Gulfport, MS—FEB 8, 2009— Thermometers may have been up and down, but Wilhelm Genn has been hot all week. He scorched the competition this afternoon at the $25,000 Gulf Coast Premier Grand Prix presented by Gulf Coast Classic Company, which opened the six weeks of thrilling equestrian action at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics. Happy Z, ridden and owned by Genn, raised pulse rates of an exuberant community who turned out in record numbers to welcome exhibitors back.
Wilhelm and the brilliant 10-year-old German bred mare that he trains out of the home base in Lebanon, OH, bested four jump-off contenders, including himself, with a clean go in the eight-obstacle final round designed by international great Michel Valliancourt.
“I’ve got a talented group here so why not really challenge them,” Valliancourt commented, “the level and scope of horses in this field are some of the best and they expect nothing less from my courses.” Michel did not disappoint, beginning with a 13-obstacle layout for round one set at maximum heights of 4’9 and widths of 5’6”, along with tight rollbacks and fast tracks to combinations all to be completed in under 96 seconds. Genn and Happy Z were flawless in 93.205 seconds. Only three other horses would join them in the paycheck deciding round.
Genn piloted three rides in the class, held on the lush grass Grand Prix field of the Harrison County Equestrian Center. Two mounts made the jump off. “An awesome course!” exclaimed Wilhelm following his victory gallop. “Jumps were big enough- distances were difficult. It was a real test.” he concluded. Genn and Loredo, owned by Micaela Kennedy, also had a clear first run to follow Happy into the final round. “He’s not necessarily a speed horse.” Genn said Loredo then explained, “He’s made for the really big jumps. He’s still young and impressionable, just turning 9 this year and my goal was just to step it up. Teach the horse about getting to a jump off, let him gallop a little bit, make some tighter turns, and hopefully he’ll jump clean.” Mission accomplished as the youngster sailed through the course clear in 91.341.
Noting to Genn that it didn’t appear there was any one-problem area that seem to trip riders or horses up he answered, “Well that’s a good course designer. He doesn’t set just one difficult combination or line. Michel [Valliancourt] is brilliant, he spreads it out so you can never let your guards down. Even the last jump, I almost ran into that one, but that was simply because Happy was so strong coming home.” Genn went on to say the whole course was one you’d had to be on your toes throughout and that’s exactly the kind of layout he appreciates most.
Asked for his take on the abbreviated 50 second course of 8 obstacles that wound the field like a small snake Genn chuckled and shared, “You know I told my boys [sons Theo, who had 2 mounts in the prix, and youngest Ryan] Holly [Shepherd] is really fast and Alex [Granato] is really fast and has an older experienced horse that has a big stride. I said I’m not gonna go crazy out there, but I’m going to be breezy…and we were.” Truly an under statement as the duo of Genn and Happy Z scorched a clear path to victory in 38.476 seconds. His closest rival was 2nd place finisher Alex Granato partnered with Mad Season going clear in 40.860.
Genn cinched the 3rd position with Loredo going double clear in 43.792, in 4th place was Holly Shepherd aboard the Tuppy Dougherty owned Cabarette Z finishing with 4 faults in 42.331, and completing the top five was owner-rider Amanda Flint and Cajun in 87.184 and 4 faults. “I think the competition on this grass field is only going to get better each week,” today’s winner said of his return visit to the Gulf Coast, “The facility is wonderful and everyone is so welcoming here. The footing in the rings is great. The horses are very comfortable in this environment. We’re looking forward to the next 5 weeks here.”
Presenting awards to the victorious this afternoon was Classic Company President and Co-Chair of the Gulf Coast Winter series Bob Bell, who gushed, “and this is just the first week, the best is yet to come.” A still smiling Wilhelm added, “Yes! And I was just presented a nice bottle of Champagne to toast the next rides!” Blue skies, sunshine, and lots of laughter made for the perfect end of a perfect opening week on the Gulf Coast. But Janet McCarroll, Co-Chair of the series and local resident’s parting words echoing across the field summed it up best, “Ya’ll come back next week.”
The Gulf Coast Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action through March 15th. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting competition throughout the week along with another $25,000 Grand Prix each Sunday of the six-week series. For more information or results please visit http://www.classiccompany.com
or call the show office at 228-832-2745.
Photo: Wilhelm Genn and Happy Z ©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-winter-classics-02-09.html">It’s a Happy Week for Wilhelm Genn at Gulf Coast Winter Classics</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com