Gulfport, MS - Lebanon, OH based Wilhelm Genn had a stellar second week at the 2010 Gulf Coast Winter Classics with victories in both Thursday’s $5,000 Welcome Open Jumper Stake aboard Happy Z and Sunday’s $25,000 Gulf Coast Grand Prix with Laura Ryan-Barnaclo’s Chantal.
Deciding the path this week’s jumpers would take was one of the sport’s most revered course designers, Michel Vaillancourt, who began testing their limits on Thursday with a curvy 15 effort layout in the $5,000 Welcome Open Jumper Stake presented by The Farm House.
With an 85 second allowance and nothing “obvious” set as tricky looking, several riders wondered if it was just too good to be true given Vaillancourt’s reputation for hidden challenges. “I thought that maybe it was a little easy, but then with Michel you never know, he’s such a good experienced course designer. He can make it look easy and still only have 10% clean.” said Genn.
From the field of 24 only 9 made it to the jump off round. “A couple of the verticals were airy and needed to be ridden careful versus scopey.” Genn discovered was Vaillancourt’s contest. He and partner Happy Z, the coming 12-year old chestnut fireball mare he owns and trains, blazed past all jump-off contenders with a clear go in the 8 obstacle final round that tested riders with rollback turns and a speedy pace. Their finishing time was a fast 39.200 - well below the allotted 52 seconds. “It was a good jump off for my horses, because you had a little bit of a gallop, tight turns, and more gallop. Thankfully my horses are pretty handy now.” a smiling Genn said.
Genn also picked up second place with Chantal, owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo, with a clean ride in 40.085. Third place went to Devin Ryan with No Worries for owner Barbara Rowland in a clean 42.018, fourth went to Theo Genn and Paradox for owner Thomas Bruinsma with a clear run of 43.031, and completing the top five was Wilhelm Genn back with Loredo, owned by Micaela Kennedy, in clear ride of 43.605.
Hunter Champions began to emerge on Friday, among them in the 1st Year Greens was Thomas Brennan riding Purple Heart for owner Lynn Rice. Brennan also trotted away with Championship honors for a second week in the Conformation Hunters aboard the Twin Oak Farm entry Promenade and owner-rider-trainer Julie Curtin also pulled off another week of Division Champion in the 2nd Year Greens with Bases Loaded. Apparition, owned and shown by Jordan Siegel were Champs in the Regular Working Hunter division.
By 10 AM Sunday crowds were already gathering in anticipation of the weekend’s big events. First up was the $15,000 NHJL Nordic Lights Farm Junior-Amateur Owner Jumper Classic. Another challenging layout by Vaillancourt ended with a mere 8 in the deciding round. The morning belonged to New Orleans, LA base Mary Antonini who was triumphant with mount Saladin in a blazing clear jump off time of 28.220. Second place went to the youngest of the Genn family, Ryan with Ariado in 28.450, third to Frances Land and Merlin with a clear time of 28.862, fourth to Lillian Hahn riding Lucky One clean in 29.130, and the fifth spot went to Eirin Bruheim aboard Qarco V’T Merelsnest clean in 31.040.
The two o’clock hour heralded the featured attraction, the $25,000 Gulf Coast Grand Prix presented by Harrison County Tourism. 27 horses were listed to take on the first round of 13 fences, 16 huge efforts, which encompassed the length and width of the grass field. Vaillancourt’s layout offered it all to riders- double and triple combinations, tight turns, and galloping tracks to be navigated in under 88 seconds. Amanda Flint of Tewksbury, NJ aboard the Kathleen Kamine entry Will of Iron were the first pair clear in 87.330. Not long after Wilhelm Genn of Lebanon, OH and Chantal, owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo, followed with a clean time of 84.995 and an assurance of a jump off. Six horses would go before Devin Ryan of Long Valley, NJ would add his and the Barbara Rowland owned No Worries names to the list of returnees. “He [Vaillancourt] had a lot of high verticals out there and not everyone sees big fields like this very often so whenever you have 12 strides to get to the next jump, the horses’ can lose their concentration a little bit and then you have this high vertical.” Genn provided an opinion on the amount of faults incurred by many of the competitors. Only two others would advance to the jump off, Genn’s son Theo riding the Thomas Bruinsma entry Paradox (clean in 85.578) and the 2009 Gold Medal winner of the Sydney, Australia Youth Olympic Festival Taylor Land from Atlanta, GA riding her mount Karonda V Schl’Hof to a clean round in 82.259.
Eight fences and 50 seconds would determine who would be this week’s best of the best. Vaillancourt’s layout was a test of keeping one’s wits as each horse came off a difficult turn to clear those tall –delicate verticals while picking up speed to beat the clock. Genn was second to return and first to make it cleanly through the course with a 39.112 time. “It was a good course, straight forward and you had to be careful!” he said. The next two competitors dropped rails leaving only one to challenge Genn’s first place hold. Taylor Land and Karonda had the crowd holding their breath, but despite a clean ride their time fell short and Genn’s victory was official. “Phew!” the smiling Genn said after exiting the field.
Final results found Chantal and Wilhelm Genn in first place with a clear ride in 39.112. Taylor Land and Karonda V Schl’Hof accepted the 2nd spot with a clean 42.120. Third place went to Devin Ryan riding No Worries in a time of 38.012 with 4 faults. Fourth place went to Amanda Flint with Will of Iron with 4 faults in 44.865. Theo Genn completed the top five with Paradox finishing in a time of 44.535 and 12 faults.
The Gulfport Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper action through March 21st. 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 afternoon.
For more information or results on the 2010 Gulf Coast Winter Classics please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 228-832-2745.
Photo: Mary Antonini & Saladin; Wilhelm Genn & Chantal ©Flashpoint Photography