Longines Speed Challenge: The audacity of youth
30th September 2016 Los Angeles

It was without a doubt the most expected class of the day, maybe the most thrilling of the weekend. The Longines Speed Challenge holds all its promises, with a beautiful surprise at the end as Nayel Nassar, the big winner of the day, was absolutely not one the favorites. Fair enough, he proved with audacity that we could beat the best riders of the world.

Uliano Vezzani, the new course designer of the Longines Masters Series in Los Angeles – Paris and Hong Kong, has surprised many riders with the new course plan of the Longines Speed Challenge. The Italian maestro wished to create something different, very competitive and modern for this class considered as a World Championship of speed on the thress continents: and it was a successful bet! Lot of contestants were surprised of the technicality and all new adjustments proposed, and we can feel it in the results: only 3 clear rounds for 30 riders in the starting list. But the Longines Speed Challenge is a particular class, because we only count two seconds for a pool down. A mistake is recoverable then, that’s why all riders really went for it, getting the crowd to live their rounds.

Yet, Nayel Nassar created the surprise and set the level very high, with a reference time of 63,47 seconds, without a fault on the obstacles, atop of his 12 year-old stallion, Lordan. Pretty simple, he was unattainable, even if everyone tried hard. Each of his opponents ran after the clock, causing a lot of faults. The Egyptian rider himself was astonished by his victory: “I won ! Can you believe it? It feels good, great even. That was really unexpected honestly, this was supposed to be his warm-up class. The plan was just to go in and be efficient. To put a nice round and do the turns, which he is really good at anyway. But I mean… to win a class like that, with so many fast riders coming after me was just really unexpected. Obviously it gives me confidence for Sunday. If he jumped like that, and I mean we were supposedly training, it makes me feel really good”, he laughed.

The major innovation of the Longines Speed Challenge? A real paddock of five obstacles disposed as an octagon in the center of the arena. A new figure that impressed our winner of the day: “it was the most difficult part of the round. I was really afraid of not being able to come out (just like it was the case for many of his opponents, ndlr) because we had to come in kind of aggressively, and the distance was short. But I think if you really rode straight, really confident, making sure that they have to jump out of this little circle, you got out”. This true “timekeeper” ring of the Longines Speed Challenge will surely keep making a lot of noise.

Once again, the Longines Masters proves to be one of the greatest international showjumping competitions, where anything can happen. Next events of the weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center, the Emirates Gold Cup, the Pro-Am for Charity, and the Longines Grand Prix on Sunday. That will be in the arena, but we hear that a lot of surprises are also in preparation…