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Oklahoma Rebounds With Strong 20th

by Bob Funkhouser

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Another of those rich in history venues located nearly a thousand miles from Freedom Hall, Oklahoma City was part of the once highly competitive Southwest Circuit of the 1960s and early ‘70s, in addition to being home to well-known horsemen and owners alike.

Times changed, the oil business changed and directly the horse business in Oklahoma changed. With a small but dedicated group keeping the Saddlebred alive amidst the Quarter Horses and Paints, a handful of locals decided to organize a one-time horse show in 1988 as part of the Centennial Celebration of the Oklahoma Land Run.

That show went so well, it was decided to do it again and again and yet again until this past week organizers celebrated the 20th edition of the Oklahoma Centennial Horse Show. Much like the Saddlebred’s ever changing level of popularity in Oklahoma, the show has ranged from being a mini Lexington without all the pressure to a struggling regional show.

The current committee has worked emphatically to raise the level again. It hasn’t been an easy task, however, their persistence and the fact that an already good facility has been transforming into a great facility with a major renovation project has given them the momentum to rebuild this show.

“We as the board were really pleased with the show,” said Karen Cunningham. “It was one of the best shows we’ve had in a while. The numbers were up some and the quality of the competition was tremendous for an early season show. We want to keep working to improve this show to where it is a strong regional show that also attracts outside barns. When people are thinking April, we want them to think Oklahoma Centennial.”

It doesn’t get any easier than showing in Oklahoma. A large strip of hotels in every price range, matched by restaurants of the same variety, is located on the same road as the airport and at the end of the strip a right turn takes you to the show grounds about a mile out the road past yet more restaurants and hotels. At the show, state of the art stabling and multiple work areas make it easy to enjoy a week on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. A few years ago the show was moved from the cavernous coliseum arena to what is known as Show Arena Six. That ring is the exact same size as the coliseum arena, however, the seating area is much smaller, and thus, a better fit for a show this size. While the move was welcomed by most, there are a few that still prefer the comforts of the coliseum.

A group of topnotch officials complemented the outstanding facility and hospitality. Friday night’s progressive exhibitors’ party offered a great menu and time for exhibitors to socialize and enjoy the live music.

“Those people work really hard to make you feel welcomed and put on a good horse show,” said Mike Roberts. “It’s a great place to start the year and they go out of their way to be accommodating. I’m glad they put the young horse classes back in. They might not fill every year but I think it’s very important that they offer them.

“I also don’t know if it was more money, less money or the same for them, but I think last year it was a little easier having everyone stable there were the show arena is instead of in the main barn where we were this year. Having the extra work space using the main barn is nice, but money wise, they might consider going back to the other barn.”

USEF Steward Mary Lynn Whitley and Cascade Stables assistant trainer Jeremey Granier were having a light moment in the warm up ring. Granier was "turned in" by fellow exhibitors for popping bubbles too loudly.

Lewis Eckard and Nancy Becker held the judges’ cards with Eckard officiating in the Saddlebred, Hackney, equitation and Morgan divisions. Becker called the shots in the National Show Horse classes. Ringmasters Billy Whitley and Don Baker assisted them while Peter Fenton was the voice of the show. Also part of the all-star team were photographer Howie Schatzberg who was assisted out of the ring by Shane Shiflet, and paddock announcer and “chief executive footing officer” Scott Snider who was joined by wife/horse show secretary supreme, Beth Snider. Mary Lynn Whitley was the USEF steward representative.

This group of officials was joined in the ring by horses and ponies from some of the country’s top barns. Saddlebred barns came from Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri to go head to head with the best from Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. These six states provided plenty of Louisville quality to go with the solid regional campaigners. Secretary Snider reported the Morgan participation was stronger this year and, like their Saddlebred counterparts, brought world champion quality stock.

Driving rains, high winds and the ever-present threat of tornadoes throughout the area did little to slow down the Oklahoma Centennial participants. The rain was nonstop early on, but sunshine came to the rescue making it even easier to go home having had a good time. By Thursday night the show was gaining momentum and on Friday and Saturday the people who filled the seats had plenty to cheer for.

You couldn’t tell it was only April by the way four riders were going at it in the Centennial’s finale, the Five-Gaited Championship. The open qualifier was very entertaining with six showing and Todd Miles coming out on top with Debora Butler’s 2007 Junior Five-Gaited Reserve World’s Champion Of Champions Pour Some Sugar On Me. Butler was supposed to show the mare but was held up on business. She did make it Oklahoma in time for Saturday night’s championship but was unsure about showing against the professionals, especially since she had never shown the mare, and even more daunting had never cantered her.

