Conor Swail (IRL) and Vital Chance de la Roque. (FEI/Julia B Photography)
Conor Swail (IRL) and his mount Vital Chance de la Roque are beginning to develop a winning reputation. After opening the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League season with a victory in Vancouver (CAN), the duo recorded a second straight World Cup victory in Sacramento (USA).
Swail and the enthusiastic 12-year-old gelding topped a thrilling four-horse jump-off in front of a packed crowd at the Murieta Equestrian Center. Using natural footspeed and agile turning, horse and rider seemed to read each other’s minds as they left out strides and shaved more than a second off Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Huberth B’s then-leading time. Swail and “Vinny” crossed the timers of Anderson Lima’s (MEX) shortened track in 36.12 seconds.
“He was wonderful here tonight,” Swail said of his mount, who has now won five grand prix contests since June. “He was probably one of the favourites coming in. I’m delighted that he’s living up to the reputation he’s making for himself.”
Ballard settled for second with her brand-new mount, an impressive feat considering she’d only begun riding the eye-catching bay two weeks ago; their time was 37.25 seconds. Her student Natalie Dean (CAN) and the talented Cocolina finished third as the only other double-clear performers on a time of 43.09 seconds.
“Erynn put up a tough enough round that I thought it was going to be another tough test,” Swail said, “but [my horse] handled himself extremely well.”
His World Cup results have now spanned two countries and two drastically different venues. In Vancouver, the duo navigated a spacious outdoor arena, while in Sacramento, they were met with a small, covered space. In both places, the pair delighted as Vinny complemented his efforts over the fences with playful bucking in between the fences, a trend Swail has come to both expect and respect.
“[Vancouver] was outside, and [course designer Peter Holmes (CAN)] built it quite like an indoor track I thought, but it’s still a covered arena here, and the crowd is up against you,” Swail said. “[My horse] is answering every question, and the crowd was awesome tonight. It’s wonderful having people back [in the stands]. We get a thrill out of it as well.”
Swail now holds a commanding lead in the North American League with 37 points. Ballard and Rowan Willis (AUS) sit second and third, respectively, both with 17 points. The North American League next heads east to Tryon (USA) on 30 October 2021.
Conor Swail (IRL) and Vital Chance de la Roque. (FEI/Quinn Saunders)
It was a triumphant return for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League as Conor Swail (IRL) jumped to victory in front of a packed crowd at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC (CAN) in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver.
A compact but competitive field took on Peter Holmes’ (CAN) 1.60m track with the aim of getting an early jump on points toward qualifying for next April’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Leipzig (GER). A total of 14 athletes from the NAL will punch their tickets to the Final, including seven east coast U.S. athletes, three west coast U.S. athletes, and two athletes apiece from Canada and Mexico.
A clear round did not materialise until more than halfway through the starting order, when world number 13, Kent Farrington (USA), executed Holmes’ test with ease. Three riders would join the former world number 1 for the shortened track. Farrington blazed the trail in the jump-off with a blisteringly quick round, but a rail at the final fence left the door open for another to overtake him.
Swail then put his focus on keeping the fences up, and he accomplished that mission despite losing a stirrup during the round. He crossed the timers in 38.98 seconds, and the remaining riders could not catch him. Swail’s student Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Catinka came closest, finishing second as the only other double-clear performers (40.59 seconds), while Farrington ultimately settled for third (4/36.12).
“If Kent had been clear, I imagine he would have been the winner. He would have been hard to chase,” Swail said. “I did a little bit, after Kent, [because] he was very aggressive and so fast, thought that if I just dialed it back a notch, it would hopefully still be enough to get a win.”
Swail has been partnered with the 12-year-old “Vinny” for less than a year, but the barefoot bay gelding has quickly proven his merit. His World Cup win marked the fourth international grand prix victory for the pair since June 20. The duo also won the $75,000 CSI4*-W tbird Cup at the venue three days prior.
“I’m extremely proud [of my horse],” Swail said. “He’s had a wonderful week: He’s been first, second, and first. He jumped so well today, he deserved it for being so good.
“We’re off to a great start [in the North American League],” he added. “This is the first [qualifier]. We’re going to Sacramento and Las Vegas; we’re going to be on a little tour doing [World Cup events]. We’ll see how we’re going after that.”
Swail claims the early lead in the North American League standings with 17 points. As an Irish rider based in North America, he competes as an “extra” athlete. Mannix sits second with 14 points, two points ahead of Farrington, who earned 12 points. The North American League heads next to Sacramento (CAN) on 9 October 2021.
