The Grand Prix ring is the stomping grounds of champions, as well as the beginning to many horses' international careers. For Theo Genn, the Grand Prix Ring at the Flintfields Horse Park ushered in the start to a fantastic first week of competition at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. The Ohio-native captured the 1-2 finish during the $3,000 1.40m Open Jumpers, riding Asirea Fortuna and Castiel to the top placings, respectively.
Genn has been riding Asirea Fortuna, owned by Eduardo Leon of Houston, Texas, for four years, bringing her through the young horse ranks. Known for her quick foot speed, the grey mare has proven both her accuracy and speed on courses throughout the nation. The 10-year-old has a tendency to get a little wound up, however, and Genn made the decision to step her down a couple of levels to help improve her reliability. His plan worked well, leading the class from start to finish with the trailblazing time and clean effort posted in 39.872 seconds.
"The last couple of weeks, we stepped her back down just for rideability. She jumped almost every round clean," Genn said. "She started great yesterday in the 1.35m and then today was her first 1.40m since the winter circuit. It was easy for her-she was confident, relaxed, careful and really smart. I didn't want to push the speed today."
Genn and Asirea Fortuna were the only two to clear Michel Vailancourt's first round track. He brought the class full circle with Castiel, owned by Patty Genn, ranking second as the last horse and rider combination of the day. Although they incurred three time faults, Genn was all smiles as he picked up the top spots with his mounts.
"Castiel is unbelievable. I have a lot of really good horses, but that one is really special," Genn explained. "He jumped his first jumps ever a little over a year ago. Everything is a joke to him. He is freaky careful but he has this innocent braveness about him. You could light a jump on fire and he would go up to it, at least the first time. I have high hopes for him, and we are aiming him towards the grand prix the third week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival."
David Beisel picked up both the third and fourth place finishes just behind Genn. If it was not for an unfortunate rail, Beisel and Call Me Hannes, owned by Harlow Investment Enterprises, LLC, may have caught Genn in the jump-off.
"Since I didn't push the speed, I thought David would get me. He always gets me," Genn laughed.
"Michel is the best. You always know what you are going to get. He is always fair, but he never gives it to you. I have ridden so many courses that he has built, and I have to say that he is my favorite. He always builds to the right height, he doesn't try to trap the young horses and he asks questions of the riders."
Only three horse and rider combinations were able to clear the $1,500 1.35m Open Jumpers, but it was Beth Underhill (CAN) and her own Count Me In who took the win as the fastest of the field. Michael Morrissey and Torino Q, owned by Rae Martin of Wellington, Florida, were the first to clear the course, immediately moving into the jump-off. Their time of 34.927 seconds set the pace for the remainder of the competitors, and it seemed as though he had the win, until the end. Ryan Genn and Zenith B, owned by father Wilhelm Genn, fell behind Morrissey with a double-clean effort in 40.627 seconds.
Underhill swept in as the last to go, breaking the beam in 34.139 seconds. She has only been riding him for about a year and a half, yet he has continued to impress.
"He only recently came to the sport, and he has very little mileage," Underhill said of Count Me In, "At this point in his career, to be jumping as confidently and explosively as he is, is really exciting. I am really excited about him, and I feel as though he can be a great horse for the future."
Underhill continued, "I think he has the potential to be an international horse, but you never know until you get there. The feel is spectacular from a rider's perspective. It's a hard combination to find-the desire to be that careful all the time and be that brave."
Underhill already has the 2016-edition of the Great Lakes Festival on her calendar.
"I love it. I think that they have been so welcoming. They are open to ideas and they really want to provide a positive experience. I brought some new customers, and they are really enjoying the city. It is a breath of fresh air, and it allows for us to feel as though we aren't just working. It is an opportunity to enjoy the show and the city with old friends and new friends. It is one of my favorite spots and I will be back next year, for sure," Underhill concluded.
The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the next four weeks of competition. Feature events for this week include the $25,000 Antares Welcome Stake tomorrow afternoon, as well as the $50,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City on Sunday, July 5.
For more information or to view schedules, please visit www.stadiumjumping.com or www.greatlakesequestrianfestival.com.
Tim Goguen and Hillary Johnson Control Professional Hunter Divisions as Multiple Mounts Take Tricolors
By: Elaine Wessel
If the first two days of competition are indicative of what is to come the rest of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, then Tim Goguen and Hillary Johnson are pegged to have successful showings throughout the series. Goguen began his day with an easy sweep of the first three divisions of the morning, claiming three champion honors and the reserve championship, while Johnson stayed busy with multiple mounts in the $1,000 Pre-Green Hunter Incentive and Performance 3'6" Working Hunters.
