By Heather Buchanan – Photos by Juan Lamarca
There’s a great moment when a teacher sees their student spread their wings to fly beyond them. In the case of the CP Palm Beach Masters presented by SOVARO it was 26-year-old Nayel Nassar who stood atop the podium in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup, having bested his teacher Laura Kraut who came in second, with Sergio Alvarez Moya in third. Nassar commented of his horse Lordan, “It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s his first show of the year and he’s an incredibly trier.” Kraut was gracious in her praise for Nassar who was once her student, “I thought he was one of the most talented young riders to come along. He qualified in a half a million dollar grand prix, and he didn’t make the course walk because he was commuting from Stanford and he still rode beautifully.”
Nassar was the winner of the Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix series and rode to the top of his game while earning a degree in economics and management from Stanford University. When he won the HITS million dollar class in Saugerties he felt that his riding career deserved his full attention. Nassar who speaks four languages was born in Chicago and raised in Kuwait and now is based out of California. He rides for his parents’ native country Egypt and cuts a striking figure. Of the Palm Beach Masters he said, “I heard so many good things about this event and decided to come out this winter.” It was a great start for Lordon who didn’t jump in 2015. Nassar said, “He’s an incredible partner.”
A draw is certainly that this is one of only 7 East Coast qualifying events in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American league with valuable World Cup qualifier points. Riders were also drawn to the grass grand prix field, a rarity in today’s competitions. Kraut said, “It’s a fantastic surface. You hardly saw a hoofprint when you rode in.”
Course designer Alan Wade also brought his A game. “In the back of my mind we had some 5* combinations,” Wade said of the CSI3* competition, “I see how the horses are jumping and go with my feeling. If I get 2 or 22 clears I’m okay. I try to be fair to everyone and rise to the level of riding.”
The challenges of this sport were also apparent. Riders make it look easy to jump over huge fences but veteran Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Comanche took a scary fall in the grand prix which resulted in 2 broken ribs for her. Another reminder of the one word we have for these incredible athletes – respect.