Green Cove Springs, FL—FEB 1 2009— From show jumping Action to furry Zoo friends and lots more in between, show management offered a little something for everyone at the A to Z finale week of the Jacksonville Winter Series.
Let’s start with “H” for Happy Z and owner-rider Wilhelm Genn of Lebanon, OH who took the top spot in Thursday afternoon’s Lucky Sevens Open Jumper Welcome Stake. “We’re working our way back.” Genn commented of the fiery chestnut mare’s return to the winner’s circle after more than a month’s vacation. The duo were the fastest of eight double clears in course designer’s Buddy Brown’s shorten jump off round of 8 obstacles. Brown himself said earlier in the day, “today is about making the riders feel relaxed in the ring and a chance for me to gauge the caliber for this weekend’s big prix.” Genn agreed with the assessment by adding, “I usually like it a little harder, but understand he [Brown] needs to size us up.” The seasoned Happy Z provided the speed element for Brown’s measurements with a fast 34.120 seconds, nearly 8 seconds below the allowed 42. Being one of the busiest riders with three mounts-all going double clear, Genn no doubt aided in deciding the degree of technicality for the upcoming Outback Steakhouse $35,000 A to Z Grand Prix. And with a $10,000 Grand Prix rider bonus on the line it’s a sure bet Genn is saving his best ammunition for the weekend as he goes head to head with Aaron Vale, the current standings leader.
The final results found Genn also in the second position with the Laura Ryan-Barnaclo owned Chantal and a time of 34.370. Coming third was the highly decorated Canadian hero Hugh Graham aboard the Kingridge Stables’ entry Executive Privilage 3E in a clear 34.464. Fourth went to local favorite Chuck Waters riding his own Carl Knee to a clean time 35.588. And in the fifth position was Magnolia, TX’s favorite Tony Font with Connardo M7 for owner Gray Wolf Farm in 35.649.
For Friday evening we begin with the letter “E” for Equitation Classic held under the bright lights and stars as the best of best junior riders vied for prize money and bragging rights of the series. After a first round of sweeping-artistic turns and serious stride counting 12 finalist were called back for testing, but it was owner-rider Lydia Todd and Picasso’s masterpiece performance that captured the blue ribbon from the judges. Second place went to Samantha Schaefer with Don Juan for owner Redfield Farm, third to Michele Petrilli paired with the Donald Stewart entry Catrick, fourth to Hasbrouck Donovan riding Sag Harbor’s Lucky Star for owner Paige Dekko, and completing the top five was Abby O’Mara aboard Lucas for owner Casey O’Mara.
As Sunday rolls round “A” for action best describes the day. Kicking off with an auction to benefit the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens and the opportunity to meet some of the animals that reside there in person. For those who worked up an appetite there was the Outback Steakhouse luncheon to enjoy. 1PM signaled the start of a celebrity ride, a sight the crowds did not want to miss. Popular television news anchors, radio disc jockeys, and even the Sheriff saddled up on horses to try their hand at special challenges such as applying lipstick while singing Old MacDonald or carrying an egg in a wooden spoon, all while in motion. Happily we can report no injuries just plenty of laughs and fun leading up to the featured event of the day.
After a week of observation, course designer Buddy Brown of Livermore, CA took all he learned and applied it to a side winding 13 obstacle-16 effort test with a time allowance of 83 seconds for today’s $35,000 Outback Steakhouse A to Z Grand Prix. “Not a bad day!” chuckled Aaron Vale after doing a double victory lap for the prix win and the extra $10,000 bonus. “Fun course!” a very appropriate comment from the rider known for his jaw dropping maneuvers at break neck speeds. Given a large majority of the faults in round one occurred either at the #3 vertical or the #4 oxer-which had the liverpool beneath, Vale was asked his take on why, “I think the third jump, the vertical, was a little bit airy and jammed up in the corner, so it may have caught a lot of people by surprise. Also I think some of the riders were thinking more about the liverpool than that vertical possibly.” It was early in the course when riders could be worrying about the time allowed and the horses may simply have not seen it until a stride out. Vale’s awareness and new mount Tarco’s great scope helped them sail through safely. The pair finished clean in 80.492.
