Inaugural CSI Greenwich Event Brings Out Showjumping Star Power

Thursday, November 4, 2021
Posted by Liz Leamy


Last Saturday, several dozen premiere U.S. and international world-level equestrians convened at the Greenwich Polo Club to face off against one another at the inaugural CSI Equestrian presented by Showplus® competition that featured prizes totaling nearly 250 thousand dollars.

Photo: Nayel Nassar and Igor van de Wittemoere of Egypt during their winning run in the CSI3* CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix of Greenwich event. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Neuhof)

This unforgettable stadium jumping event, held amidst windy weather and gray skies, drew several thousand spectators who clearly appeared to be wowed by the skills of the world and nationally ranked contenders who participated in this showdown, both equine and human, as they scaled fences ranging up to six feet high on a course with numerous changes of direction in super-fast times.

“It’s been a lot of fun to see world-class equestrian jumping in person,” said Gloria Coe Sprigg, a Greenwich resident and teacher who has been honored for her work at the Hamilton Avenue Elementary School in town. “The horses are beautiful, the riders are incredible and people here seem to be enjoying the day and also are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the sport.”

Nayel Nassar Star of the Show

In the final tally, Nayel Nassar of Egypt and his powerful charge, Igor van de Wittemoere clinched the top spot in the main event of the day, the CSI3* CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix of Greenwich competition with a clean jumpoff run of 41.23 seconds to claim the winning purse of 150 thousand dollars.

Nassar, whose charge is owned by Evergate Stables LLC based in Wellington, Florida, generated the highest score among the 10 finalists who qualified for this jump-off by accruing the best times among the formidable 25-plus entry field in the preliminary round competition.

In the final, Nassar, 29, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, scaled a host of difficult hurdles ranging up to six feet in height with the strength quickness and command of a premier world-class athlete, much to the delight of the crowd.

During Nassar’s run, members of his family, as well as his fiancee, Jennifer Gates, a top U.S. equestrian, and her family, who are from Manhattan, could be heard cheering him on in the stands, which was endearing. Just days before their wedding Nassar and Gates has a lot to celebrate.

Michael Matz's Son Alex - Chip Off the Old Block

Alex Matz of the U.S. and his gorgeous charge, Erdento van de Leeuwerk, owned by Horseshoe Trail Farm LLC in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, claimed second with a fast, aggressive and superb run in which they completed in 41.49 seconds.

Reputed to be one of the rising stars of the sport, Matz, 24, is the son of Michael Matz, the esteemed Show Jumping Hall of Famer who is now a racehorse trainer and D.D. Alexander Matz, the Pan Am Games medalist. He lives in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, the famed American horse haven.

Nicky Galligan of Ireland placed third with Castelissimo, his stunning white horse who is owned by Guardian Stables LLC in North Salem, New York.

The two cleared all the jumps in 42.44 seconds in the final, navigating the course in a powerful, confident, and commanding fashion.

Along with the top three finishers, the competition in this event was international, with riders and horses representing countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, and Israel, as well as the U.S., Egypt, and Ireland, and other faraway spots around the globe.

Meanwhile, many other athletes, both human and equine, had traveled from all around the U.S. in order to compete at this event.

Georgina Bloomberg and Manhattan ©ashleyneuhofphotography
Georgina Bloomberg and Manhattan ©ashleyneuhofphotography

Event an Attraction from Around the Country

Throughout the day, cars could be seen parked on the grassy Greenwich Polo Club lot with license plates from states such as Michigan, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, and other domestic spots.

“It seems like there are a lot of people who have come here from all over the world and from around the country which is exciting,” said Gloria Coe Sprigg, who grew up watching polo matches at the former polo grounds on King Street. “This is a beautiful venue and everything is so well organized. I’m having a great time and would like to come back again next year.”

Georgina Bloomberg Adds to the Star Power

Notably, a big crowd favorite at this event was Georgina Bloomberg, the accomplished American equestrian who represented the U.S. at the 2015 Pan American Games and is the daughter of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor and founder of Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg placed an impressive sixth with her stealth charge, Manhattan, owned by Gotham Enterprizes LLC in the CSI3* CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix of Greenwich showdown and was all about quickness, energy and focus.

Certainly, the efforts and skills of Bloomberg and all the entrants in this competition seemed to be appreciated by the spectators, who clapped and cheered loudly for them as they navigated the various courses with tremendous ease, confidence and aptitude.

According to the riders, this event was a win-win situation in all regards.

“It has been great to be here,” said Rodrigo de Paula Pessoa of Brazil, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in individual jumping and seven-time Olympian who competed in the CSI3* CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix of Greenwich event. “It’s been a terrific turnout and incredible event.”

Sydney Shulman and A Toi de Prim of Israel jump their way to first place at the Greenwich Polo Club last Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Neuhof)
Sydney Shulman and A Toi de Prim of Israel jump their way to first place at the Greenwich Polo Club last Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Neuhof)

Sydney Shulman Wins CSI2* Double H Farm Grand Prix

Meanwhile, Sydney Shulman and her powerful charge, A Toi de Prim of Israel, won first place in the CSI2* Double H Farm Grand Prix event that featured a 57 thousand dollar prize.

Shulman, who trains primarily in Greenwich and whose horse is owned by Andrew Bourns of Ireland, earned an impressive time of 37.26.

Alex Matz of the U.S., the second-place finisher in the CSI3* CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix of Greenwich event, took second in this competition, scoring a 37.73 time on his charge, Ibbo van T’Keldertje of Beechwood Stables based in Weston, Massachusetts.

Peter Leone of the U.S., meanwhile, clinched third with a 37.26 on Cedric 84, whose owner is Maarten Huygens.

A New Chapter for the Greenwich Polo Club

Certainly, it appears as if this might be the first chapter of what might indeed emerge as a major world international show jumping competition in the sport, an initiative that also ought to bode well, once again, for the golden role of the Greenwich Polo Club in the domestic and global equine community.

“This is the first time I’ve been at an actual horse event such as this and I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been incredible. The horses are magnificent and the riders are so graceful and agile,” said Mel Dogan of New York City, a longtime attendee of the Greenwich Polo Club who is an international business attorney and partner of the C24 Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. “This has been an elegant, satisfying and well-run event. I will come back again next year.”

The world-class riders who were there also echoed similar sentiments.

“I think this event has great potential going forward,” said Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil, a World gold medalist in individual jumping who competed last summer at the Tokyo Olympics and who also spends much of the year training at Artemis Farm in North Salem, New York. “I believe this event will continue to grow, which is exciting for everybody.”