Nayel Nassar of Egypt treated the crowd to a fabulous finish in the $400,000 Longines Grand Prix of New York, the grand finale of the Longines Masters of New York on Sunday, April 28, at NYCB LIVE.
German course designing mastermind, Frank Rothenberger, created a difficult test for the 29 horse and rider combinations brave enough to accept the challenge, knowing 12 of them would be lucky enough to move on to the second round. Six riders representing six different nations managed to jump clear over the tough track and were joined by the six riders who had posted the fastest four-fault rounds for an all-deciding final.
Going in reverse order of standing and carrying faults forward from the first round, the tension mounted as the double clear performances began to present themselves. Captain Brian Cournane of Ireland was the first to jump double clear with Dino but his conservative time of 45.88 seconds left the door wide open for the riders who followed. Israel’s Daniel Bluman received a huge cheer from the crowd when he jumped clear in a time of 41.95 seconds with Landriano Z, putting him in fourth in the final standings.
Olivier Philippaerts, 25, of Belgium was one second faster in 40.93 seconds riding H&M Cue Channa 42 and looked unbeatable but, as the saying goes, it’s not over until it’s over.
Dutch show jumping sensation Harrie Smolders, currently ranked number four in the world, did the seemingly impossible by leaving all the rails in place and racing home in a time of 39.46 seconds to move to the top of the leaderboard riding Une de l’Othain, an 11-year-old Selle Francais mare owned by his student, Jennifer Gates, and her Evergate Stables LLC.
But there was one challenger still to come and there was no doubt about his ability to be fast. Nassar and Lucifer V had claimed Friday’s highlight event, the Longines Speed Challenge, and were hungry to taste victory again.
In a breathtaking performance, Nassar’s partnership with the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding, also owned by Evergate Stables LLC, was on full display as they cleared hurdle after hurdle with the greatest of ease, and in a deceptively fast time. When they galloped home through the timers in 38.59 seconds, the crowd erupted. New York had its winner!
“He’s such a trier and an athletic horse; he’s faster than anything I’ve ever ridden before with a natural ability to leave the jumps up,” said Nassar, 28, of Lucifer V. “He really jumps with his heart and it’s an incredible partnership to have a horse like that. He loves to go fast! You know you have a chance to win every time you come out. It’s an incredible feeling and I’m grateful to have him.”
Not only was Nassar the first rider to ever win both the Longines Speed Challenge and the Longines Grand Prix at the same event, he was the first to do it with the same horse.
“It’s unexpected, really!” said Nassar when asked what it was like to write Longines Masters history. “It means the world. Thank you, Christophe [Ameeuw], for providing us with this platform. We can’t showcase what we do without a platform to do it on and I’m really grateful. I’ve always loved these shows and hopefully I can keep making it a target of mine.”
Runner-up Smolders didn’t think there was anything else he could have done differently to beat Nassar.
“With my horse, this is one of her first five-star shows and she is just starting to understand the game and what it’s all about,” said Smolders, 38. “It’s an incredibly successful day for Evergate Stables. A first and second place finish in a grand prix doesn’t happen very often!”
“Here in New York, a star is born!” said Ameeuw, the creative maestro behind the Longines Masters Series. “When you have the winner of the very famous Longines Speed Challenge on Friday and today you win this Longines Masters Grand Prix here in New York, a star is born. Thank you so much Nayal, you did an amazing job.
“Thank you so much to our sponsors because without sponsors it’s impossible to do this. Impossible! Thank you to Longines, and all of the sponsors who partner with us,” continued Ameeuw.
As the curtain comes down on yet another fabulous edition of the Longines Masters of New York we look forward to the next event, the inaugural Longines Masters of Lausanne, to be held from June 21-23, 2019. The Swiss stop will mark the first outdoor event included in the Longines Masters Series and it is especially fitting that it will be held in the Olympic capital of the world as well as the home country of Longines.
“Lausanne is a fantastic opportunity,” said Ameeuw. “Lausanne is the Olympic capital and Lausanne is the headquarters of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). When we speak about Paris, Hong Kong, New York, and now on the way to Lausanne it’s a very, very important step for us. Longines is again the title sponsor and we are so thankful to add Lausanne to the Longines Masters Series.”
Fear not, New York! After Lausanne, Paris and Hong Kong, the Longines Masters Series will return to New York from April 23-26, 2020.