Gulfport, MS February 17, 2008
˜Chapter Five-The Competition Moves"; When last we left Bill Lowry, he had just accepted the $10,000 Grand Prix rider bonus at the Jacksonville Winter Series after narrowly beating good friend Wilhelm Genn, who had just won the finale Grand Prix. Our next scene opens with Lowry and partner Polygraaf taking the first victory in a Valentine Welcome Stake set at the opening week of the 2008 Gulf Coast Winter Classics.
Mother Nature took her cue, providing warm temps and sunny blue skies for the backdrop. While a star of international course designing fame, Michel Vaillancourt, took center stage in creating a flowing layout of 11 obstacles [14 efforts] on the lush green prix field to entice our cast of characters. Most eyes were on two main figures, Bill Lowry and Wilhelm Genn, as they revived their roles of top riders from last month‚s Jacksonville Winter Series, for the next action packed adventure, which finds our heroes in hot pursuit of the $10,000 Grand Prix rider bonus awarded at the end of this five-week series.
Bill, who's Winsor Farm Sales, Inc. is based out of North Scituate, RI, directed two rides in the class, held Valentine's Day on the grass Grand Prix arena of the Harrison County Equestrian Center. The first being his 12 year-old Hessen gelding Rio Corde who ended the first track with a clean time of 71.73, far below the allotted 84 seconds. “He’s a handful”, Lowry described his co-star. The second being 10 year-old Westphalian gelding Polygraaf, also clear in 73.43. Joining them for the second act were 4 additional stand ins, including Lebanon, OH’s leading man Wilhelm Genn with Chantal - after a clear first round of 72.79 seconds. Vaillancourt’s shorten feature of 6 obstacles- asking 7 efforts was one written with an adrenaline rush for both horse and rider as they traversed across the grass over 4'6" heights and rolled back off vertical to vertical in the hope of clearing the final oxer under the 45 second limit.
Lowry and the accomplished Rio followed Grand Bay, AL’s most recognized prix figure, Holly Shepherd piloting the Sarah Patterson owned Quilmes - the pair finished with 4 faults in a time of 42.644 and that gave Bill the choice of how to write this scene’s ending- with caution or gusto.
The pair opted for the latter, crossing the timer clear at 35.340 and set a tone of challenge for remaining takers.
Valiant attempts followed, but as the curtain fell on this episode only Lowry himself came close, with Polygraaf finishing clear in 36.022 to claim 2nd place. Kennett Square, PA’s star performer Laurie Jakubauskas and Counterfoil were credited with 3rd place after a fault free ride in 37.925, while Lowry‚’ friendly nemesis Wilhelm Genn and Chantal landed the 4th award going clear in 40.995. “This grass field is absolutely awesome!” Bill Lowry commented on the backdrop of this competition, “And probably the envy of Palm Beach to be honest, this is what they use to have- this field could not be better. Plus Michel does an amazing job, I really feel he’s one of the best course designers.”
A walk back to the barns with both Lowry and Genn proved just how great friends in competition can be great sportsmen, as each complimented the other’s performance with genuine sincerity. “Wilhelm was jumping safely around today just to get them in the ring.” Lowry said of Genn’s plot then quipped, “So I figured I go for the money!” A hearty laugh echoed over the stall walls from the Genn camp and Bill simply smiled. The healthy competition between friends began 4 weeks ago at the Jacksonville Winter Series in Green Cove Springs, FL where the first $10,000 rider bonus was up for grabs, the buddies battled back and forth with the narrowest of margins separating them as they met in the finale event. While Wilhelm won the $25,000 Grand Prix and Bill came second, a mere one point advantage gave the bonus to Lowry. Now the duo find themselves writing the next version of “As the Jumps Fall”, here in Gulfport over the next 5 weeks. And as Bill pointed out a new cast of characters to include, International great Bjorn Ikast, the quick Laurie Jakubauskas and Counterfoil, and many other greats. You can’t count anyone out. Should be tough competition. Bill, Wilhelm, and the entire cast will return this Sunday for the Gulf Coast Grand Prix to kick off our next episode.
Chapter Six-A Spoiler Emerges; A burst of sunshine blasted away the clouds to hail new heroes, Bjorn Ikast and Anchor Man of Mexico City, Mexico in the first $25,000 Gulf Coast Grand Prix presented Sunday afternoon by Flashpoint Media Services.
