Together with the prodigious Gina Schumacher, he is the only European rider – and this year there have been many who have tried – to have gained from scratch, in the first and only qualification leg of the year, access to what we all consider the show of the century. And not only because of the huge prize money, but above all because no other reining event in world can reach the same notoriety and visibility and take advantage of organisers closely linked to show biz and in particular to Paramount. People who know very well how to turn the sport into a real show.
Gennaro took part in the qualifier, which was played on the go-round open of the Cactus Reining Classic Derby at the end of March in Scottsdale, with three horses: One Mr JJ, Gee Whiz What A Blu and Vintage Vinny. The latter (owned by Marc and Kathy Gordon) was placed in the top ten thanks to a giant score of 228, the fourth in the entire show that saw 103 starters and an impressive bubble score of 226.5. It was a trend never seen before in this qualification, which raised the bar for The Run so high before it had even begun. Not to mention that in this particular occasion, and differently from the Nrha rules, The Run’s manager Amanda Brumley had ordered doping tests for all qualifying pairs scoring above 223.
Vintage Vinny is the only one of the three horses shown in the prestigious qualifier that did not follow Gennaro on his ocean crossing. Instead, he is among those he found on his arrival at what has been his new home since January, the Gordon Quarter Horses in Arizona. And certainly the time to get together was not long… «He was bred by Marc Gordon and is the son of one of his top mares, Custom Barbie, and A Sparkling Vintage. Despite being seven years old, he had only done two shows in his life so far: the High Roller Reining Classic Futurity in 2019 with Yonathan Baruch (placing in the Top Ten), and the Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity with Jason Vanlandingham where he was 22nd with 219.5. Then he got injured and was never shown again, which is probably one of the reasons for his current ‘freshness’. It’s true that I haven’t had much time to get together with him, but he is extraordinary clever, is always available and doesn’t need many hours of training at all. You get him ready with little work…».
Gennaro, two out of three in your string of horses for this qualification came from Europe with you. They are One Mr JJ, a horse belonging to Andrea Castrucci with whom you won the Derby in Italy last year with a whopping 230.5, and Eyal Carmon’s Gee Whiz What A Blu (fourth at the Italian Futurity 4YO, score 225)… Have they settled in well after the change of life and home, or do they still need to ‘tune up’ a bit?
«Gee Whiz What A Blu in Scottsdale was in perfect condition because he arrived on the first trip we made from Italy. He scored 224.5 in a seven-manoeuvre pattern, so I think he has really got the idea and this is one of his best performances so far. Talking about One Mr JJ on the other hand, I knew I had already qualified for The Run (I attended the first competition aboard Vintage Vinny and, as you know, the qualification is about the rider and not the pair) so I decided to give him a rest as he arrived later and was not yet at the top of his condition».
Will they be the horses you will be showing at The Run?
«The great thing about The Run For A Million is that you can declare your horse at the very last. And I will clearly take advantage of that. The three of them are definitely the ones who currently have the age and maturity to compete in a show like this. But we have also recently opened up to the arrival of horses from other owners, and we’ll see when the time comes what I’ll have ‘next to me’».
In Italy it is a tradition to make an assess of the first hundred days of any new government. You say that from the start you can tell a lot about the rest of the term. If it will be successful or not… How do you feel about your first hundred American days?
«The risk I had taken by leaving Italy and everything I had built there was very high, and clearly this weighed a bit on the enthusiasm with which I am tackling this new adventure. But the result of this qualification has given me an incredible boost. It is the prove that if you work well and hard, results come. No matter where you are. I will try to continue at this pace, working with my head down and keeping the maximum concentration. And yes, my first 100 days in the Us give me a great feeling….».