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Oklahoma Centennial Celebrates Birthday Number 17

by Bob Funkhouser

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Celebrating birthday number 17, the Oklahoma Centennial was held April 13-16, at its comfortable home on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. Undergoing a multi-year facelift, there was a little rerouting of traffic, but not much more was different for the exhibitors at this time. Show officials and the city itself are excited about the plans for renovating already one of the most practical facilities in the country.

The Oklahoma Centennial has gone through its ups and downs since its debut in 1989, a planned one-time event to celebrate the centennial of the Oklahoma Land Run. The initial response was so overwhelming that organizers decided to continue with the show. Barns from both coasts, north and south, and all points in-between participated. Over the years it has moved primarily to a Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma show, but each year a few barns from the outer reaches make the trip, namely Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri.

Stronger now than it has been in some time, the Southwest circuit had its main players there and that group, joined by barns such as DeLovely Farm, Walnut Way Farm, Virgil Helm Stables, and Mike Roberts Stables, made for a competitive show, especially in the championship rounds.

"This is a show we have to keep going and supporting," said Texas trainer Patty Milligan who brought 20-plus entries herself. "It's a great place to show a horse and we need to have a show that can attract barns from outside the area."

Reporting 285 horses, manager Fern Bittner said, "We missed a few regulars like James Nichols and Lynda and Andy Freseth, but I was pleased with the quality of stock we had. I saw some very nice classes."

Bittner also stated that is was a good possibility that the show would be held in the newer arena across the street next year due to the renovations of the coliseum and the attached barns. Many on the grounds thought that would be a great idea to begin with as the ring is the same size as the one in the coliseum, but the arena itself is much smaller. The coliseum is so cavernous that it is hard to create a lot of atmosphere for a show this size. The newer arena will sound and feel much more like an energetic horse show.

A devoted show committee does plenty as it is to make the Oklahoma Centennial an enjoyable event for exhibitors. New to the mix this year was a duo pickin‚ and grinnin‚ on Saturday night. Local musicians Kyle Dillingham and Pat Payne were busy on the fiddle and guitar throughout the championship performance, while Maya Raviv provided vocals during the dead spots in the show. It was a great touch to boost the energy level and with the help of ringmasters Ken Sherbert and Marion Vandewall and organist Graf Bittner, the musicians picked right up on the type of music to play for the different speeds of classes. In fact, many times the duo joined in with what Bittner was playing to make for an entertaining accompaniment to some crowd pleasing equine performances.

Also for the exhibitor's entertainment, nightly parties are still a part of the Centennial schedule with the highlight being the Friday evening Progressive Barn Party. The show's benefactor, the Coffee Creek Riding Center For The Handicapped, closed out the show with a dessert party on Saturday evening.

Sandy Lilly was called upon to judge the Saddlebreds, Hackneys, roadster, and equitation riders this year, while Buck Grass held the USEF card in the Morgan division. Howie Schatzberg was back to record the highlights on film. Announcer Mark Farrar was also a return official and his enthusiasm was felt throughout the performances. Kelly McFaul and her group did another excellent job in the office, making it easy for trainers, exhibitors and the media. Another familiar face on the official team, Nancy Braesicke served as USEF Steward as well as the coordinator for the Silent Auction.

It takes a lot of extra touches to make a horse show appealing to trainers and exhibitors and the board of directors (Corey Hyde Blake, Karen Bush, Mandy Highsaw, Rhonda Hooper, Deb O'Day) work with Bittner to make it fun and competitive, but the bottom line is what happens in the ring. For the most part, that was show nice horses and ponies.

One of the moves the board made was to end the show on Saturday night with the Five-Gaited Championship instead of what has been a traditional late Sunday afternoon ending. Again, the majority thought this was a good move and a much better crowd was on hand for the final performance. That finale was brought to a close by the nine-entry Five-Gaited Centennial Stake and all nine were going strong for a shot at the title.

"Shoot, that's as good a gaited stake as we've had in a long time on this circuit," said Milligan Stables trainer Lonnie Quarles. "It's good to see those young guys out there mixing it up also."

This night turned out to be a great one for Jack Magill whose entries won four major championships, including the gaited stake. Aboard the multi-titled CH Mariachi, Magill sailed past the eight other contenders on the way to the winner's circle for Jan Myers. It was their second win of the week. Making an impressive outing themselves, Michael Beasom and Peridise Dance scored reserve grand champion honors for Dr. Jack and Dianne Pool.

