Genie Testing: What We Learned That You Need To Know

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In the five days starting October 19th, our in-parks testing team spent the equivalent of 15 park-days in the WDW parks testing out Genie+. They park-hopped, they rope dropped, they waited way too long in many lines, they live-streamed, and they answered hundreds (hundreds!) of questions. It wasn’t an easy week, and at times it was pretty miserable. But it was a lot of fun too! And we learned a lot. So today we’re going to share the most important things that we’ve learned. Not all of the details, because there will be plenty of FAQs popping up handling that. And not the steps of each of the tests that we’ve run. You can see some information about days one, two, three, and five in earlier articles on the blog. This post isn’t about any of that – it’s about the things that we learned that we think will be the most impactful and help you most in your decision-making about Genie, Genie+, and Individual Lightning Lane purchases.

Who cares if you log way too many hours in the parks in one week, as long as you get to experience sunset in Toy Story Land after spending over 3 hours in line throughout the day?

Pay-Your-Way Performs Nicely**

In our Genie+ vs TP head-to-head at Hollywood Studios on Saturday, we saw an excellent display of how to use Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Access (ILL) to complete a lot at Hollywood Studios very quickly. And it “only” cost $40 on top of park admission. $40 doesn’t seem like a lot – people can justify it as “worth it” to do everything in Hollywood Studios in less than 7 hours, even while having a slow start to the day.

But this performance comes with two asterisks that we haven’t covered thoroughly. The first is that in order for the pay-your-way strategy to pay off, it requires strategy and quite a bit of brain power. You have to know which return times to reserve first and second to make the most of your day, and what to scoop up as you go along. And then Genie doesn’t remind you when your return time windows open, so you have to plot out how to go about using everything and not forgetting everything. You still need information and knowledge about what to get, what to use, and what attractions or shows to do while you wait for your return times to open. We’re building up that knowledge base and will have more recommendations to make as we gather more data.

Genie+ and ILL for one day, or Topolino’s Terrace with its Mickey waffles and bacon dipped in chocolate? I know what I’m choosing.

The other is that the $40 per day is based on current costs, and it’s for a single person. Specifically at Hollywood Studios, the Rise of the Resistance ILL is selling out around 9 am every day. And this is in low crowd season. Disney could easily raise the price (significantly) on this single ride and make a lot more money while still probably selling it out every day. Supply and demand. Demand is huge, and Disney has room to move the needle. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did it. And then there is the matter of party size. I have a family of four. So I have to multiply those costs by four every time. If Disney bumps up the ILL for Rise to $25, that means a pay-your-way $50 day turns into a $200 day for my family (plus tax!!). I could do family breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace for that. We had a question about a party of 25 being able to make return times together. That’s a $1,250 day (on top of park tickets). We’ll be doing a fun chart of Genie+/ILL costs and party sizes with other Disney experiences of equivalent cost to help you think through the trade-offs.

Genie+ Usefulness at Each Park

It’s only been a week, and crowds have been pretty mild, but we’ve started to see some patterns that can help inform which parks might be more suited to Genie+ use than others.

At the bottom of the list is Animal Kingdom. Easily. By a long shot. I would personally never pay for Genie+ and Animal Kingdom, unless I was visiting on a Crowd Level 10 day. Which I wouldn’t do. I can definitely see a case for purchasing ILL for Flight of Passage in a variety of conditions. But the attractions on Genie+ that attract long waits under normal conditions are … Kilimanjaro Safaris and Na’vi River Journey. I’ll time my visits to those attractions carefully, and leisurely visit the rest of the park.

Animal Kingdom has so many things to do without a wait, that it’s an easy park to throw out of Genie+ consideration.

Next would be EPCOT. We already know that the strategy of which Genie+ return times to get and remembering when to use them is tricky. Multiply this by the long walking distances between attractions at EPCOT. You don’t want a 2 p.m. return for the Seas when your Remy boarding group gets called at 1:30. That’s a LONG walk, and potentially something that you can’t control. It can be helpful on higher-crowd-level days. But I’m personally still not balking and buying until something like a crowd level 7 or above.

Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are in their own tier. We’ve already demonstrated that you can save a significant amount of time in line at Hollywood Studios even on a crowd level 1 day by purchasing Genie+. But we also showed that it wasn’t totally necessary – we accomplished the same thing with strategy and a touring plan. And at Magic Kingdom, there are so many Genie+ attractions to choose from, that it might be worth it just for the variety. I probably wouldn’t purchase it for my family at Hollywood Studios until a crowd level of 4 or 5, and at Magic Kingdom a 5 or a 6.

Which Return Times to Book First

Let’s talk high-level 7 am strategy first. If you’re a resort guest, here’s what my priorities would be, assuming you’re trying to book every possible thing:

  1. Try to join the virtual queue for Remy (if applicable)
  2. Book your first Genie+ return time
  3. Book your first ILL
  4. Book your second ILL

That same strategy holds if you’re not a resort guest, but you won’t be eligible for step 3 until the park you’re visiting opens for the day.

What about some specific attractions?

  • Rise of the Resistance has sold out early almost every day. Most days it doesn’t last much longer than park opening (when off-site guests become eligible to purchase). If you want to purchase its ILL, you need to do it as soon as you’re eligible.
  • The two Genie+ attractions that go through return times the quickest are also at Hollywood Studios – Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon. Normally I recommend trying to grab earliest available return times so that you can churn through reservations more quickly, but both of these attractions have great time savings with Genie+. So if you want to ride them that day, make that your first priority for the day.
  • At Magic Kingdom, Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight are the two most popular Genie+ attractions, so they are good options to try to book first.

Genie Hacks

In our Genie tests at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, we got pretty frustrated with the “free Genie” day plans. They weren’t intuitive. But that meant that our team of clever humans figured out some tricks for forcing Genie to be slightly less awful.

  • Swaperoo!! Maybe this isn’t a hack, but keep in mind that you can try a swaperoo if there’s something that you don’t like. We recommend yelling “Swaperoo!” as loud as you can when you do this option. Genie will then attempt to give you some alternate options regarding how to spend that time in your plan.
  • Another trick is to not wait for the times that Genie tells you. This isn’t a great option, because it likely means that you’re going to start running really far ahead of plan. But in our experience, that hasn’t produced any really terrible results. It’s better than frittering away your time.
  • The biggest “hack” is step deletion. If you start running ahead and Genie doesn’t update your plan, or if you’re displeased with what your plan looks like, start deleting steps instead of doing a swaperoo. Once your “gap” in the schedule gets too big, Genie will fill it back in. This is unfortunate if there are steps that you want to do, but as of now, there’s no other way to force any sort of reoptimization or refresh.

Evaluating Genie Based On Its Claims

Back in August, when Genie was “officially” announced, there were a lot of lofty claims made about what it did. We’ve only gotten a few days of testing in, but we can start to make some initial evaluations of what it claimed and how it’s working in the real world. All quotes here can still be found on Disney’s Genie site as of October 25th.