Michel Vaillancourt produced another technical masterpiece in a 12 obstacle [15 effort] 83-second course that tested the talent of the 18 horse-rider field with its tight rollback turns. His reputation of “hidden traps” was kept intact by using a short-strided triple combination at 5ABC- high vertical to oxer center to oxer out that most riders navigated well only to find the “trap” was how they headed to the #6 skinny vertical over a Liverpool. “Michel Vaillancourt is absolutely one of the best course designers in the world!”, a pleased Bjorn spoke of the layouts, “He knew the feel of this field like only a good horseman could.” Asked for his opinion of Vaillancourt’s ”trap” Bjorn explained the many faults at #6 as “Coming out of the combination you make a big effort and there‚s a little bit of lack of air [scope] in the horses so you have to get them back up on a short [stride] to 6 and with the water behind it, makes it simple for the horse to get distracted. If the horse is not well ridden, well you know the easiest thing in show jumping is to get one rail down.” The 12 year-old Hanoverian gelding Anchor Man, owned by Bjorn and ”The love of my life” wife Clara, reported a clear first round in 79.65.
Bill Lowry was second in the order with Polygraaf and the first pair to post a clear round in 80.39-he would do the same with Rio Corde going clean in 76.89, six others would eventually join them including Wilhelm Genn with two mounts. The exciting 49 second dash for the cash round comprised of 7 jumps asking 8 huge efforts had all the elements needed for a hair raising, crowd pleasing finale to the day with it‚s sweep of turns around the field. “I was so lucky to walk the jump off course with my wife.” began Ikast, “The joker jump was the tall red vertical [#14]. Those who didn’t knock it down gave it a hard rub, because you came from a long distance and then had a short turn. It stands on an angle. I told Clara that’s where I don’t take a chance because that will fall down.”
This assessment proved true for both of Lowry’s mounts as each faulted leaving Polygraaf with 4 faults in 41.205 and Rio Corde the same in 42.028. Genn piloted first mount Cedric through the course clean in a time of 44.187 giving the pair the lead until nearly the end. Following was Amanda Flint aboard Cajun, they too fell victim to the joker fence to finish the day with 4 faults in 41.706.
“Going next to the last I could see a few ride and see my feeling was right. You just had to be lucky and keep the fences up,” Bjorn stated. He felt Anchor Man was relaxed entering the final round, with a good rhythm and confidence, “So I said okay, you have to go for it then.” The buzzer rang and Anchor's blazing gallop to the first fence seem to ignite both rider and the cheering audience as the gelding set about to spoil Wilhelm‚s hope of victory. They crossed safely over the joker fence, all eyes took a glance at the ticking clock and the crowd went silent. Anchor Man cleared the final oxer in 40.945; the audience erupted into a frenzy of excitement.
One pair remained to challenge, Laurie Jakubauskas and Counterfoil, a defending champion of the Gulf Coast series. Once again the eyes of all were torn between watching the spitfire bay gelding and the precious seconds on the clock. Heading toward the final line it looked like an upset in the making, until as Ikast said previously, ”the easiest thing in show jumping is to get one rail down.” The sound of thud confirmed a second career win for Anchor Man and despite an amazing time of 38.395 a third place finish for Counterfoil.
The moral of our story, while the friendly battle for the $10,000 bonus continues between Bill and Wilhelm they will face new challengers who are equally interested in the extra paycheck. Ikast traveled 6 days from Mexico to compete here, Jakubauskas a defending champion coming back from Pennsylvania, Eric Loubet originally from France, and new local resident by way of London, England Vicky Miller will be on their best hooves over the next 4 weeks. Giving spectators the opportunity to witness some true World Class competition. “Why did they have to come here?” joked Ikast of Lowry and Genn, then added a genuine sentiment, “They are both such good horsemen. I have so much respect for Bill and Wilhelm. I had the luck today, who knows maybe next weekend it‚ll be one of them or any of the other fine riders here. We have perfect conditions here.” he concluded with a smile then walked hand in hand with his beloved wife Clara back to dole out treats to their “Anchor” .
Presenting awards this afternoon were Co-Chair of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics Janet and Robin Stoney of Classic Company. Official results for today’s event were, in second place rider-owner Wilhelm Genn and Cedric for co-owner Cary Van Worner finishing clear in 44.187; third went to Laurie Jakubauskas and Counterfoil in a time of 38.395 with 4 faults; fourth spot was Bill Lowry with Polygraaf for owner Winsor Farm Sales, Inc with 4 faults in 41.205, and the fifth position went to owner-rider Amanda Flint on Cajun with 4 faults in 41.706.
The Gulfport Winter Classics continues with more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action through March 16th. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting competition throughout the week, classes run Wednesday through Sunday 8AM until approximately 4PM, along with another $25,000 Grand Prix each Sunday at 2PM. Plus the race for the of the $10,000 Budweiser High Point Grand Prix Rider, presented to the top rider, calculated by earned points during the five-week series.
For more information or results on the 2008 Gulf Coast Winter Series, please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at (228) 832-0080.