Nayel Nassar doffs his hat to the crowd after winning the Zoetis $1 Million. photo by Elizabeth Skuba.

Nayel Nassar doffs his hat to the crowd after winning the Zoetis $1 Million. photo by Elizabeth Skuba.

Course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr.  built another big track for the Zoetis $1 Million at HITS-on-the-Hudson today in Saugerties, NY, but it wasn’t just the size of the fences that kept things interesting.  A brisk wind whisked through the Strongid C 2X  Stadium, knocking down several fences over the course of the competition and causing delays while the ring crew rebuilt the obstacles, stockpiling them with sandbags.

The wind wasn’t the only thing that was brisk in Saugerties. The pace was quite lively as Petersen, Jr. set the time allowed at a tight 83 seconds, which allowed no time for dilly-dallying .

Early in the order Sharn Wordley jumped a beautiful clean round but incurred a time fault, and the crowd was audibly  disappointed for the personable Kiwi.  Wordley had certainly looked quick, and as he said jokingly later in the press conference, he’d thought he’d been fast enough as he’d been “huffing and puffing coming through the flags.”

For a short time after Sharn’s trip  it seemed that the time allowed would be increased, but show offficials decided against adjusting the time allowed.  As Petersen, Jr. noted later on during the press conference, “To be honest, in a normal Grand Prix, I would go up.”  He went on to add that if he had added time, it would have “changed the class”, explaining that given the nature of this class and the prize money offered he had a responsibility to build a Championship course that was a respectable challenge while not so immense to overface the less experienced.  As it was, over half the class had time issues.

Red Mare gets air! Sharm Wordley and Derley Chin De Muze. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Red Mare gets air! Sharn Wordley and Derley Chin De Muze. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

After Wordley’s round spectators watched as 21 other combinations attempted to clear the obstacles.  A few came close.  Last year’s second place finishers, Jill Henselwood and the irrepressible George, had a one rail, as did her countryman Hugh Graham and Distant Star 3E.  The pair that finished third in the placings last year, Jonathan McCrea and Colorado, had a rail and a time fault.  It wasn’t until Nassar and Lordan entered the ring as 25th to go that the audience saw a coveted clear round.

Go Margie! photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Go Margie! photo by Elizabeth Skuba

The riders after Nassar certainly did their best to catch him. Margie Engle on Royce lay down what would eventually be the fastest four fault round and good enough for fourth place money (Not bad for someone who’d been resting a sprained ankle while watching a bit of football in the press lounge prior to her ride. That lady is one cool customer!)  Immediately after Margie blazed through the timers Todd Minikus and his mare Quality Time entered the ring.  The pair set off so fast it seemed she literally ran right out of her shoe when she lost it just before fence 2.  Luckily they were able to finish the course to qualify to join Nassar and his Lordan in the jump-off.  Todd later graciously praised the quality of the footing at HITS, saying it was a testament to the footing that the mare was able to pull a shoe and then finish on a clear.

Here’s a look at Todd’s round with Quality Girl:

Ultimately the lost shoe may have affected Quality Girl, as the game mare tore quite a bit of hoof off and was unable to post a clear round in the jump-off.  In his remarks after the class, Todd reflected that she’d felt a bit tender during the warm-up, and she seemed to be less willing to set off again,  rearing and fussing before starting her jump-off round. After a lowering the height of two fences Todd elected to pull up and concede the victory to the 22 year-old Nassar.  Minikus had every right to be disappointed, but the classy competitor commented “that’s sport and how it goes” and went on to praise the generosity of the sponsors for creating such a class. He went on to say how as child he’d dreamed of being a Grand Prix rider, but never imagined he’d be vying for checks the likes of which are offered in more mainstream sports.  Minikus went home with a check for $200,000 for his day’s efforts.