Mill Spring, NC – July 18, 2021 – Conor Swail (Wellington, FL) and Koss Van Heiste claimed a win in the $25,000 Tryon Resort Sunday Classic at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) after clearing the jump off in 35.49 seconds, also grabbing reserve with Count Me In on a time of 36.2 seconds. It was a winning week for Swail, who dominated Saturday evening’s $73,000 Cleghorn Gun Club Grand Prix CSI 2* aboard Vital Chance de la Roque, as well as Friday’s $6,000 Speed Stake CSI 2* with Theo 160. Though Swail and Vital Chance de la Roque didn’t win the $37,000 Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake CSI 2* Thursday, they did collect reserve honors to set themselves up for a win under the lights in Tryon Stadium.
Sunday’s $25,000 Tryon Resort Sunday Classic one-two finish was icing on the cake for Swail after a victorious week, and he walked into the ring aboard Count Me In, the 2007 Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes), with only himself to beat. The Guilherme Jorge course design tested 24 entries in the first round, with only one pair challenging Swail’s two jump-off mounts: Harold Chopping (Southern Pines, NC) and Geronimo SCF, the 2011 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Veron x Mary Louise) owned by Diane Halpin, who earned third place on a time of 37.093.
Swail was first to test the jump-off track with Koss Van Heiste, the 2010 Belgian Warmblood gelding (Breemeersen Adorado x Contact Van de Heffinck) owned by Eadaoin Aine Ni Choileain, an experienced and longtime ride of his. They could have had an even faster round than their winning time, Swail admitted: “It wasn’t the round I wanted, to be honest. I wanted to be a little quicker than that! I gave Harold a little window there.” After Chopping finished his clear round with the leaderboard unchanged, however, Swail was free to ride Count Me In, a mount he’s been riding for only a few weeks, to a clear round and second place.
“It’s nice when you’re going [into the ring] last and you know that you’ve won the class anyway,” Swail admitted. “He’s a new horse to me, so I just didn’t over-ride him too much, and I had a nice round on him. We’re just getting to know each other a little better, and trying to build a good relationship and trust each other. That’s the first bigger class I’ve done on him, so I’m very pleased with him.”
Wellington, FL – April 15, 2021 – The second week of the 2021 ESP Spring Series opened on the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village, kicking off the first of two consecutive weeks of three-star competition. In Thursday afternoon’s feature class, Kristen Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili, owned by Bull Run Jumpers Five, LLC, jumped to the top of the podium, taking top honors in the $37,000 CCTV Agent 1.45m Jumpers CSI3*.
Conor Swail (IRL) and Gamble Top the $6,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.40m jumpers CSI3*
Earlier in the day, Ireland’s Conor Swail piloted Gamble, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Asta Torokvei, to a victory in the $6,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.40m jumpers CSI3*. A starting field of 65 entries challenged the two-phase format, with Swail posting a double-clear effort and stopping the clock in an impressive 30.80 seconds in the jump-off portion.
Mill Spring, NC – October 12, 2019 – Conor Swail (IRL) and GK Coco Chanel nailed their jump-off to a win in the $134,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Jump for Our Heroes Grand Prix CSI 3* presented by Lowe’s at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) at Tryon Resort, stopping the jump-off timers in 40.172 seconds. Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA) and Collin, a 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Colandro x Amethist) owned by Santa Cecelia Stables LLC, claimed reserve on a jump-off performance of 39.116 seconds with four faults, while third-place honors went to Rowan Willis (AUS) and Lucinda Huddy and Rowan Willis’ Diablo VII, a 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Douglas x Cavalier), who put in a 40.452-second jump-off ride with four faults to secure the podium finish.
“I thought he did a very nice job; there were eight clean out of 50 so it was very well built,” Swail shared of the course designed by Michel Vaillancourt (CAN). “You needed a more experienced horse just to make sure and get the back rail. The beginning was tricky and then that double line caused enough trouble, and I suppose the combination was a little scopey since it was oxer to oxer.”
Swail continued, “The jump-off also was very difficult with a lot of sharp angles and everything was coming up late. It was very difficult to keep that smooth and I think that was probably why there weren’t a lot of clear rounds.”
Swail confessed that the 2008 Holsteiner gelding (Clarimo x Lerano 2) owned by Vanessa Mannix, who he has been working with for a couple years, is not the easiest horse to ride: “He has his own mind sometimes and can be a little difficult, but when he goes well it normally ends up being a win.” Swail elaborated, “We have learned to work together very well now at this stage and we have a good relationship. The consistency is growing all the time; there’s a lot of good results.
“This is maybe a week early, but to win this is fabulous,” admitted Swail, who hopes to continue his winning streak for next week’s $384,000 Gary Sinise Foundation Grand Prix CSI 5*. “I won the [Rolex Grand Prix CSI] 5* last year on Rubens LS [La Silla Triumph]. This horse [GK Coco Chanel] is very capable of winning again next week and it would be great to get the double win. I’m looking forward to it.
Mill Spring, NC – October 20, 2018 – Conor Swail (IRL) and Rubens LS La Silla dazzled in the $384,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, which set the stage as the most competitive Saturday Night Lights class of the 2018 season at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). Swail and Rubens LS La Silla, a 2006 La Silla Stallion (Rebozo Ls La Silla x Cash) owned by Rose Hill Farm, flew through jump-off timers in a quick 39.804 seconds.