  • “Our complimentary Disney Genie service creates your best Disney day inspired by your party’s top interests.”
    Well, it is complimentary. I’ll give them that. But the second half of the sentence is already straying. Inspired by your top interests? Our Magic Kingdom tester listed 12 top interests and got to accomplish 2 of them (and then a third when we did the mass delete hack). Our Hollywood Studios testers both got almost the exact same steps in their initial plans when they had different initial input. If there’s any inspiration happening, it’s probably given about a 5-10% weight in whatever algorithm they have making recommendations to you.
  • “It also grants you new planning features, including a personalized itinerary creator that seamlessly and smartly maps out your visit with updates that continue from morning to night.”
    Seamlessly and smartly maps … okay, if that means keeps you from walking a lot. Sure. It’s definitely doing some prioritizing based on location, at least in the Magic Kingdom. Actually, they seem to be weighting location more than interests. But the updates that continue from morning to night – I’m calling that bluff. Our Magic Kingdom tester’s plan updated once. When the attraction she was sent to was closed. Our Star Wars Hollywood Studio tester’s plan never updated all day.  Our blank-slate Hollywood Studios tester’s plan updated twice (just by swapping out one attraction for another) – once when at attraction went down, and once for no apparent reason. There is no continuous updating. There might be some discrete updating. But its minimal. [Note – on the site linked above, continuous updates are mentioned at least three times. This is probably the most misleading claim.]
  • “And, Disney Genie can even remind you when you’re eligible to make dining and activity reservations in advance.”
    I guess we haven’t tested that part. But it doesn’t remind you when your reservations are opening unless you physically pull up the itinerary and remind yourself. So maybe it’ll push notifications to get you to reserve opportunities to spend your money. But probably not much else.
  • “It even suggests a good time to go to an experience and an idea of the forecasted wait.”
    Well, it says things like “good time to go”, but that can be followed with information that tells you the wait time when it’s a “good time to go” is going to be high. In fact, we’ve found examples of it being a good time to go with a low wait and a high wait. Is that helpful? I don’t think so. I guess it’s a good time to go when Disney wants you to go, no matter what the wait is. And an idea of the forecasted wait? If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know that the forecasted wait is on an un-labelled graph, so you don’t know the actual wait, and you can’t compare it to any other attraction.
  • “You’ll also be able to virtually chat with a Cast Member who can help answer any questions that arise.”
    Wait times for chats with with Cast Members in the first few days after Genie’s release were in double-digit numbers of hours. And when responses came in, they were unhelpful. But they at least looked nice because the text was centered, like a poem. This might change in the future when there are less questions, but don’t depend on immediate virtual help. You’ll have to wait in line at a blue umbrella or Guest Relations.

Overall, there have been positives and negatives in our testing this week. Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Access can most certainly be useful (if expensive), but free Genie is going to be hard to defend. Did you experience either in the first week? Or do you have questions that you’d like us to answer? Let us know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: or instagram @raisingminniemes

32 thoughts on “Genie Testing: What We Learned That You Need To Know

  • October 25, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    Appreciate this summary, especially the “worth it/not worth it” evaluations by park and crowd level. We are a family of 5, and there are a lot of things I would rather do at Disney with $200+.

    Out of curiosity, what is your view on the idea that Disney made Genie confusing and ineffective ON PURPOSE, simply to push the inexperienced/overwhelmed guest into paying for Genie+/ILL?

    • October 25, 2021 at 9:17 pm

      Ha. Well that’s a loaded question. Does Disney want guests to give them more money? Well, yeah. They’re a business. Do I think they were like “hey, let’s make this such an awful user experience that people just pay because we confused them?” No. Disney has a pretty long history of not-great user experience with websites, apps, and tech stuff in general. So this is more par for the course than anything else.

  • October 25, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    We’ve done 2 days with Genie+ at MK and DHS, and I’ve liked it a lot. Some things that make it particularly good for our group:

    * Two adults plus a 2-year-old means we’re only paying $30 plus tax per day.
    * We’re not rope-droppers. So for our MK day, when we got there at 9:30, it was great to have a Peter Pan LL lined up for 11:50. We walked on Small World, Little Mermaid, Dumbo, and Barnstormer, and then were able to make a 11:30 LL for Winnie the Pooh. Later we got a 12:50 LL for Tomorrowland Speedway and a 1:20 LL for Buzz Lightyear. If we didn’t have to leave so the 2-year-old could nap, there were plenty of LLs left to get through the other big MK attractions.
    * At DHS, only one of us does thrill rides. It’s a crowd level 7 day, so it’s hard to get instant LLs. And the 2-year-old got crabby, so he had to leave mid-day with Mom. But the strategy I walked into is working really well, despite losing almost the entire morning:
    – Make LLs for Slinky Dog (4 PM) and ROR (6:20) right away.
    – Rope Drop Runaway Railway
    – Make LL for Smuggler’s Run at 11 AM (got 5:05)
    – Watch 1:00 Beauty and the Beast
    – Make LL for Tower of Terror at 1 PM (got 1:40)
    – Ride ToT, make LL as soon as I got off (got Toy Story Mania at 3:50)
    – Watch 2:30 Frozen

    And now I’ve got Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog, Smuggler’s Run, and ROR all lined up around a 5:15 Oga’s reservation, and I can walk on Star Tours and Muppetvision whenever I want. And if I wanted, I could grab an RnRC LL to hit that later. I could never have done that with older FP versions.

