Nayel Nassar’s girlfriend, Jennifer Gates, rang in her 23rd year on the planet on Friday.
Some boyfriends would opt for flowers or perhaps jewelry to mark that occasion. Nassar set his sights on a loftier gift.
“It’s Jenn’s birthday and I told her that I wanted to win one for her,” said the Egyptian rider.
Aboard Lucifer V, a horse owned by Gate’s Evergate Stables LLC, Nassar claimed the Longines Speed Challenge CSI5* at the Longines Masters of New York Friday evening at NYCB LIVE, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Dubbed “the fastest class in show jumping,” the unique format class uses the same Frank Rothenberger-designed speed track at the Paris and Hong Kong legs of the Longines Masters. The course is designed to give those who dare numerous options for inside turns and shortened tracks. With two seconds added to the time for every rail instead of the usual four and a $100,000 purse on the line, it’s a class that rewards risk takers.
Nassar was exactly that. Despite knocking one rail down for a two-second time penalty, he moved to the top of the leaderboard with an adjusted time of 58.45 seconds. And stayed there for 15 nerve wracking rounds.
“He’s naturally a really quick horse,” said Nassar of the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding. “I knew that if I got on a bit of a lick and kept it the whole way around, we would be in a pretty good spot.”
The win is the 28-year old’s second in the series. In 2016, Nassar won the Longines Speed Challenge with his veteran partner Lordan when the U.S. leg was held in Los Angeles. (It moved to New York in 2018.)
It’s also the second time in as many months that he and Lucifer have extended a Lordan-established win record. Last month, Nassar and the not-so-fallen angel won the Great American Million at HITS Ocala, earning the third HITS Million victory of Nassar’s career. (He previously won the HITS Thermal and HITS Saugerties Millions with Lordan.) The two-time World Cup finalist is now one of only two riders (USA’s Beezie Madden, the other) to have completed the trifecta, which is to say Lucifer is perhaps the real gift in this equation.
“I was really glad that I was able to get it done even with the rail,” continued Nassar in reference to his girlfriend’s birthday gift. “It’s pretty crazy that we were still able to win the class even with a fence down.”
The question now: how is he going to top that gift next year?