Gulf Coast Winter Classics Finale Sees Wilhelm Genn Edge Out $25,000 Grand Prix Victor Bjorn Ikast for Rider Bonus; Circuit Champions Names
RELEASE: March 27, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Robbi Meisel
Steven Spielberg couldn’t have scripted a more white-knuckle plot. As some of the circuit’s best riders prepared for the Gulf Coast Winter series’ final competition—the $25,000 Budweiser Grand Prix, held Sunday March 16—the Series’ $10,000 rider bonus still hung in the balance with Mexico City’s Bjorn Ikast and Ohio’s Wilhelm Genn neck and neck for the check.
Prior to the start of Sunday’s grand prix it was announced that while Genn led the point standings, if he were to finished below sixth place on Sunday, the door was open for Ikast to swoop in and lay claim to the hefty five-figure prize.
Blue skies and warm temperatures brought scores of spectators back to the bleachers at The Harrison County Equestrian Center. Many came to bid fond farewells to the riders and horses they’ve had the opportunity to come to know over the five-week run of the winter series.
More than 25 of those teams gathered at the grass arena to confront the course designed by internationally renowned designer Michel Vaillancourt, including Ikast with three horses and Genn with four, among the string his “little red mare that can,” Happy Z.
When the final horse left the ring following a seven-rider jump-off, the spoils were split: Ikast captured the grand prix with his 12-year-old Warmblood gelding Brave Heart by riding two clean rounds and a earning a jump-off time nearly two seconds faster than Genn and Happy Z, who fell into second place. Genn was third aboard the Laura Ryan-Barnaclo-owned Chantal, thus cinching the $10,000 windfall, which is based on points earned throughout the five-week season.
Both riders agreed that Vaillancourt’s contest was nothing less than challenging. “When I walked the course, I thought to myself “only four will go clean,” Said Ikast following his victory gallop. “It was a very difficult, but it was very fair. And really, I had hoped—because I have very scopey horses—that they would build it big and difficult. Michel builds a little bit technical. But with the horses I have, and the way we ride in Europe, it suits my horses well the way he built today.”
Genn agreed. “It was a little bigger, which is good. After all, this is the last week and it should be a little harder. I always lean toward making it a harder course because it is a grand prix and it should keep the standards up. And it was a very exciting jump-off.” Genn admits that throughout the class he couldn’t help but ponder the bonus. “It was a little in the back of my mind, especially after my first horses in Round One had rails,” he said, referring to the Micaela Kennedy-owned Loredo and the Cary Van Worner/Genn co-owned Cedric. “But that was consistent for those horses, who are still a little bit green.”
This marks the second consecutive year the Lebanon, OH-based rider has won the final award. “It’s been awesome. We had a great time here,” said Genn. “This is one of my favorite grass rings in the country, and I look forward to being in Gulfport each year.” As for that extra cash, he added, “I want to take the whole family back to Cancun for a nice vacation. We [he and his wife Patty] went there last year, and I said if I win the money I want to take the whole family back.”
Rounding out the grand prix results were Sulu Rose Reed in fourth place with the Galloping Fields' Leondor and Ikast in fifth with his horse Monte Cristo.
But that wasn’t the end of the action. The swan song week also found exhibitors in hot contention for the Circuit Champion titles.
The first crowns were issued Thursday in the hunter divisions. Leading off the honorees were Canton, GA,-resident Terry Brown and Tasty as the 2008 Gulf Coast Classics Conformation Hunter circuit champion.
Interestingly, it appears Terry and partner Tim Sweat enjoy more than one kind of horsepower. Each Wednesday and Friday during the five-week circuit, Sweat could be foun