Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Lucifer V are having a devilishly good winter in Florida.
Fresh off their victory in last week’s HITS $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala, Nassar and the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding captured Thursday’s $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 12 CSI 5* at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington.
It’s their fifth top three placing in a 4* or 5* class since February.
“It’s surreal really,” said Nassar, 28, of their recent results. “Something’s clicked in [Lucifer]’s head in the last couple months. He’s an extremely, extremely gifted horse, and I’m really grateful to have him.”
Of the 60 entries to contest the Guilherme Jorge-designed WEF Challenge Cup track, a whopping 28 qualified for the jump-off. Ultimately, 18 elected to return.
Second to go in the short course, Nassar and Lucifer set the time to beat at a blazing 35.90 seconds. No other combination would come close to their time.
“I was surprised to see so many clears; I thought the first course walked difficult enough, but I think everyone’s in good form,” said Nassar.
“It’s the last week of the circuit. It’s a big five-star week, and there are a lot of good horses here. Lucky for me, I went early in the jump-off, so I didn’t have much to think about except to try to go fast and leave them up. He’s just naturally such a quick horse; I knew if I could just be neat everywhere and stay on top of my turns, that he would be tough to catch, and he was today.”
Olympic team silver medalist Kent Farrington (USA), incidentally the last rider to compete Lucifer (albeit briefly) before Nassar, finished second with Creedance in a time of 36.70 seconds. (Farrington broke his leg riding Lucifer in a 1.30m class at WEF last year.)
Nassar took over the ride in May 2018.
“We struggled a bit with consistency in the beginning,” said the Pan-Arab Games team bronze medalist. “He’d put in a really good round and then come back and be not so good. We’ve been trying to find some sort of consistency, and luckily, it’s all coming together at the right time.
“He’s a little quirky for sure, but I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other really well now,” continued Nassar. “I feel like he trusts me, and I trust him. I’ve learned to ignore whatever happens in the warm-up ring because he tends to be a little lazy out there, but once he gets in the ring, he’s really on top of the job. He’s a really fun horse for me to ride and to have.”
Nassar will attempt to keep the hot streak alive with Lucifer V at Saturday night’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*.