It’s No Lie ~
GULFPORT, MS.—MAR 13, 2008—
North Scituate, RI based Bill Lowry and Polygraaf are starting the finale of 2008 Gulf Coast Winter Classics off with a big win in the $25,000 Magnolia Welcome Prix presented by Budweiser.
Layouts for the jumpers this finale week are compliments of internationally renowned course designer Michel Vaillancourt. Today’s 12 obstacle, 15-effort offered up an array of challenges for the field of 34 to conquer in a generous allowance of 87 seconds, yet only 11 would achieve victory over the course. “I got a little lucky at fence #3. I rubbed it hard” confessed a laughing Bill Lowry.
With a simple oxer for the start, the course then made a sweep right to a basic vertical at #2, and on to the first trouble spot, the #3 oxer. “It was fairly tall, fairly light and it sat on the half stride so it was exactly 6 1⁄2 strides. You either had to get flat and run up the hill in six or balance hard and try to get across the back rail.” Lowry explained further, “So I think that was the hard part, because the jump itself wasn’t difficult-it was the distance getting to it.”
Bill, who owns and runs Winsor Farm Sales, Inc. with wife Abby, piloted two rides in the classic, held on the lush grass Grand Prix field of the Harrison County Equestrian Center. The first being his 12 year-old Hessen gelding Rio Corde who ended the first track with 8 faults in a brisk 78.16. The second being Polygraaf the coming 10-year-old Westphalian gelding that he owns and trains. Lowry has described the building of their partnership as both awesome and hard, saying when purchased at age 6 Polygraaf was “a handful to put together, but once it happened…he’s a superstar.” His confidence paid off in the first round with a clear run in 82.75.
Always the “trickster” Michel Vaillancourt did have a little zinger on the initial track, but not where one would of course expect it to turn up. His Liverpool vertical was no issue nor the double combination of oxer in vertical out and not even the triple combination- vertical to oxer to vertical out on the final line. Vaillancourt waited to the very end for his ploy. “I thought the horses jumped the triple quite well, but the last jump [#12 triple bar] was a bogey! It was set at a normal 6 strides but coming out of the triple combo you’ve got so much steam and you’re going downhill towards the end gate. I had that down with my first horse [Rio Corde] so I actually talked to myself and decided it was just easier to canter in 5, which is what I did with Polygraaf.” Lowry said of Vaillancourt’s trap.
Going into the abbreviated 47 second final round of six obstacles with 7 efforts required a bit a hutzpah on the riders part in weighing caution and the need for speed. Crossing fence one with a slight arcing turn on to number two was simple enough, but a tight roll back to oxer #14 then prompted riders to dare slicing over it in order to shorten the turn and a nice gallop to vertical #8 or taking #14 more straight on to then make a wider-safer turn and hope to make up ground. “Jump off was fun!” beamed Lowry especially after taking on last weekend’s winner Wilhelm Genn and the three mounts he qualified as well as Bjorn Ikast’s two speed horses. “I was just as fast as I could be. I don’t think I had anymore to give and he [Polygraaf] handled everything well.”
Lowry was both ecstatic and relieved with their performance. Genn had been the first to return with Chantal and set the bar high to beat with a clear time of 34.315. Six followed-six fell short including Genn’s little chestnut rocket, Happy Z, who had a smoking time of 33.776 but dropped a rail on the last line to finish with 4 faults. Taking on Genn’s queen of speed [Happy Z] is an added challenge in itself and Bill felt the quick pace from #1 to #2 was helpful given the big strides Polygraaf is capable of, but believes his moment of victory came after clearing the #14 oxer with a perfect turn. “I was able to drop a stride out and shave time.” When the duo cleared the final fence Lowry looked over his shoulder and discovered the jaw dropping time of 32.502 on the clock was quite real.
Two final riders, Bjorn Ikast and Amanda Flint tried their best to catch Bill, but it was not to be. The day and the win belonged to Polygraaf and Lowry. “He’s so scopey and turns so good.” Bill began of his partner’s abilities then added with a laugh, “We actually beat Happy by a whole second.” A remark made in good nature of the competition between he and friend Genn.
As wife-partner Abby cooled down the afternoon’s champ, Polygraaf appeared to be listening intently when Bill was asked about the upcoming finale prix this weekend. “Undecided at the moment.”he said regarding whether “his boys” would compete. Bill has Polygraaf pointed toward the Invitational in Tampa, FL in a couple of weeks, where a good showing there could produce an opportunity of jumping in the Charlotte Jumper Classic and over half a million dollars in prize money. “I’m tempted but probably shouldn’t. I should save him for Tampa.” Bill explained then added, “I’m pretty much out of the running for the rider bonus here so I should save Polygraaf, but it’s still tempting to go here on Sunday.” He concluded with a giggle. Polygraaf nodded as if in agreement to the latter statement. So it’s a wait and see whether the smart rider or the determined horse wins this argument.
Official results of the Welcome Classic were; Bill and Polygraaf’s winning time of 32.508, second place went to owner-rider Bjorn Ikast and Anchor Man with a clear time of 33.663, third to Wilhelm Genn and Chantal-owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo going clean in 34.315, fourth to owner-rider Amanda Flint with Cajun finishing clean in 34.611, and completing the top five was Wilhelm Genn with Cedric in a clean time of 37.793.
The Gulfport Winter Classic Finale will highlight more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action all the way to the final day March 16th. Admission is free and the public is invited to enjoy the exciting conclusion with another $25,000 Grand Prix on Sunday at 2PM, as well as the winner of the of the $10,000 Budweiser High Point Grand Prix Rider, presented to the top rider, calculated by earned points of 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.