“They [Todd Miles and Raymond Shively] wanted me to get a show under our belts so they could see where we were, but I wasn’t sure about showing in an open championship with the likes of Jack Magill and other great showmen,” said Butler. I have always had so much respect for the way they show a horse and it was a little intimidating.”

Intimidating or not, Butler stepped up to the plate and delivered a homerun, taking the Five-Gaited Championship over a handful of pressing challengers. Pour Some Sugar On Me racked and trotted her way to the title, giving Butler an evening she’ll never forget.

Butler had to ride her way to the winner’s circle while the young Texas trainer Michael Beasom gave it his all aboard Keaton, an exciting, new face on the scene. Owned by Judy Jordan, Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Champion Keaton is a full brother to multi-titled world’s champion Sweet Virginia. Milo Jones and Selectively Wild made some impressive passes themselves to garner third.

It seemed like Jack Magill brought a horse for every occasion when his entries hit the ring time and time again and more often than not, were near or at the top. Joan Cantrell and Bluebonnet’s Challenger were part of the Magill team and they landed the Ladies Five-Gaited Championship and qualifier. Both times Sandra Currier and Select Fire were reserve, adding to Bluebonnet Farm’s winning week.

Amateurs were riding just as hard and it was Josh Rowland delivering the tricolor ride aboard Callaway’s Set The Bar for Ever Glades Farm. They also made the victory pass in the Amateur Five-Gaited qualifier. Jennifer Pitt and Hammond Song stepped up with the reserve amateur championship. Craig Cates and Knit To Fit were on the money to take the reserve prize in the qualifier.

CH Callaway's Independence Day and Victoria McCune emerged from the highly competitive junior exhibitor gaited division with the championship streamers and qualifying blue.

The deepest section among all the divisions was the junior exhibitor. From gaited to pleasure it was rockem’ sockem’ across the board. Six entries comprised the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Championship and there wasn’t a bad one in the group. There was lots of crowd support for the different entries, but when it was all over, Judge Eckard had CH Callaway’s Independence Day in the winner’s circle just as he did in the qualifier. Randy Cates trained the oh-so-consistent gelding and his game, young rider Victoria McCune.

Debuting Limebank King Of Clubs, Tyler Miles was tested throughout the junior exhibitor qualifier. All eyes were on them when they came back in the championship with a performance worthy of the reserve streamers. It had to be solid with the likes of Suki Snowlet, Indigo Joe, Future So Fine and True Blue Cat behind them.

Todd Miles won several classes including the Five-Gaited Limit class with Deborah Butler's Linkin Park.

The Miles men had several good goes in the gaited division as Todd also won the limit class with Linkin Park, riding for Deborah Butler. Jack Magill had Leatherwood’s Colors Up covering a lot of ground to take reserve for SGF Winning Ways Farm.

A blue prize went the way of Paul Cates and Madeira’s Taste Of Reality in the Junior Five-Gaited class where Tom Scott and Epic Hero were reserve. Scott came back to really entertain the crowd with Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited Champion Strange Brew, one of the last sons of the late Randy Tabor’s world’s champion producing stallion, the late Roseridge Heir. Zach Duffy and an athletic, black colt, Such A Sport, commanded the reserve three-year-old title.

The walk-trot division didn’t have the numbers of the gaited division, but the quality was right up there. DeLovely Farm took a good number of titles from the walk-trot division starting with Gypsy’s Say When, the Three-Gaited Grand Champion and open class winner. Todd Miles rode for Andrea Perry to defeat, among others, twice reserve champion In Perpetual Motion, ridden by Michael Beasom.

Joining Lonnie Quarles on the Milligan Stables’ training team, Jennifer Holdren did a great job with Fox Grape Farm’s World’s Champion Madeira’s Love to take the ladies tricolor. Having two strong rides, Michelle Hartman guided Royal Sweet to the reserve championship after making the blue ribbon pass in the qualifier.

With as much (or more) athletic ability as any horse on the grounds, The Paper Boy ERB marched triumphantly as the Amateur Three-Gaited Grand Champion and qualifying winner with Lindsey Greenwald. They were put in the ring by SGF Winning Ways trainers Steve and May Chadick. Another young world’s title-holder, High Times Northern Son, was twice reserve with Sarah Wood.

Brittany McGinnis scored two wins with Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Grand Champion Ostentatiously.

