Sunday, May. 26, 2024

Nilforushan Nabs Blue In Las Vegas

A foot-perfect round gives Ali Nilforushan his second World Cup-qualifying victory of the season.

Ali Nilforushan is a hard rider to intimidate. Watching 23 of the best riders from the West Coast try unsuccessfully to get around the $50,000 ShowBiz Grand Prix CSI-W at the Las Vegas National in Las Vegas, Nev., couldn’t shake his confidence. And when his turn came to enter the South Point Hotel and Casino, Nov. 1, he proved that confidence well founded by laying down the only double-clear round aboard Warco van de Halhoeve to take blue.

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A foot-perfect round gives Ali Nilforushan his second World Cup-qualifying victory of the season.

Ali Nilforushan is a hard rider to intimidate. Watching 23 of the best riders from the West Coast try unsuccessfully to get around the $50,000 ShowBiz Grand Prix CSI-W at the Las Vegas National in Las Vegas, Nev., couldn’t shake his confidence. And when his turn came to enter the South Point Hotel and Casino, Nov. 1, he proved that confidence well founded by laying down the only double-clear round aboard Warco van de Halhoeve to take blue.

“Nobody walked the course and thought it wouldn’t be hard,” said Nilforushan. “You knew it was going to be tough. But every time I ride this horse I believe I can be clear. He’s truly a horse that’s always on the right team.“

Mickie Sage on Cocknito CH and Richard Spooner aboard Ace found their way around the course without any knockdowns, but each picked up a single time fault for second and third respectively.

At 18 hands, Warco van de Halhoeve has a giant stride that helped the pair catch the tight time. “I watched Richard [Spooner] go in front of me, and it was a beautiful round. But he did the normal strides everywhere and ended up a few seconds over. I made sure in all the lines I did the options for the leave-outs,” said Nilforushan.

Las Vegas marked the second time this season that Nilforushan and his partner managed the only fault-free round to top a World Cup-qualifying class. The first came at his horse’s first qualifier in August, and he considered himself lucky to be able to save his horse’s legs for the upcoming winter circuit. Nilforushan plans to spend the winter at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) forsaking the chance to contest the four World Cup classes hosted by HITS Thermal (Calif.) much closer to his San Diego, Calif., home.

“I’ve been going to Wellington since the beginning,” he said. “I can’t explain how happy I am that Mark [Bellissimo] is doing what he’s doing. He understands the passion of it—it’s not just a business for him. He deserves as much support as I can give him.”

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Nilforushan couldn’t be more excited to start the winter season with his budding star. When Nilforushan’s brother Matt came across a promising 7-year-old in Belgium big enough to match his brother’s 6’4″ frame, he immediately picked up the phone to tell him he had a new mount.

“For the first six months I had him he bucked me off every day,” recalled Nilforushan. “Eventually every other day I was on the floor. The power is so overwhelming that if you don’t have him nice and relaxed there’s a strong possibility you could be hanging from the rafters. We joke that he’s like a young Michael Jordan, wanting to slam dunk every time.”

The boisterous gelding sat out a year from the show ring due to a bout with white line disease. He stepped up to the grand prix almost exactly a year before this win, which sets the 33-year-old atop the West Coast League World Cup standings. Nilforushan hopes to return to Las Vegas this spring to represent his native Iran at the FEI World Cup Final, but the gelding’s potential has also inspired Nilforushan to set his sights on even loftier aspirations.

“My long-term goal is the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the Olympic Games,” said Nilforushan. “Barring injury or rider malfunction, he has a chance to win a medal, no doubt.”

Nilforushan isn’t content just winning grand prix classes and running his 35-horse business. He designed and patented an equine ice blanket, which will hit the market in January. And five years ago he purchased 4th & B, which has since become San Diego’s third-largest concert venue.

“I believe that doing other things makes me stay really hungry with the horses,” he said. “I’m always looking for something fun and new.”


After Triumph, Heartbreak

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When Mickie Sage finished second in the $50,000 ShowBiz Grand Prix CSI-W, the future couldn’t have looked brighter.

The class marked her best grand prix finish to date aboard her up-and-coming partner, Cocknito, who had been improving with every round.

But tragedy struck just a week later at the Sacramento International Horse Show (Calif.). Cocknito took a bad step while warming up for the $75,000 Anderson Family Grand Prix CSI-W, shattering his right front long pastern bone. Despite prompt treatment by University of California, Davis, veterinarians on the scene and at the UC Davis clinic, the injuries proved too severe to save him, and Cocknito was euthanized in the early morning of Nov. 9.

Those same riders who rode against Sage the week before were on hand to offer her support immediately after the accident. “Richard [Spooner], Will [Simpson], Nicki [Shahinian-Simpson] and all the West Coast riders all came up and tried to help,” said Sage. “The vets were phenomenal and very caring; it couldn’t have been a better situation.”

Redfield Farm imported the Swiss Warmblood by Cockney II in December of 2006 for owners Shannon Strom and Katie Shannon of Castle Rock, Colo. After getting his start in the young jumper division, Cocknito and Sage debuted in the grand prix ranks together this year, with the 9-year-old finishing in the top 10 five times over the season.

Sage forged a singular attachment to the bay gelding right off the bat. She kept a busy show schedule, competing on both coasts, but Cocknito didn’t miss a single road trip. And though he was a game competitor, Sage trusted him enough to send him off with his owner on unaccompanied hacks.

“I didn’t just hand him off to the grooms,” said Sage. “I took care of him. It’s been such an incredible journey, not only because it’s his and my first year in the grand prix, but because it’s the owners’ first grand prix horse as well. He just kept getting better at each show, showing more and more promise as he kept going. Everyone loved him; he was truly a champion on every level.”

Mollie Bailey

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