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Junior Exhibitors Shine In The Sooner State

by Bob Funkhouser

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Missouri trainer Mike Roberts summed it up best. "A lot of people are missing the boat by not being here. This facility is so great and the people are so nice. They’ve got every type of class for you.

"It’s a great way to start the year. Coming to this show gives me an upbeat feeling and makes me look forward to going to the next one."

Unfortunately for the officials of the 21st annual Oklahoma Centennial Horse Show, a few unusual circumstances including Easter weekend and Tattersalls Spring Sale caused three or four of their regular Saddlebred barns to miss this year’s event, leaving it a little light. Held April 8-11 at arguably one of the top three facilities in the country, the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds hosted an array of Saddlebreds, roadsters, Morgans and academy riders for the Centennial to still have a show with quality and in some areas, highly competitive classes.

"We like coming out here and supporting other areas of the country. They really make us feel at home here," added Lillian Shively of DeLovely Farm. "The people are really nice and you couldn’t ask for a better place to show a horse."

That is one of the wonderful things about an early season show at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. There are so many places to work horses and warm up that if you’ve got a new combination or a young horse out for the first time, there’s always a place to do so quietly and with great footing.

The Oklahoma Centennial is also one of the most convenient shows you’ll ever attend. There’s only three or four miles between the airport, a stretch of moderately priced to expensive hotels with a wide variety of restaurants, sports bars and fast food joints, and the show grounds.

Show Manager Scarlett Mattson and the committee had another group of top officials to match the level of the accommodations. Melissa Moore held the judge’s card in the Saddlebred, Hackney, roadster and equitation divisions and she was joined in center ring by Morgan Judge John Wich. The pride and joy of Raleigh, N.C., William "Billy" Whitely III was the man in the red coat keeping order as ringmaster. Bill Addis filled in nicely as the announcer for Peter Fenton who was ill. Dewey Bass kept the flow of the show going smoothly as the paddock/barn manager. Also on hand was USEF Steward Nancy Braesicke.

The photography team was as an all-star crew with Howie Schatzberg shooting in the ring, Shane Shiflet from outside the ring and the ringleader himself, Jack Schatzberg working the table.

There were some outstanding individual performances and then there were some classes, mostly junior exhibitors that were really competitive. Topping the list had to be the five-horse Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Championship that featured three world’s champions and a reserve world’s champion going head to head. The championship combined the 14-17 age group with the 13 and under division and emerging for the tricolor victory pass was the 14-17 winner and 2008 Junior Three-Gaited World’s Champion Of Champions A Travelin’ Man (Tornaado x Travelin’) with 2008 World’s and National Finals Equitation Champion Ellen Medley Wright in the irons. She debuted with the popular walk-trot star at Penn National last fall and it looks as if the winter’s work has solidified this DeLovely team.

Coming from the winner’s circle of the younger age group, the absolutely adorable combination of Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes and The Great Gaspar also received a great round of applause for their expressive performance as the reserve grand champions from Cross Creek Stables. Part of the strong contingent from the Jack Magill Stables, I’m Bewitched and Sarah Singer marched away with third place honors after taking the red streamers in the 14-17 class. Next in line for a championship prize was the highly decorated That’s Chicago with hard riding Katie Cunningham in the saddle ahead of Kristen Dunn and Madeira’s Mystical Moment.

Not to be outdone by their three-gaited counterparts, the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Championship had the appreciative audience into it as well. Randy Cates and Casey Crabtree had their hands full with a large string of hometown contenders from Cross Creek Stables in one division after another. They sent World’s Champions CH Callaway’s Independence Day and Victoria McCune to the top of this division in both classes. The champions had to be sharp as the new team of Brittany McGinnis and five-year-old Stravinsky made quite an impression in their debut. This son of Nureyev is as beautiful as they come. Indigo Joe and Claire Talley gave Cross Creek two of the top three ribbons in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Championship.

While those were a few of the most competitive classes, the award for most athletic goes to the Five-Gaited Grand Champion Leatherwood’s Colors Up. Coming off a sweep of Pin Oak’s open division, Jack Magill had the bay son of reserve world’s champion Leatherwood’s Starlight racking and trotting up a storm with legs churning on both ends. Owners and Oklahoma City residents Coe and Bill London were quite happy with their grand champion and the jockey whose 55th birthday they celebrated at their lovely home on Saturday afternoon of the show. The grand champion is making early season headlines as a national contender.

Also from Magill Stables, 2008 Ladies Five-Gaited Reserve National Champion Bluebonnet’s Challenger entertained as Oklahoma’s Ladies Five-Gaited Grand Champion and qualifying winner for his owner/rider Joan Cantrell who always gives her all. Magill was on hand to greet several of his riders in the winner’s circle. In addition to her ladies titles, Cantrell rode Supreme Spotlight to take the spotlight in both amateur park pleasure events. Sarah Singer had a busy week that included CH Mariachi’s win among the junior exhibitor gaited pleasure exhibitors while Coe London was busy with cheering for Leatherwood’s Colors Up and riding Mega Star to the amateur walk-trot titles. One of several world’s titleholders showing that weekend, Harlem’s Moving Man represented Magill Stables as the 14-17 show pleasure champion and reserve junior exhibitor grand champion.

From the amateur gaited ranks Christy Bennett and Zara Spook looked as if they had a great winter as they delivered two performances worthy of a trip to the winner’s circle where Randy Cates joined them. This was also a big week for Bennett and her family as they officially retired World’s Champion CH The Bachelor’s Prince in front of a loud Oklahoma audience. He looked as if he could have won his sixth consecutive Oklahoma Centennial grand championship.

