February 5, 2017 -- She taught him well.
U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Laura Kraut, who trained Egypt’s Nayel Nassar five years ago, was unable to get the best of her former student this afternoon as he set an unbeatable time in a 10-horse jump-off to win the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington on the intrepid Lordan.
Although she had the advantage of watching Nayel’s ride before she mounted Zeremonie to compete in the tiebreaker at the CP Palm Beach Masters presented by SOVARO®, Laura was unable to match his mark of 38.15 seconds on her marvelous mare and had to settle for the runner-up spot with a 39.92-second clocking.
“I really tried,” said Laura, who nonetheless has collected enough points to be a comfy second behind Kent Farrington in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League’s East Coast sub-league. “I knew he was going to be the one to try to beat,” she said of Nayel.
Watching the partnership between him and his horse, it was easy to see why Laura knew he was a threat. He made great turns and laid on the speed, getting an instant response from his horse.
“It doesn’t get much better than this. I didn’t expect it—it’s his first show of the year,” said Nayel, a 26-year-old California-based professional horseman who majored in economics at Stanford University.
Lordan, a Hanoverian stallion, has been his partner since 2011. “He’s such an incredible trier and I know him like the back of my hand,” continued Nasser.
He had seen how Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya took Arrayan over the jump-off route before it was his turn on the turf, and that 39.95-second performance, which turned out to be good enough for third, showed Nayel the way.
“I kind of knew what I had to do,” said Nayel, who relied on Lordan to perform at his best.
“I just let him rip and he answered the questions.”
Nayel already topped the rankings in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League’s West Coast sub-league, but decided to come East because he had heard so much about the Masters and had the right horses for a trip to Florida.
“The reviews are definitely accurate. This is a fantastic event. I really wanted to be here, and especially winning this class is extra special to me,” said Nayel.
After Nayel had the Longines watch, which he got as a prize, sized to fit his wrist, he and I talked about his incredible horse, whom he tried in Hungary in 2011. Lordan is a little bit quirky (apparently someone else bought him first and then returned him) but he’s a perfect fit with Nayel.
Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch the video of what Nayel had to say about his horse.
I also had a chance to speak with Sergio, whose mount is a son of three-time Cup final winner Baloubet du Rouet, ridden to the title by Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Sergio is not a familiar face in Florida, so I asked about his experience here. Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch the video of our conversation.
The day was perfect weatherwise, but despite sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s, things were a bit cloudy for some of the big stars. Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum took a hard fall when her Comanche fell through the back rail of the final fence in the first round. She was conscious, but an ambulance took her from the show to Wellington Regional Medical Center to be checked out.
Canada’s 10-time Olympian Ian Millar, who had the best clocking in Friday’s 97-horse qualifying competition for today’s feature, didn’t make the jump-off with Dixson. Yet he did have the satisfaction of watching his daughter, Amy, in the jump-off with her Olympic mount, Heros, who sadly pulled a rail at the last obstacle to finish eighth.
U.S. Olympians Beezie Madden (Breitling LS), Margie Goldstein-Engle (Royce) and Lauren Hough (Ohlala) were among those in the field of 40 who didn’t make the jump-off, along with British Olympian Ben Maher (Tic Tac).
But for rising star Heather Caristo Williams, a single time penalty that kept her out of the tiebreaker wasn’t a huge disappointment, since her Evening Star cleared all the fences and she placed a respectable 11th. Her father, Ralph, who owns the horse with Heather, and her mother, Holly, both were excited to see her leave all the rails in place as they jumped every fence with her from their chairs under a tree on the sidelines.
Heather talked with me about how nice it is to have her parents cheering for her. Click on the right-pointing arrow to see the video.
Alan Wade, who designed the course, will also be doing the routes in Omaha. The Irishman is highly regarded for his craft, and I am not alone in admiring the subtlety of the floor plans he produces at a myriad of shows.
Listen to this soundbyte by clicking on the right-pointing arrow so you can hear what he had to say about today’s sport.
The Masters is quite a different experience from most of the top shows these days, which often run from early morning until late at night with a multitude of rings and a variety of disciplines. Held on the Jacobs family’s 300-acre private estate, the Masters offers just an all-weather ring in addition to the grass arena where the qualifier was staged.
The stands were full of enthusiastic spectators, who wandered through the intriguing boutiques during the breaks from competition.
The hospitality is outstanding. The two-story Taylor Harris Club VIP area, which was expanded this year, is decorated with horse paintings and photos. Raw bars offer an array of shrimp, clams, lobster and stone crab claws, while cheeses and cold cuts, stir fry and sushi, were among the culinary bounty offered. The latter was prepared by a kitchen celebrity, Iron chef Masaharu Morimoto, who greeted guests as he deftly prepared the seafood.
Jumping and great food, what could be a better combination? This has been a competition to remember from all aspects.
But now it’s time for me to move on. Be sure to look for my postcards next week on more equestrian action from Florida.