Just four classes earlier Magill had directed Joan Cantrell and Desert's Favorite Memories to the Ladies Five-Gaited Championship. They were smooth and entertaining at every gait for their second victory pass of the show. Hard riding Katie Coup pressed the grand champions with her Allied Heir Strike. My Chanel and Owen Weaver commanded reserve honors in the qualifier, their only performance of the weekend.

The gaited division was strongest of the show and the best of that entire division was Carolina Cat. The current Ladies Amateur Five-Gaited World's Champion of Champions, Carolina Cat was simply sensational with Deborah Butler making it look oh-so-easy. With two performances good enough to win at anybody's horse show, they returned to the DeLovely tack room and trainer Todd Miles with both the Amateur Five-Gaited

Championship and qualifier. Karen Coup and Reedann's Steppin' Out represented the Mike Roberts Stables as the Amateur Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Champions.

What a string of horses Patty Milligan has put together for Maguire Hall. At the top of the list is Juvenile Five-Gaited Grand Champion and qualifying winner Shame On You. Hall and the extremely talented son of Finally Attached have grown together and the now five-year-old gelding was not to be denied as he made several Louisville quality passes. Among the four other contenders, Slicker's Society Man and Karmen Robles rode off with the juvenile reserve grand championship.

You can count on Virgil Helm Stables to bring out nice young stock and this year Helm directed Nicole Harrison and Longview's Echo to the Junior Five-Gaited Stake for Virgil and Sandra Helm. Mike Breeggemann and French Kiss collected reserve honors.

The walk-trot division didn't have the depth of the gaited section but there were some quality entries nonetheless. That started in the Three-Gaited Centennial Stake in which Theresa Vonderschmidt debuted her newest star, Macy Gray. The 2004 Junior Five-Gaited Mare Reserve World's Champion sported a new haircut and won the Open Three-Gaited class with Todd Miles before he turned the bridle over to Vondershmidt. By the second way of the ring they were making some grand passes to earn the tricolor honors. The reserve grand championship belonged to the always bright Powerful Tango, ridden by Merrell Magelli.

The Amateur Three-Gaited Championship was also a two-horse race, but it would have taken some top stock to knock these two out of their grand champion and reserve grand champion positions. Directed by Phil Fountain, Callaway’s Sunday Edit was marching a big trot from the time he entered the ring with Dawn Fire until he exited with the tricolor streamers. They made a blue ribbon victory pass in the qualifier. Also going a lofty trot, Heir Calendar Girl was an impressive reserve grand champion with Robin Haynes in the irons from Walnut Way Farm. In the qualifying round, Andi Perry rode last year’s Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited World’s Champion, Gypsy’s Say When, to take reserve honors.

Two seemed to be the magic number for three-gaited championships as Apple Fizz and Alice Sias Pippin topped the ladies’ final round. This winning combination was trained by Virgil Helm. They had been reserve in the qualifier to another current world’s title holder, Junior Three-Gaited Under 15.2 Reserve World’s Champion Royal Sweet, ridden to victory by Melissa Hughes for Michelle Hartman. Oklahoma’s Ladies Three-Gaited Reserve Grand Champion was Scarlett Evening, ridden by Susan Olcott.

Ribbons were reversed in the slightly larger Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Championship. I’m Bewitched and Rachel Singer overcame a reserve finish in the qualifier to add another tricolor to the black and red curtains of Jack Magill Stables. They had their hands full as qualifying winner Fame’s Preferential Treatment was a sport with Claire Talley representing trainer Randy Cates and the Peggy Richardson Stables to take reserve grand champion honors.

Our Charming Lady LLC was called to the winner’s circle in the Junior Three-Gaited Stake. Kent Swalla made the winning ride for MW Sorenson. Owner Terri Dolan was on hand to see her King Of The Blues WVF take the red streamers with Melissa Hughes aboard.

Mike Breeggemann won another young horse class, this time the UPHA Three-Year-Old Three-Gaited Classic with Hallelujah Chorus. Cindy Kolmeier and Destiny Farm shared the ownership. Dan Flowers was aboard It’s Prince Hammer for reserve.

When it comes to consistency, no matter what the division or the rider/driver, Harlem’s Strong Will ranks right up there at the top. The big bay horse was the Oklahoma Centennial Three-Gaited Park Grand Champion with Todd Miles and open class winner with Melissa Hughes. Terri Dolan was the proud owner. Liz Cortright and Day Of Revival landed the reserve tricolor for Mary Wright.