Coming on strong last fall to finish the year as the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited Reserve Grand Champions, Ostentatiously and Brittany McGinnis polished their game even further over the winter to give two picture-perfect performances in Oklahoma City. Hometown favorites That’s Chicago and Katie Cunningham paraded as the reserve grand champions in a deep class that saw qualifying reserve champions I’m Bewitched and Sarah Ginger in third.

Lonnie Quarles and the Tony Ricker family celebrated Heir's Treasure's Three-Gaited Park Championship. Bred and raised by the Ricker family, Heir's Treasure is the last full brother to World's Champion Sweet Virginia.

The Three-Gaited Park Championship was a class for siblings of famous world’s champions. Four-year-old Heir’s Treasure (Supreme Heir x D.S. Sweet Summer Sunshine) is the last full brother to the many times World’s Champion Sweet Virginia. Bred and owned by the Tony Ricker family whose house was hit by a tornado the night before the Park Championship, Heir’s Treasure is also a full brother to this year’s Five-Gaited Reserve Grand Champion Keaton. The man who started them all, Lonnie Quarles, rode Heir’s Treasure to the Park Championship after taking reserve in the four-year-old’s show ring debut, the Open Park qualifier.

With a heritage just as royal and athletic ability to match, Princess Mara (Santana’s Charm x Rebel Empress) went a big, four-cornered trot to claim the open class with Zach Duffy riding for owner/breeder C. Thomas Galbreath. Showing under the Mike Roberts Stable banner, Princess Mara finished the week as the reserve grand champion. The competition was extremely deep as Ross Tarkington and Night Of Dance And Romance were a good third.

The talent was just as impressive in the amateur section for park horses. Hometown favorites CH Catalyst Commander and Maguire Hall were at the top of their game, going two for two under the direction of Cross Creek Stables. Pulling double duty, Night Of Dance And Romance never dropped an ear and went a big trot to command reserve grand champion honors with Sheree Holloway riding for Holloway and Tarkington.

Middendorf Farms and Mike Roberts Stables made for a good team when Roberts drove I’m A Lucky Charm to the Fine Harness Championship and open class blue in impressive fashion. Both times Lonnie Quarles and Gone Platinum pushed hard for reserve.

Lauren Greenwald and Remember This Day put on a blue ribbon exhibition in the ASHAF Youth Fine Harness Driving Challenge.

It was early in the season but Saturday night’s Roadster To Bike Championship felt a little more like August with the intensity Raymond Shively, Marilyn Macfarlane and Steve Chadick put into it. Macfarlane had the lean going Braveheart in overdrive and Shively’s famous “roadster growl” could be heard round the rail as he again had fun spraying the crowd with shavings. He was behind a powerful new entry for DeLovely, a big horse named Emerson.

When the card was turned in, Macfarlane and the multi-titled World’s Champion Braveheart made their way to the winner’s circle to accept the tricolor and roses. Shively and open class winner Emerson exited with the reserve streamers. Chadick was behind third place finisher High Velocity who had been shown by Lindsey Greenwald to win the amateur class for SGF Winning Ways Farm.

Paul Adams and the Walnut Way group celebrated with Road Pony Grand Champion Heartland Flurry.

Oklahoma Centennial proved to have Louisville quality throughout the schedule as a couple of Freedom Hall veterans went head to head for this year’s road pony title. Heartland Flurry and Paul Adams were tuned and ready for the challenge to win both the open and stake. Mike Roberts and Heartland Carolee were twice reserve. Kevin Berman and Albert Kaponey were the lone team in the junior exhibitor/amateur competition.

Caroline Rainbolt-Forbes, Rebekah Davis and Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes all had their time to shine while showing from Cross Creek Stables.

World title-holders also occupied the top two spots of the Hackney Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. Quite accustomed to driving her champion Saddlebred mare Callaway’s Head Over Heels, Nancy Lassiter looked right at home with her pony champion as well. She guided Once Upon A Time to the Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Championship and qualifying blue. What a sight Caroline Rainbolt-Forbes and Cherry Royale were as the reserve champions as well. The pert driver and her white-faced pony made quite a picture.

Nancy Lassiter won four classes including two with Hackney Pleasure Driving Pony Grand Champion Once Upon A Time.

To get a ribbon in the Five-Gaited Pleasure Championship was a feat as it was an extremely competitive class from top to bottom. Mike Roberts and Zach Duffy had Callaway’s Dealbreaker and Karen Coup tuned to perfection as this cocky gelding fit the division in a big way. They made the last pass in both the championship and adult qualifier. Coming from reserve in the junior exhibitor qualifier, CH The Champagne Tiger and Claire Talley put the hammer down to take reserve in the combined championship as well. Junior exhibitor winners Northbound and Karmen Robles were third behind Callaway’s Dealbreaker and The Champagne Tiger.

