GULFPORT, MS.—MAR 15, 2009-“Great start to ending a great series!” Bob Bell the Co-Chairman of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics put it simply. Kicking off an exciting conclusion to the six-week Winter Series on a high note, Thursday afternoon’s $25,000 Gulf Coast Sunshine Jumper Classic was awarded to Happy Z and Wilhelm Genn of Lebanon, Ohio.
Genn has, to put it mildly had a stellar series sweep going here on the Coast having won 6 straight grand prix now. He has also lead the pack for the $10,000 Budweiser Grand Prix rider bonus to be awarded on Sunday. “Just amazing.” was all a breathless Genn could say following the duo’s victory gallop. The pair conquered a field of 26 horses and bested the 91 second 12 obstacle layout created by 2008 Olympic course designer Steve Stephens. Only 6 returned for the nine jump [ 10 effort ] 57-second course that conjured images of a barrel race with it’s tight rolling turns. In the end it became a match race between Genn and Alex Granato of Elizabeth, Colorado with partner Mad Season. Both horses jumped clean and a mere .981 of a second’s difference determined the victor. Happy Z clocked in at 44.816 and Mad Season stopped the timer at 45.797.
Scores of spectators ventured out to enjoy the equestrian talents visiting from across the country during this finale week and competitors didn’t disappoint as they doubled their efforts to secure Circuit Championships. The first of which were crowned Thursday in the Hunter Divisions, leading off those honored were Canton, GA resident Terry Brown and Tasty as the 2009 Gulf Coast Classics Green Conformation Circuit Champions. Brown also captured the 2nd Year Green Hunter Circuit Championship riding Nice for owner Lori Christman. Keeping the successes in the family, Brown’s client Penny Worsham’s horse Lifestyle took the Championship title for the Pre Green 3’ Hunters with Brown in the irons. “It's especially gratifying for me when their [Christman and Worsham] horses excel since they’ve been loyal clients for over 20 YEARS!! And how many trainers can state that ?” Brown said of the multiple successes. Trainer Holly Shepherd of Grand Bay, AL doubled her pleasure as she wrapped up the 1st Year Green Working Championships with Heirloom owned by Dr and Mrs. Ken Garber, and Mrs. Selma Garber brought home the Pre Adult Circuit Champ title with her own Password. Undoubtedly one of the busiest riders of the 6-week series was Keri Rankin from Spring Mills Farm of Eads, TN who took the Championship for USHJA International Hunter Derby during week 4 and Circuit Championship in the Regular Working Hunters partnered with Crossroads for owner Mary Jane King. A complete listing of all 2009 Circuit Champions can be found on the Classic Company web site, http://www.classiccompany.com
Wilhelm Genn enjoyed his last hurrah of the series aboard 10 year-old Holsteiner gelding Chantal (owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo) at Sunday’s main events, the $25,000 Gulf Coast Sunshine Jumper Classic and naming of the $10,000 Grand Prix Rider Bonus both presented by Budweiser. The finale event brought out the best of the best in both competitors and 2008 Olympic course master Steve Stephens one last time for appreciative fans. “Beautiful course!” Genn exclaimed after two victory gallops around the lush green field.
“Lucky Seven!” Genn’s son Theo commented. Despite marking his seventh consecutive grand prix win and a clean sweep of the winter series Genn’s reaction seemed almost astonished. “Never done that! I’ve done six wins in a row at three different shows, but never in a circuit like this.” he said with a broad smile. Genn started the afternoon as the first clear ride in the first round of 13 fences- asking 16 efforts of the athletes-with Happy Z the seemingly unstoppable chestnut mare of this winter series posted a time of 81.265, well below the allotted 85 seconds. Four horses later it was Genn once more to go clear with the Thomas Bruinsma owned La Cantus in 84.878 thus assuring a jump off round. Colorado based Alex Granato and first mount Vasco D Gamma gave chase to Genn, but an unfortunate pair of rails down ended their run. As if to insure a strong female presence in the boys club, the always-smiling lady from Ft Wayne, IN, Nora McDonald-Yaney brought Topliner to a clean finish in 84.124. Genn’s luck continued with Chantal turning in a clear round in 81.482. “Just a beautiful straight forward course. You had to have your numbers straight. I thought when I walked it would be 4 [strides] to the #4 [vertical], but I did end up doing 5 with Happy because she jumped the triple bar so high and hung there for a moment so that when she landed there was no way I was going to get there in 4, so I took that one in 5.” Genn said of the layout. Alex Granato returned with second mount Mad Season and cleared the last jump in 82.015 to join the jump off club. However, Genn’s luck continued as his last mount the Micaela Kennedy owned Loredo soared over the last jump clear in 83.885.
Stephens gave no easy way to win this one, with a 50 second test of 7 fences asking 8 efforts that wound it’s way from the middle of the field, an oxer at fence #9 across to one side and traversed to the other. “It was simply about who can go the fastest and leave the jumps up.” a laughing Genn said of the final round. First in was his queen of speed Happy Z gunning for her 31st prix victory as she flew over the obstacles in a scorching 38.246. After catching his breath Genn was right back in the ring with La Cantus who scored another clean run in 46.077. Topliner and Nora McDonald-Yaney galloped into the arena to chase the leading time and came close with a fault free finish of 42.169. Moments later Genn entered with Chantal. “There was quite a bit of distance to cover, so knowing how good Alex rides and how big a stride Mad Season has…well I knew that Happy was pretty fast, but Alex is very efficient with that horse. So that’s why I did 5 [strides] coming to the last jump. I left a stride out.” A maneuver that paid off with a clear 37.382 and the lead. “I wouldn’t want to try that every prix, but today I figured was a good time to try it.” a laughing Genn said. And as predicted Alex Granato and Mad Season hit the ground running fast, but where Genn had lots of luck today Granato had misfortune with 8 faults total in a time of 38.727. Could Genn win once more was answered, the only question remaining was on who? He had one more ride to go with Loredo. The pair had a quick pace right from the start, however despite another clear round finished in 41.631 giving the victory to Chantal, 2nd to Happy Z, and 3rd to Loredo. A nice 1-2-3 finale for Genn that also cinched the $10,000 Budweiser rider bonus. Nora McDonald-Yaney and Topliner would take the 4th spot while Alex Granato and Mad Season would complete the top five in 5th. “They were awesome! Even La Cantus, the greenest one at this level was just great.” Genn complimented all four mounts.
This was Genn’s third year competing on the Gulf Coast and his 3rd year to win the bonus check. Asked about a return visit in 2010 Genn said “Yes! This really has been an awesome circuit. It’s the people here who make it great and not just the show staff, but the local people like the ice cream shop I go to and the guy ask me everytime I walk in- how’s the horse show going? It just makes it really nice.” Wilhelm concluded before heading off to celebrate with his three sons and the many fans anxious to congratulate him.
For more information on the 2009 Gulfport Winter Classics and results please visit http://www.classiccompany.com
or call 843.768.5503.
Photo: Wilhelm Genn and Chantal ©Flashpoint Photography
*Photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/wilhelm-genn-gulf-coast-finale-03-09.html">Wilhelm Genn Hits a Lucky Seven at the Gulf Coast Finale</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com