“BAM” Fever Hits the Third Week of the Gulf Coast Winter Classics

GULFPORT, MS.—MAR 2, 2008—

Exhibitors at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics got a taste of true Southern Hospitality and local cuisines during week three, courtesy of the fine folks from Harrison County. Serving well over 1200 pounds of crawfish (boiled right on the spot), 600 pounds of shrimp, 400 pounds of spiced blackened chicken, another 400 pounds of fried catfish and fried chicken, along with more extras than a small army could consume. Not to mention 4 different dessert options! All topped off with live music that kept the toes tapping. “Southern Hospitality” is just this community’s proud heritage and one they relish in sharing with exhibitors each year.

“We decided to borrow Emeril Lagasse’s expression, “BAM!” as a theme for this week.” laughed co-chairman Bob Bell adding, “Every year this is the party we all anticipate most and every year Mike McMillan [Director of the Harrison Co grounds] just seems to bump it up another notch. Great food and fun, that’s our reputation here.” Judging by the turn out, standing room only, it was pretty clear all Mike’s efforts paid off in spades. Making her first visit to the Gulf Coast, Belinda Hyde from the Chronicle of the Horse, commented on the events in and out of the show rings here, “What a wonderful show! I’m having such a great time with everyone.” Once the food comas of the feasting fade away, folks will no doubt begin talking of next weekend’s party, after all they do have a week of riding to work off any calories. “Can’t wait to see what’s next!” commented exhibitor Cheryl Rubenstein.

Kicking off our third week, the hunters take the spotlight first. Montserrat ridden by co-owner Keith Hastings took the Championship honors in the 1st Year Green Working division while Dolce and rider Stacie Goodson claimed the Tri Colors in the 2nd Year Green Working for owner Sue Takata. Over in the Conformation division top call went to Cezanne owned by Lily Hahn and piloted by Vick Russell and for the Regular Working hunters David Wright rode Renaissance for owner South Point Farm to the Championship spot. Mr. Paul Jewel of Lambertville, NJ created some classic flowing courses for the hunter competition this week. “I always enjoy being on the Gulf Coast.” Jewel said and added, “Although it’s easy to see this event is no longer the best kept secret! We’ve had some phenomenal talent here this season.”

Moving to the jumpers, where Allen Rheinheimer of Zionsville, IN took over the designing duties, Thursday saw the preview of the BAM to come with the Lucky Sevens Welcome. The Essex Classics sponsored event saw a field of 28 professional and promising juniors tackle Rheinheimer’s 12 obstacle [15 efforts] layout that included 2 combinations and a very snaky rollback from fence 4 to 5 going into a tough broken line that would prove to be a time cruncher for many given the 81 second allowance. The course walked fine, stride count was good so the time allowed didn’t seem like a problem, however the first six horses all fell victim to the deception of the track beginning at #4 and #5. Most just didn’t count on that roll back being as tricky and it definitely cost precious seconds. This line deceived more than half the starters.

It wasn’t until the 7th in the order that a clear round occurred, Bill Lowry aboard trusted mount Rio Corde were on the job, taking the turns with ease and clocked out with a time of 71.57. Following that example, Argyle, Texas’s favorite son Matt Cyphert partnered with Patricia Murphy’s Marso posted a clear time of 74.78. Where time and distances may have become a foe of many in the first round, Sulu Rose-Reed of Manakin, VA certainly showed no sign of an issue as she piloted The Galloping Field owned Leondor to a blazing 68.24 clean run. The stunning bay 9 year-old Holsteiner stallion became the fifth of a mere eight to advance to the final round. And what a track Rheinheimer set for them, 7 obstacles [8 efforts] that again was a serpentine of twist and turns with a triple bar at the start, a rollback to a short strided double combination [vertical in oxer out], and a hairpin turn off an oxer to a skinny plank vertical-just to highlight a few of the tasks to be completed in the 48 second allowance.

Lowry and Rio were the first pair to return, the duo made it look so simple with a pace setting clean run of 37.623, which would hold the lead for the next 4 attempts. Young Andrew Ross and Electra were poised to create quite the upset with a blistering run of 35.075, but an unfortunate rail in the last line left them with 4 faults. Then entered Leondor and Sulu, they traversed the track at a breakneck pace, cut corners sharply, and when the clock stopped found themselves nearly a second ahead of Lowry with a finish of 36.706. Three others would try their best but in the end fell short of stealing the victory from Sulu and Leondor. Final results of the class found Lowry in second place with Rio Corde, third went to owner-rider Denise Wilson aboard Life Is Life 15 finishing in clear time of 40.522, while fourth went to owner-rider Michelle Vandal riding Tampa to a clean finish of 45.040, and completing the top five was Andrew Ross and Electra with 4 faults in 35.075.

