Mill Spring, NC - USA's Meagan Nusz (27) landed the biggest win of her career Saturday night competing at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). The young rider guided her ten-year-old KWPN gelding, SRI Aladdin (Quasimodo Z x Burggraaf), to victory in a three-horse jump-off in the $127,000 August I Grand Prix CSI 3*, held under the lights of George H. Morris Stadium. Jonathan McCrea (USA) and Aristoteles V finished second, and Mark Bluman (COL) and Uitteraard placed third. The competition was the highlight event of TIEC's August I Horse Show, which hosted three FEI world ranking classes, and concluded Sunday, August 9.
A total of 27 entries competed over Saturday night's grand prix, which was set by Florencio Hernandez, with just three advancing to the jump-off. Five others were clear over the fences, but incurred faults on the clock in the tight time allowed.
Heading into the jump-off, Bluman was first to go, but was ultimately eliminated after going off course with Uitteraard, owned by Stransky's Mission Farms, Inc. Next to go, Nusz and Amalaya Investment's SRI Aladdin cleared the track in 48.42 seconds. McCrea and Candy Tribble's Aristoteles V followed with the final round, clear in 49.02 seconds.
Not only was Saturday's win Nusz's biggest, it was a special feat for the rider, who was competing without the help of longtime trainer, Kent Farrington. Farrington was at the Dublin Horse Show in Ireland, and rode to his own grand prix victory on Sunday.
"It was really something quite special for me, especially because Kent wasn't here and I had to do it all on my own," Nusz admitted. "He was of course on the phone with me and helping through the whole thing. I also had some good friends that were coaching me, like Candice King and Jon McCrea and my team. To do it by yourself is quite an accomplishment, so I was really excited for the opportunity to try it and to succeed."
Nusz purchased SRI Aladdin at the end of the 2014 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) when the horse was nine years old. The gelding had only jumped a few 1.50m classes at the time, and Nusz and Farrington spent the last year slowly bringing him up to the grand prix level.
"He was a bit unrideable when I first got him, so Kent and I worked with him for an entire year and just kept him at the lower levels," Nusz explained. "I brought him out this winter at WEF and jumped a few classes on him. The more broke he got, I kept saying, 'I really felt like this horse has a really big win in him. I don't know when it is going to be, but I feel it.' He jumped his first 1.60m at Spruce Meadows this summer and he was unbelievable there. I think out of the six weeks, he had four or five rails down, which were all my fault. Then I brought him here and he just answered all of the questions for me. He is a tremendous partner and I am really happy to have him."
Nusz commented on the night's track, noting, "The course wasn't huge, but it was quite careful. Right off the bat, we had a short turn right into a double vertical combination, which I thought would get a lot more horses than it did. Then you had to open up your stride a bit to get down the next few lines. I think the trickiest part was at the skinny. We had to come off of a combination. It was a right rollback, right to the skinny jump, which a lot of horses just didn't jump well. Then it was a sharp 90-degree turn to the in-and-out after that. For the rollback to the skinny, you really wanted to take your time, but the time allowed was so short that a lot of people got caught up in that area."
Detailing the jump-off, Nusz stated, "Marky Bluman went before me and he put down a hammer round. I was really nervous, but then he unfortunately went off course. He forgot to roll back to the skinny and went straight to the double, which was really unfortunate for him because he was super fast. That kind of made me take a deep breath, but I knew that I still had Jon McCrea behind me, who is always a fast rider. You can never count him out."
"I talked to Candice a bit and she told me just to stick to my plan," Nusz continued. "My horse is naturally fast. He has a huge stride and before I went into the ring my barn manager, Erin Everett, told me just to remember my steps. Marky was leaving out strides everywhere and trying to put up a challenge for us. I just stuck to my plan, and used my horse's stride, and it worked out for me luckily."
Nusz made a special trip to Tryon this week just to check out TIEC for the very first time and looks forward to returning after a fantastic experience. "We loved the horse show. We had a blast," she smiled. "The cabins are amazing, it is great for the horses and the venue is just unbelievable. They have all the venders and restaurants, they have a gym, and everything is just right here, which is super nice. Next year I am hoping to come back for at least two or three weeks. We really enjoyed it."
Nusz competes next at the Kentucky Horse Park for two weeks before heading to the Hampton Classic at the end of the month and then the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' Tournament in September. Then she is off to compete on the West Coast for the fall with stops in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Del Mar.
For more information and a full list of results please visit www.tryon.com.
Final Results: $127,000 Tryon August I Grand Prix CSI 3*
1. SRI ALADDIN: 2005 KWPN gelding by Quasimodo Z x Burggraaf MEAGAN NUSZ (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/0/48.429
2. ARISTOTELES V: 2005 KWPN gelding by Padinus x Lux JONATHAN MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/0/49.026
3. UITTERAARD: 2001 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Burggraaf MARK BLUMAN (COL), Stranksy's Mission Farms, Inc: 0/Elim.
4. WANNICK WH: 2003 KWPN stallion by Heartbreaker x Joost CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 1/76.05
5. BULL RUN'S ETERNAL: 2003 BWP gelding by Toulon x Mellinor KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers One LLC: 1/76.75
6. FINOU 4: 2006 Hanoverian gelding by For Pleasure x Concetto AARON VALE (USA), Thinks Like a Horse: 1/77.23
7. BULL RUN'S TESTIFY: 2004 Selle Francais gelding by Dollar du Murier x Oberon du Moulin KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers, Inc: 1/77.80
8. WIN FOR LIFE: 2006 Zangersheide gelding by Winningmood v/d Arenberg x Chatman CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 1/79.10
9. CASPER: 2006 Oldenburg gelding by Falubet x Baloubet Du Rouet SHARN WORDLEY (NZL), Sky Group: 4/72.59
10. VENUS: 2002 KWPN mare by Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Julius ANGEL KAROLYI (VEN), Raylyn Farms, Inc: 4/73.41
11. BONJOVI: 2006 KWPN gelding by Verdi x Corland EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN), Emanuel Andrade: 4/74.64
12. VALINSKI S: 2002 KWPN gelding by Nikinski x Julius CANDICE KING (USA), Wyndmont, Inc: 4/75.58