    • October 25, 2021 at 9:20 pm

      Love this example, Brian! And I’m very glad it’s working out for you. (Boy do I feel the 2-year-old crabbiness).
      I will point out that while we predicted a CL 7 for DHS today, it’s pretty clear it won’t end up being that high. Return times are certainly booking out so that they aren’t available instantly at that park, even on CL 1 days. It will be interesting to see how quickly things book up/out when “real” crowds descend like on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

      • October 26, 2021 at 8:16 pm

        I asked a similar question on today’s post so I apologize for the redundancy, but this post offers a good example for my question. Disney’s website states, “Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection (or the arrival window has passed), you can use the app to check your My Day itinerary or Tip Board to see when you’re eligible to make another selection. You can make selections all day up to regular park closing.” But as I read through people’s examples, it seems like people are making LL selections every 2 hours, regardless of whether they have used their LL selection yet or not. Is that right? I must be misreading Disney’s intent. If I purchase LL right away in the morning (not sure timing wise when I am allowed to do that), can I then make LL selections every 2 hours? Plan to be able to use it 3 or 4 times in a day? Obviously ILL are separate. Just trying to navigate the new system. On a separate note, I, too, live in St. Louis with my two daughters and am loving all the analytical analysis you are doing on this! Thanks for your work.

      • October 26, 2021 at 10:39 pm

        Oooh, glad to hear from another St. Louisan Samantha!
        You’ll be able to make your first Genie+ reservation at 7 am, regardless of where you’re staying. Everyone that’s going to be in the park that day can get their first one at 7am. Then the timing diverges.
        You can get your second one either: a) when you tap into your first one, or b) 120 minutes after the park has opened.
        So let’s say that you’re going to Magic Kingdom, which opens at 9. If at 7 am, you grab a Buzz Lightyear 9:35-10:35 return time, you’ll be eligible to make your second Genie+ reservation as soon as you tap in. But, if at 7 am, you made a Peter Pan’s Flight 11:40-12:40 return time, you’d be eligible to make your second Genie+ reservation at 11 am (120 minutes after the park opened, but before you tapped in).
        I think the reason you see a lot of two hours apart is that people are grabbing later return times and “stacking” them up. So they’re not using them quickly and becoming eligible for more.

  • October 25, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for this summary. Very helpful. What I’m getting from your research so far is that while it sounds like there are various ways Genie+ and ILL can be useful, one thing seems clear: Genie is worthless. At least in it’s current iteration. Indeed, it seems a first time visitor would be better served following a park map than following Genie. At least that way they might get to the attractions they actually want to experience.

    • October 25, 2021 at 6:18 pm

      Great review!! We typically have 2 days in each park. Do you see any need for purchasing Genie + under that scenario? I’m thinking maybe one of the Studios days? We’re going in mid December so missing Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks. Thanks!

      • October 25, 2021 at 9:23 pm

        If you have 2 days in each park and you’re going in what is hopefully a mid-December lull, I’m not sure that you’ll need Genie+ at all. Well, I know you won’t _need_ it. But you could make use of it. I’d prioritize one day at HS over anything else.

    • October 25, 2021 at 9:21 pm

      Drop that mic, DCJP. I wish I had written those last two sentences.

      • October 25, 2021 at 9:44 pm

        Thanks, Becky!! And I will be using my Touring Plans over Genie!

  • October 25, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    I was following TP’s Instagram all week last week. It was almost weird when there was nothing posted on Sunday when you all took a much needed day off!

    I hope to see more tests soon, especially tests for those who stay offsite and whether we will need Genie+ and ILL to get through the attractions that are suggested by the Unofficial Guide in each park.

  • October 25, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Ill just stick with using my touring plans and app, ot does the same thing, and better value!