One of the stars of the show came from the Amateur Three-Gaited Park Championship and qualifier. Fresh off their Pin Oak victories, Maguire Hall and New York Style proved to be unstoppable as they marched to both amateur park victories. The Milligan Stables crew was on the rail to direct the impressive winning performances. Stablemate Georgie’s Sweet Conclusion was ridden by Allison Simpson for the reserve championship streamers. Lisa Carlson and Santana’s Eternal Flame proved to be the qualifying reserve winners.

The Centennial Fine Harness Championship opened the Friday evening session and what a great surprise to see seven entries pulling buggies down the straightaway. It set the tone for a good night of horse showing as it was a very competitive class. Mike Roberts and I’m A Lucky Charm had the look of champions for their second victory pass of the week. Casey Crabtree put Randi Wightman and Callaway’s Tradewind in the reserve grand champion slot, their second red ribbon of the week. Third in the strong championship went to the amateur qualifying winners, CH She’s The Bess and Susan Olcott. Open class winners Day Of Serenity and Paul Cates finished fourth in the championship.

Winner of last year’s ASHA Two-Year-Old Fine Harness Sweepstakes, General Spirit was even bolder as Oklahoma’s UPHA Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Classic Champion. Raymond Shively drove the General Steel son for DeLovely Farm. The Periaptor stallion, Two Way C & E was a good reserve with Randy Cates at the whip for Kristen Smith.

A core group of Morgan exhibitors from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas kept the breed represented in top fashion at the Oklahoma Centennial, although like the pony and three-gaited divisions, it could have used a little more depth.

Dawn Fire was busy switching between her Morgans and Saddlebreds and she did well with both. Fire and Mantic Diva topped both the Morgan Park Saddle Championship and qualifier for Peeper Ranch and trainer Phil Fountain. Rhonda Hooper rode as the reserve grand champion aboard WCM Moreland Morgan. Results were the same for the qualifier.

With enough expression for three horses, Roadshow Steppin’ Out was impressive to spectators from all breeds as he handily took the Morgan English Pleasure Centennial Championship and qualifier. John T. Green made the trademark winning ride for Windswept Place. Phil Fountain was twice reserve with KGA Picasso.

Rhonda Collins kept her entries in the top ribbons including Amateur Morgan English Pleasure Grand Champion Cedar Creek Unagro. Unagro was ridden to victory by Emily Orthwein. They had been reserve in the qualifier to eventual reserve grand champions, NAS Rickenbacker and Nancy Murdock.

Cressi Bryant enjoyed a successful week and part of that success came with Junior Exhibitor English Pleasure Grand Champion and qualifying winner, Prior Knowledge. Caitlin Novotny and Scandias Mark Of Destiny qualified with a reserve ride. Scandias Royal Treasure and Ruth Abbott turned back Gwen Niemann and Abendlied Aristocrat for the Ladies Morgan English Pleasure title.

Hackney ponies were also a part of the Centennial line up and while there weren’t many, those who did show were world class. Unique Presentation and Gib Marcucci were solo in the Harness Pony Championship. They had been reserve in the UPHA Harness Pony Classic. The open qualifier featured Heartland Designed and Darrel Kolkman in the winner’s circle ahead of Late-Nite’s Beyond A Chance and Roger Lucas.

Teamed with her new world’s champion Wait & See’s Whiz Bang, Robin Haynes drove to the Amateur Harness Pony Championship and qualifying win, giving Marilyn Macfarlane and Beth Campbell yet another championship for Walnut Way Farm. Edith Heath and K & J’s Lovely Thoughts had a nice go for reserve honors in both amateur classes.

Fancy Ribbons was every bit a world’s champion with Randi Wightman delivering the winning drives in the open cob-tail and championship. Kilbro’s Majestic Gem was the reserve winner in the open class with Roger Lucas at the whip for Karen Wood.

What a show it was for Walnut Way as they also took the Amateur Hackney Pony Championship and qualifier. This time it was Heartland Ringmaster, owned and driven by Randi Wightman. Jane Mueller and Austin Powers provided solid competition both times out.

Driving her own Early Edition, Mueller captured both the Hackney Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. This world champion combination had competition from another world class performer, Seamair’s Dear Sir. Karen Coup was at the whip to garner two reserves for Elizabeth Coup.