Aaron, who’s based out of Ocala, FL, piloted three rides in the class, held on Super Bowl Sunday in the covered Grand Prix arena of the Clay County Agricultural Center. The first being Hidden Trail Farm, LLC’s entry Danacar who ended the first track with 8 faults in 77.321. The second being last weekend’s winner Sinatra IV, owned by Thinks Like A Horse, who went clear in 75.995 assuring Vale a spot in the jump off and a shot at the big bonus. Tarco’s performance doubled Vale’s odds. Close on his hooves was friend and competitor Wilhelm Genn who brought all three mounts clear from the initial round, including Thursday’s victor the brilliant mare Happy Z with fast time of 76.810. “A pretty solid group of horses and riders.” was the description Vale used when discussing the starting field of 23 that had two Olympic veterans, 3 Pan Am Games medalist, and 5 top international competitors. “I expected several clear rounds. You know looking at the order of go; you felt like 15 or 16 could all be winners. There was a high percentage of good horses in the class.” Vale wasn’t too far off the mark; an even dozen horses bested Brown’s first round challenge to join Tarco and Sinatra IV in the dash for the cash finale.
“The jumps were unrelated in a lot of ways,” began Vale about the final course, “It was a turn back to the 2nd jump, a turn back to the combination [8ab vertical to vertical], and a run over to the skinny [#10]. And the plank [#12] is always hard. It kind of strung you out running from the skinny down to the oxer [#11] and then you had to turn…and the plank was quite tall. When you add some speed and put a funny turn into the plank, well it’s going to fall down some.” A point proven with the first five horses- either by knocking the plank or being so careful as to pick up time faults for surpassing the 42 second limit. Wilhelm Genn and Chantal were the first double clear pair with a time of 40.357. It would be a short-lived lead of three rides before Vale and Tarco crossed the starter in hot pursuit. 38.281 seconds later Vale cinched both the Grand Prix win and the $10,000 Reynolds, Smith, & Hills High Point Grand Prix Rider award. “Not a bad day!” Vale exclaimed again.
Partnered with the Joan Kalman owned Tarco a mere two months Vale said of the 13 year-old Belgian gelding, “He’s got a ton of jump! It’s a new partnership so I’m looking forward to meshing more with him. He’s a bit of a handful- big and powerful horse. It’s just getting that power to go in the right direction and learning to work as a team.” Vale confessed this is only the third competition for the pair, so one can only imagine the victories possible once the “meshing” is complete.
Presenting awards this afternoon were President of the North Florida Hunter Jumper Association, Tony Weight, and board member Glen Becker. Official results for today’s event were, in second place Wilhelm Genn and Chantal finishing clear in 40.357; third went to Tony Font aboard Gardenio for owners YZ Partners, LLC with a time of 44.262 and 3 faults; fourth spot was Roberto Teran with Distant Star 3E for owner Kingridge Stables with 4 faults in 37.364, and the fifth position went to owner-rider Wilhelm Genn on Happy Z with 4 faults in 38.632. A portion of today’s proceeds will be donated to the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens.
Following the Grand Prix presentations the highly sought $5,000 Bruning Foundation High Point Hunter Award for 2009 was given to Mary Eufemia of Palm Harbor, FL. Mary rode Unbelievable, for owner Paula Pell, winning the Green Conformation division throughout the Jacksonville Winter circuit.
For more information or results on the 2009 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit http://www.classiccompany.com
Photo: Wilhelm Genn & Happy Z; Aaron Vale & Tarco ©Flashpoint Photography
** Photos may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/jacksonville-winter-finale-02-09.html">Jacksonville Winter Finale Covers It All From A to Z</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com