Saugerties, NY – Nayel Nassar beat a field of 39 top horses and riders to take the win in the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson on Sunday. The win earned the Egyptian rider a $350,000 check.
“I can’t believe it. This is surreal. This is the biggest class he’s ever done,” said Nassar of the horse he has owned for three years.
Nassar and his nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lordan traveled from California, where Nassar is a senior at Stanford University, in order to participate in the $1 Million Grand Prix. Nassar admitted that he’s not been in school since March because he’s been busy competing. He has already qualified for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France as an individual since Egypt doesn’t have a team. He’ll soon be returning to school to finish his last quarter and earn his degree in economics and then Nassar said he’ll continue on with his career as a professional rider.
Coming in second was Todd Minikus, of Loxahatchee, Florida, who managed a clear first round with Quality Girl despite the fact that the mare lost a front show early in the round. “It was a miracle,” Minikus said. “It says something about the quality of the footing here that she could jump the course without a shoe.” Unfortunately, the mare lost a lot of foot with the shoe and while Minikus said he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse he did say that Quality Girl didn’t seem very comfortable in the jump-off round. “But that’s sport. That’s how it goes.”
Only three riders went clear in the first round – Nassar, Minikus and New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley, who competed with Derly Chin De Muze. Unfortunately, Wordley had a time fault that kept him out of the jump-off but it did give him a third-place finish. He was third in the order of go and had hoped that the 83 second time allowed for the first round would be adjusted upward and get him in the jump-off. “But I understand why it wasn’t. Still, if I had gone five horses later I would have stepped it up a bit.” For his third-place finish Wordley earned $125,000 “and I’m happy with that,” he said.
Course designer Olaf Petersen, of Germany, said the time allowed of only 83 seconds was part of the course challenge. “It puts added pressure on the riders.” Despite the fact that only three riders went clear, he was pleased with how the course rode. Minikus called the course well- balanced saying it was clear there were no isolated problem areas. And Nassar called it a course that required riders “to think through out it.
Finishing fourth was Margie Engle of Wellington, Florida with Royce and fifth place went to Hugh Graham with Distant Star 3E.