While he would have liked the win, Sharn Wordley was quite content with his placing. “I’m happy with third!” he laughed, noting that the payoff was “$120,000 or something!”  He went on to speak glowingly of his mare, “She’s fantastic, a brilliant horse! Eric Lamaze rode her at the Olympics when she was 9.”  He went on to relate how they’d given her a light summer as a prep for this class, and were ultimately aiming her at the WEG in 2014.

Speaking of happiness, nobody in the room was happier than Nayel Nassar.  The young man smiled almost as if he could not really believe his accomplishment, calling the experience “surreal.”  He said his horse jumped great, adding that while this was the biggest class the the 9 year-old gelding had jumped, he’d been “on a roll” recently, having won last week at Showpark and been second in the $100K at  Thunderbird the week before that.   Normally one would consider the stallion Raging Bull Vangelis S as Nassar’s number one ride, but after the way Lordan has matured this summer perhaps there will be some competition for the starting spot.

Zoetis $1 Million Course by Olaf Petersen, Jr. courtesy of HITS

Zoetis $1 Million Course by Olaf Petersen, Jr. courtesy of HITS

The riders praised the quality of the course, observing that it had plenty of technicality and scope, while observing that there was no single fence to call out as an issue. Todd commented that 5A was a scopey oxer and that the back rail of the B element of the triple caught a few people, but that that it was a well done course that had jumps falling everywhere.  Petersen, Jr. agreed, and then commented, “What I like about today is that we didn’t have a fall,” recalling  how last year’s course had been a bit more than some of the competitors were able to handle, leaving them contemplating the quality of the footing in a more up-close-and-personal fashion than would normally be desired.

Wheels up, Whoopy style! photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Wheels up, Whoopy style! photo by Elizabeth Skuba

On a sidenote, many spectators were disappointed that fan favorite Mr. Whoopy, Duncan McFarlan’s rambunctious stallion, was a bit more subdued than usual this year.  I ran into Duncan and his lovely wife Helen later that evening and asked after Mr. Whoopy, who arguably has the best name in show jumping.  They assured me that while he had not been  his normal sassy self  in Saugerties, he was alright and  there was nothing to worry about.

Here are the final results:

Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix

Place Horse                Owner                          Rider                    Prize $  Rd
1 Faults
J/O Faults J/O Time
1 Lordan Nayel Nassar Nayel Nassar $350,000 0 0 45.63
2 Quality Girl Todd Minikus, Ltd. Todd Minikus $200,000 0 Ret.
3 Derly Chin De Muze Ashland Stables Sharn Wordley $120,000 1
4 Royce Elm Rock Partners, LLC Margie Engle $100,000 4
5 Distant Star 3E King Ridge Stables Hugh Graham $75,000 4
6 George B Gingras Equestrian, Ltd. Jill Henselwood $40,000 4
7 Mark Q Kevin Babington Kevin Babington $30,000 5
8 Colorado Candy Tribble Jonathan McCrea $20,000 5
9 Nougat Du Vallet Grant Road Partners, LLC Katie Dinan $15,000 6
10 MTM Timon MTM Farm Tracy Fenney $10,000 7
11 Wistful Alexander, LLC Darragh Kenny $7,500 8
12 Evening Star Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo Heather Caristo-Williams $4,500 8
13 Palm Sunday Amen Corner Farm, LLC Aaron Vale $3,500 8
14 Aragon Rouet Walstib Stables, LLC Meg O’Mara $3,500 8
15 Landini Sharon Milchovich Michael Desiderio $3,500 9
16 Yolo Hays Investment Corp. Hunter Holloway $3,500 12
17 Campbell VDL Stateside Farm, LLC Candice King $3,500 12
18 Mr. Whoopy Simone Coxe Duncan McFarlane $3,500 13
19 MacArthur Christina Fried Michael Hughes $3,500 13
20 Zorro Societe Civile de L’Ecurie Meautry Peter Wylde $3,500 13

I hope you enjoyed this coverage from Saugerties – thanks for reading!

Amy
Read my blog posts here.