horses have had a long trip and we are pleased to be second in such competition—almost the best in the world!" Rojas added gallantly. He then returned the cable to his pocket, explaining, "The president of Chile is my uncle." On the next to last day, the Chileans won their blue, and the cable to Santiago was busy again.

The hunter division was well filled with the expected first-rate horses, and the conformation championship honors went to Chinquapin Farm's Silver-miner. The 6-year-old gray from Tryon, N.C. was ridden by Jack Payne. Reserve was last year's champion Jazz Session, now owned by Krystn Glancy of Grosse Pointe, Mich. and ridden by his former owner, Morton Smith. Working hunter honors went to Mrs. Eligio Del Guercio Jr.'s Bronze Wing.

The Beacon Hill Farms again captured the Arabian stake—but this year with a different horse. Their 16-year-old chestnut stallion, Sarab-al-Sahra, which Arthur Godfrey rides bareback at home, was named champion, with Fritz Rudon aboard. Their champion of 1955, the gray Alyfar, placed sixth.

As with the jumpers, the big stake winners in the Hackney pony and saddle horse divisions were the familiar names of other years. The Dodge Stables' Cora's Mite was Hackney pony champion for the third year in a row. Another three-time winner was the Bruce H. Seabright's Wild Sensation, driven by Mrs. Seabright to the big award in the fine-harness stake.

The Delaine Farm of Morton Grove, Ill. continued adding to its national record. Mrs. Louise Hart again rode her well-named bay mare, Something Wonderful, to victory in the five-gaited event, after her trainer, Charles Huston, had won the three-gaited championship with Foolish Notion. Mrs. Hart was then presented with the Watson Amateur Challenge trophy, for the fifth year in a row.

General Mariles, in the 1956 National Horse Show's final event, rang down the curtain on the competition in typical Mariles style. Mexico had a team total of four faults, and Ireland four and a quarter. Mariles, the last rider, had to ride clean. Ten jumps later the international jumping Perpetual Challenge trophy was again Mexico's for the ninth time in 11 years. Mariles has gotten used to having it around.

San Francisco's Grand National, which is the last big show of the Pacific Coast circuit, also drew exhibitors of fame from far and near. One of the most famous came from nearby indeed—Mrs. William Roth of San Mateo. Mrs. Roth, who has campaigned her champion ponies and horses from coast to coast for four decades, is the person most directly responsible not only for the big show at the Cow Palace but for the interest in show horses in all of California. Chief of Longview, her several-times winner of the world's championship five-gaited stake at the Kentucky State Fair, remains unforgettable, and the mention of her great mare, Sweetheart On Parade, still wrings nostalgic sighs from lovers of the fine-harness classes. This time Mrs. Roth's Hackney ponies, bought from Josephine Abercrombie (SI, Nov. 1, 1954), won all classes in which they were entered—which was every class possible for a Hackney to enter.

There were plenty of fine horses on hand in the fine-harness events. The most famous, and the winner of all his classes, was the bold California-bred chestnut, High Button Shoes, now owned by the Pace Petroleum Co. Button has been defeated at only one show during his career, and then by his brother, The Lemon Drop Kid. The open classes were the special territory of High Button Shoes, but the ladies and amateur events were dominated by 27-year-old Jean McLean Davis' chestnut gelding, The Encore. For the last four years he has been the ladies' and amateur champion fine-harness horse and during this time has won 59 blues and 6 reds—he has no lesser colors. As Jean readied for the Amateur Fine-harness Stake, she remarked quietly, "This is his last show. No matter what he does, he will be retired after tonight." She spread her full, pink, satin skirt, pulled thick rubber bands with attached safety pins up to her knees and anchored the hem of her dress to keep it from flying during the class. "I never will forget," she said as she pinned her dress in place, "one night in Dallas when all my rubber bands broke..." and looking as cool as her pink satin, she drove The Encore to his 60th, and final, first place before he went to his new and final place in the pasture, back home in Virginia. The Encore was not, however, the only blue ribbon winner that Jean McLean Davis had brought west. Her 4-year-old walk-trot Salute Me won the stake for three-gaited horses over 15.2 in height, the ladies' three-gaited and the big, three-gaited stake.


In the five-gaited mare class, Trainer Lee Toby rode her "blond" Enchanted Hour to victory, while Jean placed third with her Twilight Walk. Sandwiched in between was Vignola Farms' Heavenly Daze, with Buford Waller up. These classes, as were all the events at the Grand National, were filled with horses. In fact, after judging the Three-gaited Amateur Stake (which was won by Ella Mae Shofner Hansen on Dream Street Doll), Judge Robert Brown of Indianapolis commented that in his 30 years of judging it was the toughest class he had ever faced.

The hunter and jumper events were equally well filled and, after 10 days of competition, the champion in this division was declared: Wikid Storm, an aged, chestnut gelding owned and ridden by Eva Taverna Martinelli, a schoolteacher from Sacramento. The hunter division crowned its champion earlier in the day, and the tricolor went to a big bay named Debated Issue, owned and ridden by Barbara Worth, a professional horsewoman.

The Five-gaited Championship Stake was the last class of the horse show, a dramatic ending for a colorful show and season. Vignola Farms' Heavenly Daze, second in the mare class, kept working better and better, but Enchanted Hour seemed to have decided that she had had enough. A second workout was called for but the blond-tailed mare never did settle down. When the decision was given, Heavenly Daze was the champion five-gaited saddle horse of the Grand National for the second year.


"you feel like talking, just remember the woods are full of hunters with their hearts set on shooting a wild gobbler"