Darrel and Sandy Kolkman made a return trip to Oklahoma with their Heartland Hackney home-breds and they again came away with a sweep of the UPHA Classics. This time with Craig Hanna the trainer and Darrel Kolkman the driver, Heartland Powerstroke (Heartland Victory x Heartland Hope) was the cob-tail champion; Heartland Showin’ Off (Hartland Equality x Heartland Summer Song) the road pony champ; and Heartland Breaking News (Heartland Equality x Heartland Dainty Miss) the long tail winner.

As with most shows, the road pony division was much deeper than the long tail and short tail sections. Between her road pony and her pleasure pony Jane Mueller went four for four with her stock as she drove Triumphant to the Amateur Road Pony Championship and qualifying blue. Anna Marie Dempsey and Long Time Gone were ahead of the rest of the pack to take two reserves for the week. Mueller was also the owner of Abercrombie, reserve winner of the UPHA Road Pony Classic with Gib Marcucci at the whip.

The Jerry Cummins entry of Heartland Flurry could not be stopped in the Roadster Pony Championship and open qualifier. Presented by Walnut Way Farm’s Beth Campbell, Heartland Flurry was all show pony to defeat Make Way For Mabelline and Hollie Hiser in the championship and Late-Nite’s Basic Impact with Roger Lucas in the qualifier.

World’s and AHHS Medallion National Champion Cowboy Magic was back stronger than ever for Gabriella Flynn. This winning combination topped the Junior Exhibitor Road Pony class. Beth Oseroff had the reserve drive with She’s A Ticket.

The ring at Oklahoma is great for road horses and Raymond Shively brought along the top young horse Fed Ex to gain some valuable experience. Owned by Deborah Butler, Fed Ex looks to be another outstanding speedster for the master.

There were several stars that emerged from the Saddlebred show pleasure division, one being the Five-Gaited Pleasure Grand Champion The Champagne Tiger. New to the division, Christy Bennett and The Champagne Tiger debuted at Pin Oak to sweep the division and they repeated that feat at Oklahoma. Trained by Randy Cates, The Champagne Tiger was a ground covering machine in both the junior exhibitor qualifier and championship.

The Champagne Tiger had to be right on the money as he was pushed by world’s champion Callaway’s Capital Reporter and Ellen Medley Wright in their debut performances. They were reserve in both the junior exhibitor class and the championship. Callaway’s Secret Source and Dana Sharp had won the adult qualifier, followed by Maggie Nonan and CH Champagne Bob.

Decorating the Milligan Stables tack room with a tricolor and blue was Callaway’s Head Over Heels and Nancy Lassiter. They scored twice in the show pleasure driving division. Representing Bluebonnet Farm, Ed Perwien and Xuxa were twice reserve winners.

Liz Cortright and Owen Weaver shared Garland’s Second Edition to win the Park Pleasure Open and championship. Randy McBride and O Say Can You See was reserve grand champion. Betts Coup and Charm’s Local Gift swept the amateur park pleasure classes with two nice performances. Katy Parr and Vail finished the week as the amateur reserve grand champions, while Katie Cunningham and Periscope were sharp to take reserve in the qualifier.

The top two from the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic put on fine shows and looked to have bright futures. Many of the local horsemen got a kick out of watching Arabian trainer Ross Tarkington ride his Maderia’s Country Love to the UPHA Classic title. Extremely bright and really wearing the bridle, Country Love defeated three others including a really nice reserve champion in Bluebonnet’s Challenger, ridden by Sandra Currier.

Judge Lilly reversed her winners in the Adult Show Pleasure Championship. Jan Myers and Matrix left the ring with the tricolor streamers for Charlene Edwards while qualifying winner George Foreman settled for reserve grand champion honors with Elly Berman.

There were a few changes of division coming out of the Shively camp this week. One of them was Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Grand Champion CF First Light Of Dawn. The former Triple Crown Equitation winner looked the part in this division as well, taking the championship with Gabriella Flynn. It was a most impressive 11-horse championship at that. Cory Vetter and All’s Clear were reserve grand champions, followed by Steel Empress and Mallory Adams, winners of the novice rider class from the Peggy Richardson Stables. Teammate Victoria McCune was fourth in the championship, however, earlier in the week she won the 13 & under class with Vegas Dreams defeating CF First Light Of Dawn. Rounding out the top five in the juvenile championship, High Flying Lass and Elizabeth Crowder were winners of the 14-17 qualifier.

