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Happy Days on the Gulf Coast- Winter Classics Open Big

Gulfport, MS-February 7, 2009- Mother Nature seems to be rolling out the red carpet this first week of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics with primarily blue skies, lots of sunshine and no rain. The days here have been horse show worthy and future forecast indicate near perfect conditions are just around the corner.

Mike McMillian, Director of the Harrison County Equestrian Center, where the six week series is held took great pride in pointing out the many improvements and additions made in anticipation of the show’s return. A new jumper ring with all weather footing, extra schooling areas, and additional full hook up RV slips are but a handful of the bigger changes. “Anywhere people look little nuances can be seen throughout the facility.” began Bob Bell, Co-Chair of the Winter Classics, “The grounds are truly beautiful. Great weather, wonderful community support, terrific parties, talented riders and horses. What else could we even hope for?”

Thursday afternoon saw a sample of the talent competing here with the Lucky Sevens Open Jumper Welcome Stakes, sponsored by the Gulf Coast Classic Company. Wilhelm Genn and partner Happy Z, the coming 11-year old chestnut fireball mare he owns and trains, blazed past four jump-off contenders with a clear go in the 8 obstacle final round that tested riders with zig zag turns and a speedy pace. Their finishing time was a fast 33.803 - well below the allotted 40 seconds.

Known as a “seek and find” master of design, Michel Vaillancourt has the distinct honor of creating the jumper challenges for opening week of the Winter Classics. Noting that several are coming from an indoor environment to a lush grass ring would likely cause most horses to feel fresh and rejuvenated Vaillancourt’s layout for the 84 second first round track of 13 jumps was airy and took full advantage of the vast area. “Lots of nice galloping tracks. Not as many tricks, I think he [Vaillancourt] was just sizing us up for the weekend’s prix.” Genn laughed.

German born Wilhelm Genn, who now resides in Lebanon, OH, will return for the first of seven big $25,000 classes of the series this Sunday afternoon. Additional results include second place going to owner-rider Catherine [Cassie] Frost with El Toro and a clean time of 34.946, third place to owner-rider Alex Granato aboard Mad Season clear in 36.204, fourth also went to Alex this time with owner Augustin Walch’s entry Vasco D Gamma finishing in 34.885 and 4 faults. And rounding out the top five was Amanda Flint for owner Kathleen Kamine riding Texas Hold’em with 4 faults in 83.143

Friday evening brought lots of smiles and very hungry folks out to enjoy the Welcoming Party, the wildly popular make your own pizza extravaganza sponsored by Domino’s Pizza of Gulfport. Guests lined up past the pavilion opening for the fun of creating their own yummy concoctions from an array of traditional to slightly exotic toppings and cooked in the mobile ovens that filled the air with delicious aromas. And for the truly ravenous appetites Domino’s offered a bounty of their specialty pies, toasted sandwiches, tasty wings and a ton of dessert options, including a flowing chocolate fountain to dip fruit, cake, or even marshmallows. Once stuffed, exhibitors were invited onto the dance floor or the main stage for those brave enough to take the mike and belt out a tune. New comers to the Gulf Coast Series quickly learned what Southern Hospitality is all about and why the regulars talk about the parties throughout the year! This is the place to be each Friday night for great food and good times. “Best fun on ANY coast!” professional trainer-rider Sean Steffee commented.

The Gulf Coast Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action through March 15th. Kicking off the series Sunday at 2PM will be the $25,000 Gulf Coast Premier Grand Prix. For more information or results of the Gulf Coast Classics please visit http://www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 228-832-2745.


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