Zach Duffy had a few winning rides from Mike Roberts Stable. In addition to winning the Park Pleasure Championship and qualifier with Father McKenzie (pictured), he also won the Open Park class and reserve championship with a full sister to Sir William Robert named Princess Mara.

A beautiful black son of CH Great Day’s Came The Son and CH Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie was a hit in the Park Pleasure Championship and qualifier. Zach Duffy provided the winning rides for Middendorf Farms. James Wallen and Heart Of Steel moved up several notches to command reserve grand champion honors.

The Bluebonnet Farm family had plenty to be happy about at the Oklahoma Centennial. Their homebred stars were at the top time and time again, including the absolutely cute bay horse with the white face and legs, Uncut Jewel (Unlisted x Blue Sapphire). Elly Berman guided the personable star to wins in both the Amateur Park Pleasure Championship and qualifier. Representing the Jack Magill Stables, Matrix and Jan Myers rode off with the reserve prizes in both classes. Bluebonnet trainer Sandra Currier rode Ipod to the Three-Year-Old Park Pleasure blue.

Bluebonnet Farm also played a big hand in the Adult Three-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship. They were the breeders of the grand champion CH She-Bop who was shown by owner Becky Taggart under the direction of Jack Magill Stables. Trained by Sandra Currier, adult qualifying winner Unlisted Number was the reserve grand champion with Elly Berman riding the 2007 reserve world’s champion for Neartown Animal Hospital.

A star at the Oklahoma Centennial for several years, Fame's Preferential Treatment won again, this time with Kelly Cooke.

If you had one in the Junior Exhibitor Show Pleasure Championship, you had better been ready to bring your best as a long list of recent world title-holders battled it out. Making one of their best shows to date to win the 14-17 qualifier, CH New York Style and Ben Ferreby rode to the top of the junior exhibitor championship as well for Walnut Way Farm. Twice reserve, Harlem’s Moving Man was particularly sharp in the championship with Taylor Lafargue in the irons. Lauren Greenwald and Out Go The Lights claimed third, followed by novice rider winners Jennifer Van Horn and Vegas Dreams in fourth. Four-year-old Bouffant and Courtney McGinnis, reserve winners in the 13 and under class, were fifth, with 13 and under champions Fame’s Preferential Treatment and Kelly Cooke taking sixth.

Two of Texas’ finest, CH Callaway’s Head Over Heels and Xuxa, met once again to place in that order for the Show Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. Nancy Lassiter was the winning driver while Ed Perwien and his grandson, Kevin Berman, shared the drives with the grand mare. Berman and Xuxa had the ring to themselves in the ASHAF Youth Challenge Show Pleasure Driving class.

There was no room for error in the Country Pleasure Championship as several top performers competed. Directed by Randy Cates, The Bachelor Prince and Christy Bennett captured the tricolor for the fifth consecutive year, the first two as a junior exhibitor. From Ever Glades Farm, Sarah Rowland and Callaway’s Winning Number were right on the money to command reserve grand champion honors after winning the adult qualifier. Callaway’s Caleb and Rebecca Davis had won the junior exhibitor qualifier. CH Odds On Spectre and Linda Cozad were the top choice from the novice rider competition.

A star in his division, Screen Idol turned back all challengers for the Country Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier. From Lone Star Saddlebreds, Corinne Stith provided the winning drives. Reserve in both events went to Bell To Bell with Lauren Fitzpatrick.

Results switched in the country western pleasure division from the qualifier to the championship. The tricolor winner was Commanche Kid with Ginny Beth Norton and the blue ribbon winner was Charming Promises with Joetta Smith.

Equitation wasn’t a huge division but it did feature world-class riders. The DeLovely team of Ellen Medley Wright and Belle Owen placed first and second, respectively in the championship, just as they did in the USEF Medal. Just starting her workouts with The Super Nova, Katie Cunningham landed two good reserves as well as a third place prize in the championship.

The Triple Crown champion in 2007, Brittany McGinnis launched a new career at Oklahoma Centennial, pleasure equitation. It was a blue ribbon start for her in the UPHA Pleasure Challenge Cup.

From the Patty Milligan Stables, Katie Kirkland delivered the tricolor ride in the Pleasure Equitation Championship ahead of Cascade Stable’s Maddie Costelli. Also from Cascade, Rachelle Drygalla topped the 17 and under class, while Hayden Hisey made the victory pass among the pleasure medallion competitors.

