Happy Z and Wilhelm Genn Wow Crowd with Victory in Inaugural $40,000 Nutrena Show Jumping Grand Prix in Madison, WI
RELEASE: April 29, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Phelps Media Group
Photo by Jon Kassel (Grand Prix Course at the sold out Alliant Energy Center Arena .)
The 10,000 seat John Deere Coliseum at Madison's Alliant Energy Center was standing room only Saturday night as five of 38 entries passed the course's first test and were asked back for the tie-breaking round. Ultimately it was the feisty chestnut mare Happy Z and Ohio's Wilhelm Genn who laid down an unbeatable jump-off track for the win. Laura Linback and As di Villagana, competing last, also put in a flawless round to finish a close second.
The difficult course was designed by Puerto Rico's Hector Loyola in collaboration with Pat Boyle, whose company Showplace Productions managed the first ever show jumping event at the Midwest Horse Fair.
"It was a great event, Hector and Pat built a very nice course, and the audience was the best I have ever experienced; they were supportive, electrifying, generous even. When you had some rails they made you feel like you were still doing something special," said the 49-year-old Genn, who first competed in the United States 22 years ago before moving from his native Germany to Lebanon, OH.
Genn, who married an American and is now American himself, has shown extensively in the U.S. with his family and clients and was very impressed with the experience in Madison. "I don't think that the riders at the World Cup Finals had such an amazing audience with that much cheering!" stated Genn. "Nutrena did something wonderful by sponsoring this event; this could be getting bigger every year."
International judge and announcer Oliver Kennedy, who officiated the event, was also very impressed with the performance. "In my 25 years of traveling, announcing, and judging in the U.S. and Canada, I've never come across a crowd as loud, enthusiastic, and receptive as the one in Madison," said Kennedy. "I couldn't believe my eyes when over 4,500 people showed up and stayed just to watch the grand prix riders school. And then to have over 10,000 in the arena for the prix! This Madison event has as much potential as any grand prix event I've ever seen!"
The $40,000 Nutrena Grand Prix was an invitational class and drew entries from all over the Midwest, many of whom compete regularly at Showplace Productions' events. The special class was the Saturday night performance at the Midwest Horse Fair, the third largest equestrian trade show and exposition in North America. After the first round of competition, five of the 38 horses were tied for the lead position and were required to jump off for the top five places.
Returning first for the jump-off round was Wilhelm Genn on his earlier entry, Chantal, an 11-year-old bay, owned by Laura Ryan-Barnaclo of Cincinnati. The Holsteiner gelding looked tentatively around the arena, at the enormous American flag backdrop and the legions of cheering fans, then cantered confidently to the first fence, jumping the start of the course easily. After the tall Taylor Harris vertical, Chantal powered to the wide oxer at the end of the ring and then took careful, measured strides to the last fence, finishing clean in 40.063 seconds.
Next to compete was 41-year-old Laura Linback, of Mundelein, IL, with her mount Uppsala, a nine-year-old KWPN mare. The bay horse bucked once upon starting her canter, then hopped around the course, a little wide in her turns, but finishing clean just behind Chantal in 41.947 seconds.
Forty-two-year-old Thomas Cerra of Kildeer, IL, competed next on the nine-year-old grey gelding Unique, owned by his wife Chari. The Dutch Warmblood was chomping at the bit as he started the course. He showed tremendous scope, never touching a fence, but his wide controlled turns put his clean round in the back of the pack, with a time of 45.126.
Happy Z and Genn were in the arena next, the 12-year-old chestnut Zangersheide mare was a little hesitant back on the field of play, but when Genn told her it was go time she drove to the first fence. The pair put in a flowing jump-off and were soon going towards the last fence, towards the in-gate, with Wilhelm just checking her speed enough that she could get the distance, and then they were clean, moving into first place with a time of 39.440.
At the end it was up to Laura Linback again with As di Villagana to try to best Happy and Wilhelm's score. The 14-year-old Argentine stallion was very careful and quick, but a longer turn back from the Taylor Harris vertical cost them a precious fraction of a second and they couldn't make it up down the last line. Their clean round and time of 39.814 seconds put them into second place.
The performance didn't end with the presentation of awards though. After the class, the organizers invited the audience onto the course to meet the riders, most of whom stayed for a planned autograph session.
Jump-off participant Thomas Cerra, trying to maneuver to the autograph table, said, "What a fantastic event. This place is packed with the most enthusiastic horse fans I've ever seen!"
Second-placed rider Linback added, "I'm really happy to participate. I've enjoyed mingling with the crowd. I've been to a lot of other venues and we've done this before a couple times. I think it's a great way to get people involved. It doesn't feel like such an elite sport when the audience can have access to the riders. People can ask questions and learn more about the horses and the sport of show jumping."
Linback's closing remarks summed up the feelings of many of the participants. "Hopefully we can do this again next year; I had a blast!"
Videos of this exciting class are available, courtesy of Star Creek Video, on YouTube at www.starcreekvideo.com/showplaceproductionsvideochannel.html
. For more information on Showplace Productions, please visit www.showplaceproductions.com