Daily photo by Paul Huggins|
2007 Racking Horse Grand World Champion The Finalizer with trainer Lamar Denny and owner John Denny.
The Finalizer, 18, claims championship title
By Paul Huggins
A lot of experts probably thought The Finalizer was history now that the former world grand champion racking horse was 18 years old.
Lamar Denny thought otherwise and made history Saturday night.
He rode the black stallion he trains in Blountsville to the championship at the 2007 Racking Horse World Celebration, becoming the first amateur trainer to do so while also giving Finalizer the honor of being what officials believe is the oldest horse ever to win the breed’s top title.
“I think (winning) will help the breed,” Denny said shortly after judges voted Finalizer ahead of six competitors, including two former world champs. “It shows that other people can win at this. You don’t have to be a professional trainer.”
What the 44-year-old said was necessary was a horse with the natural talent to win and a crew of stable hands to help prepare the horse that lacked championship-caliber training for three years. He credited ferriers Roger Smith, Gary Wayne Smith and Josh Kelso, as well as stable hands Anthony Prince, Stephen Brown and Lonnie Lovett for getting Finalizer ready. They filled in when Finalizer needed workouts and Denny was preoccupied with the family logging business.
Though Denny is not a professional trainer, he is no novice in the show ring. He said he’s been working with horses since age 12. He’s also got training in his genes. His older brother, Morris Denny, rode Go Boy’s Roadrunner to the first world grand championship in 1972.
The dream started a year ago when Denny persuaded his father, John Denny, to buy Finalizer at the 2006 Celebration. Though many considered Finalizer, who won the title in 1998, past his prime, Denny was sure that with patient conditioning, the horse would regain his championship stride.
He started by pulling the horse behind his truck to slowly build the horse’s stamina. Then it was simply a matter of riding him regularly and letting Finalizer’s instincts take over.
“He’s got talent” Denny said, noting Finalizer only showed three times this year, winning all three. “He knows what to do in the ring. You just needed to condition him.”
That conditioning apparently made the difference.
Tommy Thompson, one of two judges who picked Finalizer first (the third judge picked him second) said it was an even battle between Finalizer and Unreal until the last lap around the ring. That’s when Finalizer found a higher gear and revved up his performance.
“When he did that, it was an easy decision,” Thompson said.
Denny said he was realistically hoping just to finish in the top three, not win, and he confided he was surprised the judges went with an amateur trainer.
“I hope this gets more people interested in this breed,” he said. “Everyone has a chance. I had my chance and won it.”
Unreal, trained by Jamie Lawrence for S.A. Barber of Arab, finished second. Third place went to Not Much Doubt, the Spring Celebration winner trained by Michael Wright for Deanna Tyra of McKee, Ky.
The rest of the field finished in the following order: Score at Halftime, the defending world champ; Motown’s Sensation; Bojangles on the Edge; and I Am a Talking Generator.
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