Dynamic Duo - Wilhelm Genn and Chantal Win $25,000 Prix
Green Cove Springs, FL
Another exciting evening of show jumping found Wilhelm Genn of Lebanon, OH in the spotlight as he and partner Chantal claimed victory in the $25,000 Gateway Capitol Development Grand Prix benefiting the Donna Hicken Foundation.
"A great course!" exclaimed a beaming Wilhelm upon exiting the arena. Great indeed, the dynamic duo bested 33 tough competitors as well as one of Michel Vaillancour's most challenging course designs. First round action found riders traversing through a 13-obstacle, 16-effort layout, with a 78 second limit, that began with sweeping turns throughout the length of the arena, but in typical Vaillancourt fashion had a major twist. This time towards the latter part of the layout, fence #11, the unique vertical designed by the Elements architects was set in the back corner of the ring and required riders to take a hard right rollback directly towards the audience to the triple combination of oxer in to vertical to oxer out [fences 12ABC]. This combination proved to be many a rider's fault zone. "It was a very long course at that point, I think the concentration in here is hard for some horses because this is not like an arena we compete in all the time, a lot of distractions. And going into the combination all they saw were rails, it was hard to locate where the back rail was and when you were mid air of the first oxer the distance seemed really short." This was Genn's theory on why the combo was so difficult for several of the horses including his own first mount Happy Z who pulled an unfortunate back rail at 12A.
"It was hard enough but not dangerously hard," Wilhelm gave his take on the round one layout, "It was beautifully thought through as pretty much all of Michel's courses are. It was not easy to build tonight because you had a pretty mixed group. You had a lot of younger riders and a lot of good experienced riders with good experienced horses." Not an easy job to do and Genn praised Vaillancourt's work several times throughout our chat.
Wilhelm's second mount Chantal the coming 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo was prepared for the triple combination finishing a clean 76.113 seconds. Not surprising to Genn, given that Chantal was the 7-8 Year Old Young Jumper Champion and already has 8 Prix victories under his cinch as well as a top placing in the $75,000 Invitational last year. Wilhelm shared that Chantal is being groomed for the World Cup next year; he'll begin competing in qualifiers later this season. From the original starters a mere 8 qualified for the deciding round, among them young Megan Nusz of Woodlands, TX who not only had the distinct honor of being the only female but also the only rider to bring 2 mounts to the jump off. Wilhelm felt the "return numbers" were right on the mark as well. "Perfect", he said.
When asked to describe the jump off field a broad smile came across his face and a simple, "It was a lot of fun!" was Genn's first response. Always the gracious horseman Wilhelm spoke of Bill Lowry's jump off round in the form of a compliment, "I saw Bill's run and it was very fast. He's such a smooth rider and his horse has a big stride." then with a wink added, "But Chantal is quick! He may not look fast but he turns good and for as green as he still is I think he handled the competition very well." Quick was a bit understated, the duo blazed a clear winning time of 38.720 nearly 7 seconds under the allowed 45. After the reference to Bill's ride he chuckled and admitted, "you know there's just this thing between Bill, Sharn [Wordley], and me. You know grown men being competitive."
After a hearty laugh from him it was pointed out that tonight a young lady had given that boys club a nice run for the money. "Absolutely..absolutely..almost kicked our butts." Wilhelm confessed and added, "Which is great though!" He confirmed a rematch with the guys and the little lady from Texas will take place next Sunday afternoon as all vie for the big paycheck in the $35,000 Jacksonville A to Z Grand Prix. "I'm here for the next two weeks of show. And looking forward to some good competition." tonight's winner concluded.
Completing the top five positions for tonight‚s prix were in second place Megan Nusz on For Fun for owner TNT Partners with a clear round time of 41.810. Third place went to Bill Lowry with Rio Corde for owner Winsor Farm Sales, Inc in a clean 41.822 seconds. The fourth position went to Megan Nusz on board Pikeur's Xtatic for owner TNT Partners with a clear time of 44.412 and completing the fifth spot was Tony Font aboard Gardenio for owner YZ Partners, LLC in a clear time of 44.799.
This evening was a benefit event to honor the Donna Hicken Foundation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization founded by local NBC/ABC news anchor Donna Hicken. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and is currently in her third battle with the disease. The Foundation‚s mission statement is "Caring for women living with breast cancer" was formed to provide temporary financial assistance to women in the First Coast area (encompassing 16 counties in Florida and Georgia) who are struggling to make ends meet while enduring treatments for their cancer. Kicking off this night of giving was a wonderful dinner reception provided by Carrabba's Italian Grill of Orange Park and hosted by owner Jeremy Bond. Guest were treated to the wonderful grilled taste the restaurant is famous for. Following dinner the entertainment began in the show arena where the Ride For Life Quadrille gave a wonderful exhibition of team dressage set to the music of Weber. The team of four women dressed in their pink vest to support the breast cancer cause was comprised of Aileen Wisell, Donna Grasso, Debbie McNally, and Mary Giftos. Their performance had the crowd cheering in the stands and ready for more action, the perfect queue for the main event. "It's just been a lovely evening altogether." stated Tony Weight, president of the North Florida Hunter Jumper Assoc. "I hope we've touched some hearts with the message of the Hicken Foundation and I know the show jumping had some hearts racing. We were honored to be a part of this special evening."
The Jacksonville Winter Series continues through February 10th with classes Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8AM until about 5PM except for special events on Saturday evenings at 7PM such as next weekend‚s big $25,000 Hunter Classic and the $35,000 Jacksonville A to Z Grand Prix on Sunday.
Admission to the shows are free, a $5 donation is requested for special events, which in turn is given to various local charities.
For more information or results on the 2008 Jacksonville Winter Series please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the show office at 904-284-9492.