There were a variety of walk and trot equitation classes available. The Walk/Trot Equitation 12 & Under Championship went back to Cross Creek Stables with Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes making the winning ride. Taylor Hurd stepped up with the reserve championship. Molly Remondino won the qualifier.

From the 10 & Under Walk/Trot English/Western Championship, William Nalty was called to the winner’s circle for the second time that weekend. His first victory pass came in the UPHA Walk and Trot Challenge Cup. Barbe Smith coached Nalty to both titles. Under the direction of Sandy Sessink at Ever Glades Farm, Alice Rowland rode strong to take reserve in both the 10 & Under Championship and the UPHA class.

The Morgan division was slightly improved, although park and English pleasure horses were still needed. Jayne Moore and Scandia’s Royal Treasure was the lone park saddle horse, while Kristen Tramposh and Dragonsmeade Bravura were solo in the English Pleasure Championship and ladies class for Cadence Farm LLC and Peeper Ranch. Phil Fountain drove RWJ Whamever to the Morgan Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifying blue.

Pamela Curry Siemers and PSC Gabriel went home with the Morgan Amateur English Pleasure Championship.

Fountain’s Peeper Ranch entries were first and second in the Amateur English Pleasure Championship with Pam Curry Siemers and PSC Gabriel topping qualifying winners NAS Rickenbacker and Nancy Murdock.

Rhonda Collins had the top two winning entries in the Junior Exhibitor English Pleasure Championship. Ready To Rumble and Hailey Jones went two for two, followed both times by stablemates Cedar Creek Ungaro and Emily Orthwein.

Pictured with her parents, Jamie and Bob, Mattie Willard was reserve grand champion in Classic Pleasure and grand champion in Morgan Saddle Seat Equitation.

There was solid competition for the Classic Pleasure Saddle Championship that went the way of open class winners Dawn Fire and Auhl Turned Out. Coming from a reserve in the junior exhibitor qualifier, Mattie Willard and Abracabam were reserve grand champions as well. Futurity’s Flamboyant and Adam Lewis, winners of the junior exhibitor class, were third in the combined championship.

Kelly Kragel Varner jogged Jean Louis Finch down victory lane in the Morgan Western Pleasure Championship for owner Kristin Safanie. Laurie Revard’s RBF Royal Navigator finished a great week with the reserve grand championship after winning the ladies, amateur and open classes.

Futurity’s Such A Twist was the first name called for the Junior Exhibitor/Amateur Western Pleasure Championship. Lauren Little was the winning rider as she was in the junior exhibitor class. Reserve junior exhibitor winners Radiance In The Knight and Mary Kris Revard jogged off with the reserve championship streamers.

Having a great week, Kelly Kraegel Varner also won both junior western classes with her own MEMC Graffiti. Marissa Becker and MCG Cosmic Cowboy landed two reserves.

As they are in every section of the country, the hunters were out in full force. Representing Peeper Ranch, Kristen Tramposh rode open class winner MEM Erotica to the top prize in the championship for owner Cynthia Whitten. Amateur winner Freddie Mercury was reserve grand champion for Marissa Becker. Kelly Kraegel Varner and Coutscroft Diamond’s Blaze topped the competitive ladies class.

Judge Eckard liked MEM Once Again for the Amateur/Junior Exhibitor Hunter Pleasure Championship. They came from the winner’s circle of the junior exhibitor qualifier. As they were in the open championship, Freddie Mercury and Marissa Becker were reserve grand champions.

Kristen Tramposh spent a lot of time in the winner’s circle this week. She had two more visits with junior grand champion and qualifying winner With Just A Whisper. Marissa Becker and her MCG Cosmic Cowboy went home with two red prizes.

The best of the Morgan Saddle Seat Equitation riders was the home trained Mattie Willard of Roadshow Morgans. Maci Crowder had won the 17 and under qualifier. Mary Kris Revard rode under the direction of Jonalyn Gwinup to take the Morgan Western Seat Equitation Championship and qualifier. Reserve grand champion Lauren Little topped the AMHA Western Seat Medal.

Keeping it in the family, Alana Little captured the Morgan Hunt Seat Equitation Championship ahead of reserve grand champion and AMHA Hunt Seat Medal Champion Brianna Berg. Third place honors in the championship belonged to 17 and under winner Sascha Mills.

These were the highlights from the 20th annual Oklahoma Centennial Horse Show. All in all, it was another well-run show hosted in a great facility. As the participation in the Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana area grows so will this show and the influx of a few more outside barns would return it to the glory days.

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