Thermal, CA: As the crowd gathered to watch the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal on Saturday, February 13, an impressive lineup of horses and riders from around the globe gathered to jump for the final West Coast qualifying opportunity and a $100,000 prize purse.
As the last qualifying opportunity on the West Coast, riders were hungry for the opportunity to qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 23-28, but only one could claim the title, and go home with the victory.
German course designer Martin Otto set a course that created excitement for spectators in the stands and challenged the skill of each horse and riders, which would ultimately separate three riders from the field for the jump-off Tenth to go was France’s Eric Navet and Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby, testing the course of 16 jumping efforts—Navet and the powerful bay gelding took their time on the course as they navigated the track fence-by-fence in a precise, clear first-round.
Olympian and World Cup Finals champion Rich Fellers, and Flexible, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman followed Navet. They moved quickly through the course as eager fans cheered in anticipation for a jump-off. An unfortunate rail at a mid-course combination put a delay on the hope for a jump-off.
The crowd did not have to wait long, as U.S. rider Jamie Barge and Luebbo, owned by Kylie Co., entered the ring. They jumped clear to ensure a second-round show down. The last clear trip in the first round belonged to Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, winner of the HITS Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix, aboard his own Lordan, sealing three for the jump-off.
Navet and Catypso returned to the ring first in the order for for the jump-off to contend for the win. They had an unfortunate rail at the third fence of the shortened course, a wide oxer, to cross the timers in 51.13 seconds with four jumping faults. Barge knew a clean round would take the lead, and with a slow and carful trip, She did just that. The trek home to the final vertical excited the stands, and Barge and Luebbo crossed the timers in a fault free 49.64 to take the lead.
The victory was yet to be determined and Nassar had to produce a fast, clear round to garner the win and take home the glory. He flew through the course, as the deceivingly fast, yet careful, Lordan negotiated each fence. Staying true to his plan, Nassar took the inside turn to the second-to-last fence to shave time off the clock, clocking in a full second faster than Barge at 48.19, and the title was theirs.
“I took the inside to turn to the oxer by the gate; I didn’t get the chance to see Jamie go but people at the gate told me she was very efficient, so I knew I had to catch up to her there,” said Nassar.
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