Ocala, Fla. – March 24, 2019 – The tenth and final week of the 2019 HITS Ocala Winter Circuit concluded Sunday afternoon with the highly anticipated Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. In its ninth year running at Post Time Farm, HITS Ocala saw a total of 44 horse-and athlete-combinations compete for the lion’s share of the $1 million purse, but ultimately it was Nayel Nassar who rode away with the coveted win aboard Lucifer V.
Renowned course designer Alan Wade (IRL) set a 14-obstacle track that tasked athletes with navigating difficult turns, as well as triple and double combinations. Wade’s courses are known to challenge athletes around the world, and Sunday’s track was no exception as rails fell in various spots. At the end of the first round, only nine of the 44 competitors had cleared Wade’s taxing course to advance to the jump-off.
The first to produce a clear effort was Egypt’s Nassar riding Evergate Stables LLC’s Lucifer V. The eight other horse-and-athlete combinations that also rode fault-free included Paul O’Shea (IRL), Karen Polle (JPN), Darragh Kenny (IRL), Hillary Scott (AUS), Santiago Lambre (MEX), Scott Keach (AUS), Brian Moggre (USA) and Mathis Schwentker (GER).
Nassar was also the pathfinder for the jump-off, and as the reigning champion of the 2018 HITS AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal, California, he is certainly no stranger to a $1 million round. Just last week in the 2019 HITS AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, Nassar fell just short of the win, receiving second place riding Lordan. Nassar rode Lucifer V, a 13-year-old Westphalian gelding, to a quick and faultless effort in 35.559 seconds to set the pace for the rest of the competitors.
O’Shea took to the ring next riding Imerald Van’t Voorhof, owned by Tequestrian Farms LLC, in an attempt to catch Nassar’s speedy time. Though the pair left all of the rails intact, they just missed the first place position by one second, finishing in 36.170 seconds. Only two other competitors in the jump-off would go clear, including Kenny aboard Kerry Anne LLC’s Important De Muze and Scott riding Oak Sport Horses’ Oaks Milky Way. Neither pair could catch Nassar’s early lead, ultimately lending him the first place finish. O’Shea and Imerald Van’t Voorhof were awarded second place, while Kenny and Important De Muze rounded out the top three finishing their jump-off in 36.411 seconds.
Nassar’s win Sunday afternoon in Ocala aboard Lucifer V rounded out his triple crown victory of the HITS $1 million classes, as he has now won in all three venues that offer them (HITS Saugerties in 2013, HITS Coachella in 2018 and now HITS Ocala).
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Nayel Nassar – Great American $1 Million Grand Prix winner
On his win:
“It means a lot just to be able to get this opportunity in these classes. I’ve been jumping these classes since around 2013 and it’s just a huge privilege and opportunity for us as riders to be able to jump for this kind of prize money in this kind of venue. I’ve won all three [HITS] $1 million [grand prix classes] now so I can probably take a break.”
On Lucifer V:
“I’ve had him close to a year now. It’s a super time for us to get to know one another. I think he wanted to test me out a little bit at first and once we kind of got over that hump, the results started to kick in. We were always searching for a little bit of consistency, but we seem to have found that. He’s a super competitive horse and he’s really nice for me to have. I’m extremely thankful to Evergate Stables for giving me the ride. He’s just a really cool horse.”
On the course:
“I wouldn’t say I knew that I had done enough [after going first in the jump-off], but I knew it was going to take quite a bit to beat me. Lucifer is just an extremely fast horse and I didn’t feel like I wasted time anywhere. I did seven [strides] from [fence] one to two and I think people were doing six, but then I was short on the landing side of fence two so I think that was a [factor]. Other than that, he’s just a really quick and careful horse. I thought it was a great course. I think we got the right number in the jump-off for it to be a good class. It’s a really class to build for with 1.50m specs and all types of riders. I think Alan [Wade] did a great job.”
On the toughest fence:
“For me, it was the penultimate vertical. I wasn’t quite sure whether I should do eight [strides] or just ride a direct seven. I originally planned eight but I ended up doing seven and got away with a really hard rub so luck was on my side today. That was something I was a little unsure about just because of the direction the horse drifts. I thought the triple was hard too. It was pretty tough.”
Paul O’Shea – Second place
On his round:
“It didn’t go my way last week but he’s a super horse. He really jumped well and made my job easy so I’m very happy with second. I think that I did all I could in the jump-off so I’m very happy.”
Darragh Kenny – Third place
On the jump-off:
“I thought [Nayel] did an excellent job. His horse is very quick across the ground. I thought it was going to be very difficult for any horse to beat him and none of us could do that today.”
Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Lucifer V / Nayel Nassar / Evergate Stables LLC / EGY / 0 | 77.544 / 0 | 35.559
2. Imerald Van’t Voorhof / Paul O’Shea / Tequestrian Farms LLC / IRL / 0 | 83.694 / 0 | 36.170
3. Important De Muze / Darragh Kenny / Kerry Anne LLC / IRL / 0 | 82.176 / 0 | 36.411
4. Oaks Milky Way / Hillary Scott / Oaks Sport Horses / AUS / 0 | 81.428 / 0 | 42.490
5. With Wings / Karen Polle / Karen Pole / JPN / 0 | 82.112 / 4 | 38.706
6. Born to Be Picobello Z / Scott Keach / Southern Cross Equestrian, LLC / AUS / 0 | 83.566 / 4 | 38.969
7. Ibaco / Santiago Lambre / Santiago Lambre / MEX / 0 | 83.257 / 4 | 40.103
8. NKH Carrido / Mathis Schwentker / Nkh LLC / GER / 0 | 83.413 / 4 | 40.250
9. MTM Vivre Le Reve / Brian Moggre / Major Wager LLC / USA / 0 | 80.258 / 12 | 40.736
10. Aretino 13 / Andre Thieme / Torben Kohlbrandt Sport Horses / GER / 4 | 79.380
11. Call Me Hannes / David Biesel / Harlow Investment Enterprises, LLC / USA / 4 | 79.453
12. Contagious / McLain Ward / Beechwood Stables, LLC / USA / 4 | 79.770