The main event of the weekend was Sunday’s Nutrena sponsored $25,000 Grand Prix where an excited audience lined the sides of the lush grass ring to cheer on their favorite horses. Once again Allen Rheinheimer produced a course that tested riders not only in the technical aspects but their stamina as well. “It was challenging.” commented today’s victor Wilhelm Genn, whose home base is Lebanon, OH. The 13 obstacle [16 efforts] layout tested the adjustability and scope of the athletes with 2 tough combinations, and a series of wicked turns throughout the track, such as the hard right rollback twist off the #10 oxer to the #11 tall vertical. And then there was the “Triple Threat”, the combination at 5ABC- wide oxer to vertical-to-vertical out angled straight to the end gate. “The distance from the oxer [#4] to the triple combination was hard, it was a really short 6 stride, and then the oxer was wide enough going in-so you couldn’t just go slow. You had to ride the back rail a little bit to support it and then the verticals came up fairly quick, riding towards it…it was all rails.” Wilhelm said of the hot spot in round one that took out nearly 80% of the 41 starters. “You’re going towards the end gate, the horses look a little bit past the jumps to the gate, so you just had to have a careful horse and not rush through it.” He touted the confidence in 9 year-old partner Chantal, the Holsteiner gelding owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo.

“When I walked it, I thought the #2 fence could be an issue because the distance from #1 was long and anytime you have to go forward on 4-5 strides, it flattens the horse a little bit. Then it’s hard to keep a horse elevated enough to jump up. ” Wilhelm shared his views of the first round, “And there were flowers hanging on the inside of the standards, which is fine, but they [the flowers] were headed towards the inside too-so this makes a skinny opening to start with even skinnier. I think with a lot of horses this took their attention away from the jump.” Time, vastness of the track, nor even skinny décor proved not an issue for Chantal as he became the last of only 8 to clear the first round with a brisk time of 85.94. Joining Wilhelm was his own firecracker mare Happy Z, last weekend’s champion in the EMO $25,000 Prix, who sailed through round one in a time of 90.02, as well as top rivals for the big $10,000 rider bonus Bjorn Ikast and Bill Lowry. A win today would put Genn into the lead for the Budweiser backed bonus check to be awarded at the end of this five-week series.

With a time allowed of 46 seconds in the final round consisting of another long track and more twists, Wilhelm went first with his fiery chestnut Happy Z who set the ground a blaze with a time of 36.055 but then the sound of the last rail thudding the ground threw a hush from the over zealous crowd, leaving the pair with 4 faults. The next two competitors also fell victim to a 4 fault round. Veteran pro Vick Russell riding the Lily Hahn entry Lucky One posted the first clear round in 38.764 putting them into the lead position. Two more would come and go with no luck of unseating Russell for the top spot. Then Bill Lowry and Rio Corde took flight across the field stopping the clock clean in an amazing time of 35.355. “Bill was fast! Happy had 36 and change, then Bill had 35 and change. When I watched Bill, I thought that’s gonna be hard to beat. He [Bill] was really on everywhere.” Wilhelm commented with sincere respect then added, “I talked to Theo [Genn’s son-an up and coming prix rider] before, we were thinking about should I try it or just go safe and shoot for second. And he [Theo] said, “Dad go for it-kick him [Chantal]” Knowing the big strides of Chantal would be a help but also weighing the reality that even at 9 years-old he “still gets a little green on me and that’s something I can’t forget”, Wilhelm decided to put faith in the young gelding. The payoff was huge with spectators holding their breath as the big bay glided across the jumps in an astounding clear 33.723 seconds, bringing the crowd to the foot stomping-screaming frenzy. Lowry and Rio would finish in second place, outside the end gate Bill’s wife joked, “Always the bridesmaid.” But added their delight for good friend Wilhelm’s win as she watched the two men lead the victory gallop side by side. Third place went to Vick Russell with Lucky One and an official clear time of 38.764, while the fourth award went to Wilhelm and Happy Z with a time of 36.055 and 4 faults. Completing the top five was owner-rider Bjorn Ikast aboard Brave Heart finishing with 4 faults in 37.659 seconds.

This is Chantal’s 11th Grand Prix win and Genn’s 22nd. “He’s a great horse!” Today’s win was a bit more meaningful as the presentation by the day’s sponsor Nutrena gave representatives the chance to personally welcome Wilhelm to their family of riders. Genn became a sponsored rider by Nutrena just this past December. “It’s exciting to win, but more so when you can do it in front of one of your sponsors.” laughed Wilhelm. With two more weeks of competition before the Grand Prix bonus is awarded and such a narrow margin between the riders it’s a sure bet that Genn won’t be resting too long, “Anything can still happen.”…and probably will.

The Gulfport Winter Classic continues with more hunter/jumper and Grand Prix action through March16th. 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 as well as the race for 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.

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