  • October 25, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    I love the G+ vs TP analysis you guys have done so far. As a family of four going during a *hopefully* low week next April, I’m consuming all the data you guys present. We have 7 days and are rope droppers who take afternoon breaks for the kids. Initial thoughts are that we can make everything work with just a good TP, with perhaps maybe an ILL purchased here and there for our very favorites and maybe one G+ day at the Studios

  • October 25, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    We’re a family of four that tries to only visit the week after Labor Day to take advantage of rock-bottom crowds. But your “maybe an ILL here and there and a G+ day at Studios” sounds really close to what my strategy would be if I was going to purchase anything.

  • October 26, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Hi Becky! This is such a great article. I am trying to decide if G+ is worth it for me. Will be there Friday, Dec 3rd which is forecasted to be a 3, BUT both my mom and I both have friends who are also planning to be there the same day by coincidence. That makes me nervous for crowd levels.

    My mom I believe will qualify for DAS, and we only have 3 adults and a toddler in our party. We will be staying off property, so to not even get to start booking until park opening also makes me nervous.

    What are your thoughts? Should I plan to purchase, or just go the TP & DAS route and hope for the best?

    • October 26, 2021 at 2:26 pm

      Hopefully that coincidence is just a coincidence 🙂
      I would say that if you qualify for DAS, it is a much more flexible system than Genie. And you’ll be able to use both if you decide that it’s necessary. DAS selections don’t have end times on their returns, and you can get them for rides over and over (unlike Genie’s closed return window and one-time-use-only policy). I’d probably suggest sticking with just DAS as long as you qualify. But keep an eye on crowd levels, and if they start edging upward as you get close to your travel date, then you can reconsider.

  • October 26, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for all the excellent analysis! We are planning going to HS and MK on 11/25 and 11/26 (yikes, I know). Do you anticipate that customizable touring plans will have G+ and ILL incorporated by that time? I’m sure you’re getting that question a lot, so I apologize if you’ve answered this several times in other places!

  • October 26, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Has anyone tested if you are blocking lightning lanes at a park you are hopping to does the 120 min booking rule apply to the open of the park you have reserved or the one you booked the lightning lane at? For instance an Epcot morning I book slinky at 7am for the afternoon can I book my next at 11am since hs opens at 9am or do I have to wait til 1pm since Epcot doesn’t open til 11am

    • October 26, 2021 at 10:41 pm

      It _should_ work based on the park you are in that morning. So if you are in EPCOT (have that as your park pass) as your first park, but book Slinky at 7 am, you should become eligible to book another until 2 hours after EPCOT opens.

  • October 26, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks for all the data! I admit I am not up to speed and am trying to wrap my head around this! On Disney’s website it states, “Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection (or the arrival window has passed), you can use the app to check your My Day itinerary or Tip Board to see when you’re eligible to make another selection. You can make selections all day up to regular park closing.” I am having trouble discerning what this means. It seems from examples that people are able to make several LL reservations even before they utilize their first LL reservation. I understand ILL is different, but if I log on the app and the first LL spot I can get is at 3:00 pm, Disney’s verbiage makes it seem like I won’t be able to select another LL until I complete my 3:00 one. Is that right? How many LL selections do people seem to be able to use in a day?

  • October 27, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Haha Genie is poorly designed, are you surprised? I mean these are same app devs that can’t get mobile ordering working most of the time, something most fast food companies figured out long ago. And MDE is a terrible app for trying to find anything you are actually looking for aside from park maps. Not to mention you have to overcome the poor wifi at the parks.

  • October 27, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you so much for all this analysis. Trying to navigate this system and you have been so helpful! As I try to plan for my family trip to Disney and anticipate using Genie+ based on predicted CLs, wanted to figure out how to do it on the day we are flying in.

