NAL Thermal – East Meets West: West Wins

Yesterday's #FEIWorldCup Thermal was a nailbiter, but ultimately Nayel Nassar and his speedy stallion took top honors, beating out Beezie Madden and other top riders.

Nayel Nassar and Lordan churned out a blistering pace in the jump-off that no one could catch. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Beezie Madden made a quick trip West in hopes of picking up some late-in-the-league points for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals in Paris this April. Coming into yesterday’s final North American League competition in the West, Beezie was on the bubble in the East sub-league.

An informal poll behind the scenes at the Southern California desert venue, HITS Coachella in Thermal, had Beezie as dang tough to beat. But that tally neglected the vote of Nayel Nassar’s 14-year-old stallion Lordan. Over the years, the small but mighty and swift Hanoverian has mixed huge wins with time on the injured reserve. So, Nayel is very careful about when and where he brings him out to play. “We had a bit of a quiet winter and this is his first show of the year,” said the 27-year-old California-based rider and Stanford graduate who represents Egypt.

“I’m really trying to preserve him as much as I can. He’s had a couple of injuries and we have a long year ahead,” Nayel explained. “I’m just stoked to have him and to have him come out so strong. He’s a trier and we know each other well, which helps with the little intricacies on course.”

A starting field of 19 tackled Irish course designer Alan Wade’s creative and flowing track. About halfway through the class, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata laid down the first clear round. They were followed into the jump-off by Beezie and Breitling LS, Jamie Barge and Luebbo, Nayel and Lordan, Mandy Porter and Milano, and dominate Western league leader, Richard Spooner on Quirado RC.

Beezie Madden and Breitling LS finished in 2nd, less than a second behind Nayel and Lordan. Photo: Kim F. Miller

After the class, Beezie said “there’s wasn’t so much strategy because I knew everyone in the jump-off was fast, so I just went at the fast pace I knew I could go.” In her current string, Breitling is her relatively veteran partner whose quickness she’s been pleased with. “I don’t think I would have done anything differently,” she said of her second-to-go jump-off ride that stood for second place. Their time was 39.92, compared to Nayel’s winning 39.02. The second-place points bumped Beezie way up in the rankings, to a solid third post with one more Eastern sub-league qualifier in March.

Jamie Barge and Luebbo followed, with another clear trip but a hesitation in the last line contributed to a time of 43.51 for sixth. That secured the points needed to lock in third place position in the Western League and their opportunity to return to the World Cup Finals.

Nayel was taking notes. He’d planned to ride the first line in nine strides, but revised that when he saw Beezie do eight smoothly. Mid-course, “We jumped the double right to left: I saw my track was way to the inside.” That set them on an efficient track to the final line to cross the timers at 39.02.

Last year’s HITS Million winning pair Mandy and Milano had that hard act to follow. “We were giving it 100%, but with big galloping fast courses, I still feel like we are both a little on the green side. We’re still learning, and especially when we’re chasing these guys!”

The third place finish locked in Mandy’s place as one of three West Coasters with invites to the Finals. When they won the World Cup qualifier in Sacramento in October, Mandy was non-committal as to whether Paris was a firm part of their future goals. Now, “We definitely want to go and we’re just going to make sure that it’s the right thing for Milano.”

Nayel is a HITS Million winner, too, and both riders confirmed their intentions to compete in that class at HITS Coachella in March.

The top three were the same as in Thursday’s 1.45M Welcome Stake, the qualifier for Saturday: except the order was Beezie, Nayel and Mandy.

‘The Master of Faster’ Richard Spooner gave his young Quirado RC a brilliant ride in the jump-off to finish fourth. Photo: Kim F. Miller

The final rider in the jump-off was familiar fan favorite Richard Spooner doing a masterful job introducing 9-year-old Quirado RC to his first World Cup class. The 18-hand Hanoverian, owned by New Mexico breeders, Rancho Corazon, allowed Richard to apply some speed pressure for a 40.70 time and fourth place. After a win at the NAL Las Vegas class in November, aboard another international newbie, Chatinus, Richard brought his league-leading point total to 60 with the Saturday’s finish, not to mention another solid horse in his string. 

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