With 11 days of intense horse show competition and a record number of six-horse draft hitches slated to compete, hundreds of top equestrians will be deemed "winners" at the 2001 Iowa State Fair, Aug. 9 to 19.

Boasting one of the biggest and best in the nation, the annual Draft Horse and Pony Show has become a traditional fair favorite. Wrapping up the fair's final weekend, Aug. 17 to 19, a record 24 teams of Belgians, Percherons and Clydesdales are slated to compete in six-horse hitch competition. According to superintendent Lynette Telleen, "Not even in the heydays of the 1930s were there as many draft horses at the Iowa State Fair. We are very proud--in the size of the event and in the quality of the horses coming to Iowa from all across the country."

In addition to six-horse hitch competition, three other crowd pleasers include the team obstacle, antique vehicle and often-elaborate "comic" classes. In the second annual celebrity draft horse driving competition, Aug. 17, KCCI News Channel 8's meteorologist Kurtis Gertz, WHO-TV 13 news anchor Loren Halifax, Pioneer Hi-Bred midwest regional sales manager Barb Hervey, Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, Iowa State Fair manager Gary Slater and, tentatively scheduled, First Lady Christie Vilsack will test their mettle at piloting live horsepower.

More than 450 open class equestrians and 1,097 horses will vie for $63,000 in cash premiums and trophies during the 11-day event, which features a wide variety of breeds and riding styles.

In two days of free harness racing, Aug. 9 and 13, more than $90,000 in purse money--up $8,000 over last year--will drive 200-plus pacers and trotters, from seven states, to the finish line. Many hold extensive county fair track records. Purse money comes from Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, the Hawkeye Colt Association and the Iowa State Fair, according to harness racing superintendent Roger Roland.

AIso in the Grandstand, draft horses, Aug. 10, will attempt to haul as much as five tons on a weighted sled, while ponies, Aug. 12, pull in the West Arena. Both events are free.

The Pavilion will come alive with skill and pageantry as junior and senior cowgirl queens, from across the state, compete for the coveted, state fair crown Aug. 10. The gala Society Horse Show, Aug. 13 to 16, promises more glamour as Arabian, Morgan and American Saddlebred horses, plus Shetland, Hackney and Roadster ponies compete. The miniature horse show, Aug. 13 to 15, will be double-judged, meaning there will be two separate judges with two sets of scores.

Opening weekend features Western horses Aug. 11 and 12; Appaloosas, mules and donkeys Aug. 11; and Quarter Horses Aug. 12. Appaloosa and Quarter Horse events are double-judged. For a special treat, fairgoers can watch the lightning-fast reflexes of cutting horses working cattle, in the West Arena Aug. 13.

Jump-starting, fair competition, 4-H and FFA equestrians will compete, Aug. 8 to 10, for ribbons and $5,500 in premiums. Classes include halter, showmanship and performance classes such as pleasure, horsemanship, trail, reining, as well as timed events such as poles and barrels.

Admission to evening Pavilion horse shows is $3 for adults, $1 for children 6 to 11, with children 5 years old and under admitted free. West Arena events are free with fairgrounds gate admission. Open classes are sponsored by Prairie Meadows.

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