Las Vegas, NV - In a competitive class of forty entries, Nayel Nassar and Acita clinched the win in Saturday afternoon's $35,000 FEI 1.45m Winning Round. With Nassar's guidance, the eight-year-old Holsteiner mare performed like a pro in the twelve horse jump-off.
Set at a solid 1.45m, Olaf Petersen, Jr.'s course featured 16 jumping efforts and related distances, forcing riders to be present throughout, as one mistake could cause a series of jumps to go awry. With 25% of the class to return under FEI rules, at least ten would come back with a clean slate, in reverse order of the slowest round one time to the fastest. More than half the class had four faults or less in the first round, twelve horse and rider combinations rode fault-free and twelve had just one rail. Those clean returned for the winning round.
"It's a very difficult technical track. Our track yesterday had much more free space to gallop," explained Petersen. "A liverpool with the white poles (fence 9) is always a little complicated but it's towards the in-gate, so it's not so bad. Then fence number 10, coming very fast after that, is a big test for riders and horses. The experienced riders will have no trouble with that, but the not-so-experienced ones have to learn a bit more."
The second round course included a tight rollback to an oxer-vertical combination, that was originally the triple in round one. A skilled group of riders came back to once again answer all of Petersen's track questions, including Olympian Eric Navet, Spruce Meadows Masters Nations Cup Team Gold Medalist Eduardo Menezes, and HITS $1Million Grand Prix winner Nayel Nassar.
The first four riders each had faults. Fifth to go, Navet aboard Catyspo (Signe Ostby, owner) had the first fault-free round in 35.18 seconds. Next in was Menezes on his own Catalina. The pair flew around the course, executing a tidy inside turn after the oxer at fence 7 to stop the clock in 33.25, taking the lead. Immediately following was Egypt's young talent Nassar on Acita. After watching Menezes set the time to beat, Nassar knew he wanted to do one less stride down the first and last lines. In doing so, he stopped the clock at 32.30 for the win. The four riders who followed could not best Nassar's time.
Reflecting on the course, Nassar said, "I definitely thought it was tough enough. There were a couple of really acute angles especially early on in the course to the double and then a really broken line away from the gate to number 10. I didn't think there would be 12 clears."
Nassar is thrilled with his young mare Acita. "I'm really excited about her. She's only eight, next year she'll be nine and ready to start stepping up to do more 1.50m classes. She's won a couple of national grand prix classes, but this is her first FEI win. I think she will be my next grand prix horse."
And Nassar was complimentary of his Las Vegas National experience. "I like it, its really convenient that everything is in the same place [at the South Point]. I think Longines has done a great job creating the new league."