    Again, understand I can make Genie+ selections on the day I have a park ticket and park reservation, regardless of where I am (including the plane). So if I plan my day as follows (obviously all different attractions):
    • 7am reservation for 7pm return time
    • 11am reservation (2 hours after park opening) for 3:30pm return time
    • 1pm reservation for 4pm return time
    • 3pm reservation for 4:30pm return time
    My question is when does it count that I have tapped into a reservation and now can make a new Genie+ reservation because I tapped in? Is it not until after my first reservation at 7am, so must wait until 7pm tap in? Or every time I tap in, I can now schedule a new reservation? For example, after the 3:30pm tap in, can I add a new reservation?

    Hope this makes sense and appreciate all your help!

    • October 27, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      It does make sense – which is disappointing, because it means I’ve been living in this Genie world way too long. There’s no way any of this makes sense to a normal human being. Ha!

      Based on our in-park testing, any time that you tap into a G+ reservation, it releases another one for you. So if you stack yours up all for the afternoon/evening like you listed above, you should be eligible to make another return time any time you tap into any of the four that stacked up before entering the park.

      • October 27, 2021 at 2:22 pm

        Thanks so much for confirming. I see the good and bad with this system. To your point, if you live in the world of phenomenal cosmic power, you can certainly harness it to your benefit. But if you don’t understand it, can get frustrating real quick.

        And based on everything I have read on TP’s blogs (thank you again), follow TP’s through the park, not Genie’s reco’s, but use the Tip Board to your benefit based on those plans.

        Basically, Tip Board = different version of Fast Pass that takes a little more to master and My Day = waste of storage space on my phone. . . .

  • October 27, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    One other question I remembered, does the app store return times booked or do I need to put them in my own calendar or, heaven for-bid, write them down with a pen and paper? Understand it does not prompt you that your return time is coming up or is here, but can I at least look at the app to remind myself?

    • October 27, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      Yes, you can always look at the “My Day” screen in the app and see everything you have reserved.

  • October 27, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    Hey Becky, here’s a weird one that I don’t think you’ve tested. The “stack and hop” approach (accumulate G+LL slots at Park 2 while touring Park 1, then hop to Park 2 and use those G+LLs) is already established. But what if I want to skip Park 1 entirely?

    Hypothetical Genie+ scenario:
    -I want to spend the afternoon in Magic Kingdom, but don’t want to visit a park in the morning.
    -I make an APR at Animal Kingdom.
    -At 7am, I book a Genie+ slot for MK (which defaults to 2pm or later, because it’s not my reserved park).
    -I accumulate a couple more MK LL slots during the morning, as the 120-minute-rule allows.
    -Around 1pm I cancel my AK APR and make an MK one instead.
    -I go straight to MK and start using my LLs.

    Would this work? Once the system flags you as a hopper and starts assigning you 2pm-and-later LL slots, does it then block you from modifying your APR for that day?

    We know this APR trickery works with the virtual queue (you can reserve Epcot, grab a Remy BG at 7am, switch your APR to a different park, and then hop to Epcot and use your BG in afternoon/evening), so would the same sort of thing work with G+LLs?

    • October 27, 2021 at 9:04 pm

      Interesting. I had definitely thought through the stacking strategy by having AK as the first park to start the 120 minute counter as early as possible. I hadn’t thought about flipping the park reservation.

      • October 27, 2021 at 11:57 pm

        Wouldn’t it cancel out your LL reservations if you no longer have a park reservation? Don’t you have to cancel your park reservation first before you flip it? So while you have a valid ticket, you no longer have a park reservation and, in theory, your LL reservations would be predicated on having that park reservation? Curious if you guys could test this? Definitely interesting…

    • November 9, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      I thought I read somewhere recently that at this time, you have to check in to your initial park reservation? I’m not sure where I read that, but we go in a couple more weeks and I’ve been reading a ton lately!

  • December 26, 2021 at 8:43 am

    Thanks for your article. We have used Touring Plans at Disney World and Universal and have been really happy with the data. It’s fun to compare the wait times on the TP app with what is posted in the parks.

    The Genie Plus is throwing us for a loop. We are bringing our family of 6 for one day at MK following the Marathon in January. Can we do just as well without Genie Plus if we use TP? My kids will want to ride as many rides as possible and will be able to rope drop.

    Thank you!


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