Many blues and championships were hung on the green and burgundy curtains of Cross Creek Stables throughout the week. Adding to the cause, the Rainbolt-Forbes family had a big weekend with the likes of The Great Gaspar, Cherry Royale, The Petite Princess and Just Special all making trips down victory lane. Maguire Hall and CH Catalyst Commander came out the new year firing with two big-time performances as the Adult Show Pleasure Grand Champions and qualifying winners. Callaway’s Another Winner and Daysha Beasley turned them all back in the adult gaited pleasure qualifier and championship, one of the largest classes of the show. Katie Cunningham has proven to be a versatile horsewoman riding and driving Rowdy Yank to junior exhibitor road pony blues. Cross Creek was also represented in the equitation division with 17 and under winner and reserve grand champion Hayden Hisey.

Mike Roberts Stables has consistently made the trip from Missouri to support the Oklahoma Centennial and Roberts and co-trainer Zach Duffy had their string looking sharp in their early season tune-up for the upcoming UPHA Chapter 5 show. Headlining their string, the champion fine harness stallion I’m A Lucky Charm debuted under saddle to win the Park Saddle Championship and open class with Duffy aboard. He also rode the Three-Gaited Grand Champion Gypsy’s Bragging Rights, the Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited Champion Sir Robin Hood and the Park Pleasure Grand Champion and open class winner Pandora’s Box.

Todd Miles and Lillian Shively having just been in Georgia for Pro-Am the week before again brought a nice string west to Oklahoma. In addition to the above mentioned A Travelin’ Man, his rider, Ellen Medley Wright, was two for two in the Saddle Seat Equitation Championship and USEF Medal aboard her beloved champion Kalu’s Can’t Stop The Magic. Raising eyebrows with her impressive debut rides with USEF Medal National Champion Jacqueline Beck’s 2008 partner, Kiss Of The Zodiak, Faye Wuesthofen landed both the UPHA Challenge Cup and the NHS Good Hands titles. Younger sister Jessica Wuesthofen made two victory passes of her own with Junior Exhibitor Show Pleasure Grand Champion and 13 and under winner Brookhill’s King Of Kool.

DeLovely brought a good portion of their world-class junior exhibitors and adding to the winning cause of the famed Indiana facility were Brittany and Courtney McGinnis. Besides her five-gaited rides, Brittany was also a two-time winner in the pleasure equitation division. Younger sister Courtney, riding the multi-titled Amandari who was sporting the early growth of a mane, took the UPHA Pleasure Challenge Cup and the Pleasure Equitation Medallion.

Sherry Frankel’s SGF Winning Ways Farm was well represented in the winner’s circle. May Chadick had Regal’s Special Effort LF in high gear to claim both open road pony events. Also in the maroon silks, Lindsay Greenwald drove roadster to bike winner High Velocity. Keeping it in the family, Lauren Greenwald and Out Go The Lights turned the lights out on the adult country pleasure competition with wins in the well-filled qualifier and championship.

Bringing a string from Texas to support the Oklahoma Centennial, Michael Beasom drove the sporty Fine Harness Grand Champion Jack And Coke and he was also second in the Five-Gaited Grand Championship for the second consecutive year. This year’s entry was Jack and Diane Pool’s Worthstyle. Beasom was also the winning instructor in the Walk and Trot Equitation class, directing Catherine Street to the blue prize.

Patty Milligan was back again with some of her junior exhibitor and amateur riders. Leading the way for her was Georgie’s Sweet Conclusion, winner of the Amateur Park Championship with Allison Simpson. Stablemate CH Mahvalous Guy topped the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure class with Randi Barnes.

Also from the Lone Star State, Paul Cates brought a competitive group with Madeira’s Metropolitan leading the way in the Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure competition. Cates also had some good reserves in the open divisions.

William Woods University was on hand with a good group of young riders. Emily Abbott took Certainly A Star to the Amateur Three-Gaited Park blue and reserve championship. Kaitlyn Alemian rode Red Oak’s Citation to the Five-Gaited Pleasure Reserve Grand Championship. Also under the William Woods ownership, OH Independence Hall was the Morgan Park Saddle Open winner with Linsay Bernard in the irons.

Longtime Oklahoma Centennial supporter Peeper Ranch brought several winning entries to the ’09 edition starting with Morgan Park Saddle Grand Champion Lake Holiday Magic, ridden by Kristen Tramposh for John and Claudette McCoy. Phil Fountain was aboard when Cedar Creek Cariad was called to the winner’s circle of the Morgan English Pleasure Championship and open class for owner Anne Marie Biron. MEM Once Again, ridden by Ali Denzel, won both Morgan Hunter Pleasure classes. Once Again is the reigning Hunter Pleasure 14-15-Year-Old World Champion. Also bringing winning ribbons back to the tack room were Dragonsmeade Infusion, PTR Raz Ma Taz, Treble’s Front And Center, PSC Gabriel and Auhl Turned Out.

Ronda Collins had her hometown troops in top order to take several prizes from the Morgan division including Amateur English Pleasure Grand Champion and qualifying winner Ready To Rumble, ridden by Hailey Barry. Collins also directed Susan Morey and Ring Girl to the Morgan Park Saddle Reserve Grand Championship.

Another great Morgan supporter is Jonalyn Gwinup. She readied Gaits Of Gold and Krystle Pennington for the Amateur Hunter Pleasure Championship.

Among the many winning entries Kelly Kraegel Varner brought, Futurity’s Such A Twist was the Morgan Western Pleasure Grand Champion with Varner riding to the tricolor. Such A Twist also took Lauren Little to the AMHA Western Seat Medal title.

These were just some of the highlights from the 21st annual Oklahoma Centennial. Quality horses and riders combined with great hospitality and a facility second to none made this a wonderful show to start the year for several people.

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