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Ali Nilforushan Wins $40,000 Los Angeles National Grand Prix

Ali Nilforushan has been knocking on the door for over ten years and at the $40,000 Los Angeles National Grand Prix the door opened and Nilforushan galloped through for the victory. Thirty-one horses and riders contested Guillherme Noguiera-Jorge's challenging course. "It is not the most technically difficult course," stated the Brazilian course designer who will work at his third Olympics in 2004, "but there are fences set at the maximum heights and widths, and it is a World Cup caliber course."

The course was difficult enough as only five riders managed clear rounds. Richard Spooner set the stage as the first on course with Hilton Flight, and the first with a clear round. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson ensured a jump-off when El Campeon's So Long also jumped around with no faults. She then proved that it wasn't chance when she added El Campeon's Cirka Z to the jump off. Not wanting to be outdone, Spooner piloted Bradford to a clear round. Nilforushan was 26th in the order and he rode a careful round about Cellist. Approaching the last two fences on the course, he could see his time on the scoreboard and knew he could have time faults. "I knew the time was close so I just kept galloping," said the tall Iranian born, American raised rider. Fortunately Cellist is a big, careful horse and he left the final oxer intact despite Nilforushan's aggressive ride.

In the jump off, Noguiera-Jorge set a track that demanded the riders to both gallop and demonstrate their horse's turning abilities. As the first to go clear, Spooner and Hilton Flight returned to set the tone for the jump off. Always a fierce competitor, Spooner galloped to the first fence and then turned on the after burners to the second fence. Despite the blazing run to the tall vertical at the far end of the arena, the horse jumped clean but landed hard and stumbled. He recovered but never re-grouped sufficiently to jump 4a-4b, the combination. The bay gelding pulled a rail, but Spooner stayed on his fast pace and quick track, opting for every inside option he could. He had the time of the night, 45.82, but he also had four faults.

Shahinian-Simpson garnered eight faults with El Campeon's So Long, but when she returned aboard El Campeon's Cirka Z she was determined to jump faultlessly. With a conservative time of 51.07, Shahinian-Simpson thrilled the sell-out crowd with a clear round. Nilforushan galloped in the ring on the heels of two veterans. Although he has consistently been in the money over the years, victory has been elusive. However, the crowd was with him and helped carry him around the course. "I knew only Nikki was clear and I asked myself 'Where can I beat her?' I knew I couldn't turn faster, but I could go around if I kept him on an opened up stride." Nilforushan pressed the big, grey gelding for an open forward stride between the first two fences, set him up to jump the vertical clear, and continued his gallop around the course. Approaching the final fence, the huge triple bar, Nilforushan was riding directly into the scoreboard and could see the seconds ticking. He saw that he was ahead of Shahinian-Simpson's pace and concentrated on helping his horse jump the final fence. "I felt the crowd with me and I knew my horse was careful." As he galloped through the timers he saw the scoreboard's huge numbers stop at 48.83 and then he leaned down and hugged his horse as they cantered around the ring to thunderous applause.


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