An 8:30 a.m. start time brought the combined Conformation Hunter divisions to the forefront, with Jennifer Nadalin and Catango V, owned by Samantha Gajoch, hoping to retain their lead position after two blue ribbons in the first classes of the division yesterday. Unfortunately for that pair, Gougen and his Boggs Hill Farm's mount Anytime gained momentum and were able to overtake them in the point standings due to three first place finishes today. Combined with Wednesday's first and second, the duo just edged out Nadalin in the rankings.
Next on the schedule were the combined divisions of the Second Year Green Working Hunters and the PJP Farm High Performance Working Hunters, and Goguen had his eye on the prize once again. He and his mount Ransom, owned by Saddle Ridge LLC, added another win to the résumé by beating out the competition with a near-clean sweep of the day's classes, only falling short of the first in the hack.
The champion attributed much of his success to his wife and the rest of his team, stating that "they do a great job prepping the horses for the ring, and I just try to do my thing when it counts." He continued on, noting that the horses seem to be settling in to the facility and the unpredictable Michigan weather.
"It was tough yesterday with the unexpected cold front, but we are in a good groove now," Goguen claimed. "The facility here is beautiful, and now that we have some nice weather, it is much more noticeable. This is and always has been a wonderful show, and I only expect it to grow in the coming years," he went on, complimenting the show, which is now under the management of Stadium Jumping, Inc.
Laura Stern and her personal horse Harrison were able to hold on to the second-place position after strong performances both days. Rounding out the top three was Tommy Brawley and his own Snapchat.
Still not relenting, Goguen rode his way to yet another tricolor in the Polk Family Main Hunter Ring, this time aboard Capella in the First Year Green Working Hunters, sponsored by Wrenwood Farm and Jen Sutton. As if that was not enough, the champion had another horse in the running. Belhaven Stables LLC's Rookie carried Goguen to the reserve championship honors, just a few points behind his counterpart.
Capella is coming off a number of impressive placings at top-tier venues in both Florida and Kentucky as a new addition to Goguen's repertoire of horses, having just joined the rotation this past season at the end of the Florida show circuit.
Geoffrey Hesslink and Salim Radi's Jos Van Kouterhoeve, Hillary Johnson and Copper Fox LLC's Moonwalk, and Sarah Mechlin in the irons aboard Mary Otto's Enterprize all also provided solid trips, consistently place-swapping in the third through fifth positions.
Another standout competitor for the day, Hillary Johnson, was a common sight in the side-by-side hunter rings. With 13 horses in the barns this week, and expecting 8 more to arrive in the following weeks, Johnson definitely keeps busy.
Riding her way to a score of 84, the Michigan-native and Copper Fox LLC's Sorrento produced the highest score of the all the entrants in the $1,000 Pre-Green Hunter Incentive.
"We will definitely be travelling to Kentucky next month for the Pre-Green Finals. We have a herd of Pre-Green horses, with three that will for sure be showing at the Finals," Johnson noted of her upcoming travels.
Johnson and Sorrento took the win above the second-place finisher Goguen and Clever, another of his Belhaven Stables LLC rides. It was a good day for Copper Fox LLC as another one of their contending horses finished in a top placing, with Voyager and Kendall Meijer clinching the third spot above the rest of the field.
Dismounting one horse only to climb aboard another, Johnson took the ride on Rolling Acres' Rogelio for the final classes of the Performance Working Hunters at the 3'6" height. The division proved to be a close race, with all the competitors vying for points and exchanging placings during their five opportunities to gain the favor of the judges. With each passing class, a different competitor topped the judges' cards, keeping the door open for anyone to break out of the pack and take the lead headed into the point tabulation. Ultimately, Rogelio came out on top.
"We love having such a quality horse show here in Michigan so close to home," Rogelio's rider reflected. "We have been coming here for many years. I'm glad to see that the transition from Horse Shows by the Bay to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival has been so smooth, and everyone has been so kind, accommodating, and welcoming here."
Reserve champion to the winning partners was Salim Radi's Jos Van Kouterhoeve with Geoffrey Hesslink in the irons. The pair accumulated enough points with today's fifth and third place finishes, combined with the prior day's second and third place positions, to claim the runner-up spot.