Brian Hadley who with his father David, has put world class Morgans into the ring for Ryan Ranch over the past few years. Hadley has also branched out and is now working Saddlebreds and Morgans. His Heart O’ Santana was the ASB Country Pleasure Driving Grand Champion and qualifying winner with owner Rachel Shupp. Joan Cantrell and Supreme Attachment were the reserve grand champions.

Sitting tall in the saddle, Katie Fisk jogged He’s Mr. Big Stuff to the Country Western Pleasure Championship, just ahead of Katie Haynes and Cholita as well as five other entries. The qualifying round featured Beautiful Promise and Alice Pippin in the winner’s circle and The Handsome Devil with Nancy Moreno in reserve.

Christy Bennett has had a great spring so far and contributing greatly to the cause has been The Bachelor Prince. Starting out at Pin Oak, Bennett and The Bachelor Prince collected their third and fourth win of the season with the Junior Exhibitor Country Pleasure blue and the Country Pleasure Grand Championship at Oklahoma Centennial. Adult winner Rosie O’Donnell was reserve grand champion for Elly Berman. Bennett’s Peggy Richardson stablemate Kiley Bush was third in the championship following their win in the limit rider class. Junior exhibitor reserve winner Callaway’s Trooper was fourth in the championship with Rachel Worthy.

The equitation division definitely had a DeLovely flavor to it. Alexandra Flynn aboard her new Kalu’s Can’t Stop The Magic, was the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion as well as the 14-17 winner and USEF Medal Champion. Teammate Ellen Medley Wright was also a sport with Timeless Drifter to win the 13 & under class and the Saddle Seat Equitation Reserve Grand Championship.

Cressi Bryant topped the Morgan Saddle Seat Equitation class, followed by Emily Buchanan, winner of the AMHA Saddle Seat Medal. The AMHA Hunter Seat Medal belonged to Taylor Winstone.

Reigning UPHA Junior Challenge Cup National Champion Brittany McGinnis was flawless again with Amandari to win the UPHA Challenge Cup and the NHS Good Hands class. Third in the equitation championship, Mary Catherine Swinson was reserve in the Good Hands. Belle Owen was the blue ribbon rider from the Saddle Seat Equitation 11 & Under Walk and Trot class, followed by Courtney McGinnis.

Other equitation action saw Jane White win the UPHA Pleasure Challenge Cup and the Saddle & Bridle Pleasure Medallion. Victoria McCune represented Cascade Stables with two wins in the 14-17 Pleasure Equitation Championship and qualifier over Kristen Nielsen. Marion McHenry was tops in the 13 & Under Pleasure Equitation Championship. Reserve honors went to Ella Bright, winner of the 13 & under qualifier.

Wrapping up the Morgan competition, John Green had a blast taking Roadshow I’ve Got Rhythm to the Classic Pleasure Driving Championship. It was a repeat performance from the qualifier. In both cases Fashion’s Clarity and Jodi Maunder were the reserve winners.

Aristocratic Joy and Ruth Abbott made a big move up the ribbons from the adult qualifier to win the Morgan Classic Pleasure Saddle Championship. Junior Exhibitor winner Scandias Mark Of Destiny was the reserve grand champion with Hunter Novotny.

The best of the Morgan Western Pleasure performers was Moriah Back N Tan, winner of the junior class with Kelly Kraegel-Bates. Reserve grand champion honors belonged to JLH Grand Marnier and Judith Leneau, winner of the ladies and open qualifiers.

Amateur Morgan Western Pleasure Grand Champion honors belonged to Evil Knievel and Gina Little, winners of the qualifier. Second in the qualifier and the championship went to JMF Ghostkeeper and Donna O’Neill.

Stone Pine Sebastian was the top name from the Morgan Hunter Pleasure Championship in which he topped six other entries. ridden by Kely Kraegel-Bates, Sebastian was also the open class winner. Virginia Norris and Chanel’s Designer Belle were reserve both times out. Mirable’s Noble Aramis and Taylor Winstone took the ladies blue, while Donna Elama and GMH Love To Command and Ancan Raindance with Amie VanDorn were first and second in the Junior Morgan Hunter Pleasure Championship and qualifier.

The 17th Annual Oklahoma Centennial came to a close on a strong note with lots of momentum to take them into year 18. Ongoing improvements and great support from the local trainers and exhibitors make this a show with quality entries in division after division.

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