A grand prix victory is always impressive, but when it’s your first, and it’s in a 1.60m class, that bumps it into the realm of stunning, and stun the crowd is exactly what Tiffany Sullivan did Saturday night, riding Tristan to the front of the pack in the $54,500 Purina Animal Health CSI-W 2* Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Competing before an overflow audience for the last of three FEI World Cup qualifying classes at HITS Desert Horse Park, the Los Angeles-based Sullivan rocked the house as the first to go clear in the order of 22 horse-and-rider pairs. “This is my first year competing in the meter-fifties, let alone meter-sixties,” said Sullivan after the class.
Sullivan was one of two to go clear and was joined by Nayel Nassar, a 22-year-old student at Stanford, was clear on his own Lordan, a nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding. After securing a jump-off, Nayel chose to save his horse for future rounds and withdrew, placing him second. He was also third with his 15-year-old stallion Raging Bull Vangelis S. Sullivan entered the ring and received the start signal to earn top placement.
The time-allowed on Olaf Petersen, Jr.’s, 13 jump/16-obstacle course was a tight but manageable 80 seconds. Fallen rails were distributed evenly around the course, although a rollback from a very tall vertical at two, to an oxer at three, resulted in a few unfortunate rails.
Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez, riding his own Criptonite, also had a time fault and came in fourth. German rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Windward Farms’ Unbelievable 5 were the fastest of the four-faulters for fifth. Both riders are Olympic veterans.
Though the audience didn’t get a jump-off, the excitement of watching two young amateurs and some seasoned veterans more than made up for the lack of a second round. “I had jumped clear in every grand prix, but always had two or three time faults, so I’ve never placed in the grand prix on this circuit,” said the 33-year-old Sullivan, who also competes in the hunters. She and her own Easy Company were in fact Desert Circuit IV Champions in the Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division.
Nassar, on the other hand, has been riding a wave. He came to Thermal the No. 1 ranked rider in the FEI North America West Coast League World Cup standings, and he was second in the $54,500 HITS Grand Prix CSI-W2*, presented by Zoetis, during Week III with Raging Bull, his declared World Cup horse he calls Brutus. His third-place performance in the this weekend’s CSI-W on the Belgian Warmblood stallion was enough to clinch his invite to the FEI World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, where he will represent his native Egypt.
“Lordan has really stepped up,” Nassar said of the gelding he’s brought along for three years. “The past two grand prix, I felt like he was right there, and it was always my mistakes that would have rails. So I knew he could jump clean as long as I could stay with him.” Of Petersen’s course, he said, “it was built really well for my horse. He moves very quickly and has a short stride, so I can add where I need to.” Brutus, he said, has more power over larger courses. He plans to take both horses to Gothenburg, but plans to compete Brutus in the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach, should he be fortunate enough to qualify for the March 17 event.
Likewise, Sullivan describes her hose as quick and good at turning. “I definitely saw the challenges in it,” she said of the course. “There were a couple of tall verticals that were going to be surprises to the horses. You really had to let the horse know that was coming up. Tristan and I are very in tune. We have a very special relationship.”
Source: Press release from HITS Media Team
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