Subsequently, Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, a 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Silverstone x Matterhorn) owned by Skara Glen Stables and Whipstick Farm, placed second with a time of 42.076 seconds, and with eight added faults in the jump-off. Margie Engle (USA) and Royce, a 2004 Oldenburg stallion (Cafe Au Lait x Grandilot) owned by Gladewinds Partners LLC, took third place earning a time of 42.076 seconds and with twelve faults added to their second-round time.
Only three riders returned to the short-course, designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA), and Swail maintained the pair’s stronghold on the lead. The duo was the first to go clear and Swail noted his plan going into the first round. “My horse has had a great year so far and he was coming in here with a lot of confidence. I thought that the time was going to be a little bit of an issue for me, but thankfully I squeezed just inside it.”
Swail continued, “It started off a little scratchy for us at the start. I think it was because we haven’t competed in five weeks. The second half of the round he jumped beautifully. We squeezed just inside the time, but thankfully there weren’t many more in the jump-off.”
Trailing behind Swail was fellow Irishman Paul O’Shea, who scored another second-place finish aboard Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, after coming off a podium placing in last weekend’s Grand Prix CSI 3*. “I saw Conor go on the screen,” explained O’Shea, “and he didn’t look really fast, but he was really fast and is always really fast, so that didn’t tell me much, really. My horse has been jumping really well this year and we have been competing in Nation’s Cups all year. He won the Grand Prix here exactly a year ago and that was the last time we went this fast. He’s had a great year and it’s nice to finish with a result like this.”
Much like Swail’s mount, Engle noted that third place mount Royce is also coming off of a bit of down time. Despite this, the stallion remained swift and competitive, landing on the podium with promising results. “Royce felt great,” stated Engle. “In the first round he jumped amazingly. He was way up and over everything, and I think it look a little bit out of him. It was his first time back under the lights in a while. I think I got a little hungry. He’s been second like the last five or six Grand Prixs I’ve been in, so I took a little maybe too much of a shot at the third fence at the vertical. That one he rubbed light and then after that I think he just kind of emptied out. The first round he felt amazing and right on game.”
All three competitors echoed their gratitude toward their mounts, elaborating on the fact that each will get a week off as they plan out their next stops on their calendars. Swail concluded, “My two guys that I have here are heading over to have a week off next week, then they are heading to Lexington and then up to Toronto. After that, we will go to Florida and that wraps up the year.”
Ireland’s Conor Swail and Flower did nothing but win at the Thunderbird Show Park, as the pair completed the sweep by topping the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Langley, kicking off the west coast sub league of the series.
Although declared for the east coast sub league, Swail arrived on the west coast, hungry for valuable ranking points, and the Irish rider came away with the lion’s share of those by proving fastest in a seven-horse jump-off designed by fellow Irishman Alan Wade. Christopher Surbey (CAN) and new mount Daylight VDL finished second, and Jamie Barge (USA) and Luebbo were third. Earlier in the week, Swail and his 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare also won the Maui Jim Welcome Stake and the Steel-Craft Door Products Cup.
“I just continued with the same process that we came here with. It was working very well, so there was no need to try to change too much. My mare was absolutely outstanding, and it was really good to finish it off with the win.” — Conor Swail (IRL)
Last to go in the jump-off, Swail had only Surbey to catch, and a loose gallop up the first three fences left him with room to spare down the final line. Swail and Flower ended up comfortable winners; they were nearly four seconds faster that the runners up.
“I knew the time was easily attainable,” Swail explained. “[Flower] is very good at running and jumping, so I let her run and jump the first few jumps. I didn’t take any major risks and just knew that, with the way she was jumping, she would leave the jumps up as long as I didn’t make any mistakes.”
The North American League continues with a return to the east, with the qualifier in North Salem (NY) on Sunday 17 September 2017.
Conor Swail (IRL): “It’s an early relationship that I have with [Flower]. She is a little unique. She can be quite difficult to ride at times. She’s very spooky and can see stuff that’s not there. She has an extremely funny character, but when she goes into the ring, she’s not spooky at all. She’s dead brave and very careful. I’ve been trying to level out all those situations and make her trust me as much as we can. It’s getting much more consistent. We’ve won a lot since I got her in early January. I feel now that I’m starting to get all the pieces in the right places consistently.”
Christopher Surbey (CAN): “For me, my horse is not as naturally quick as Conor’s horse. He has a really big stride, but he’s a bit slower moving. I had a plan where I could leave stride out here or there. I don’t have much experience with this particular horse. My goal was to be clear and as quick as I could, but I left a lot on the table.”
Mill Spring, NC – October 19, 2016 – Conor Swail (IRL) and Cenzo narrowly edged fellow Irishman Shane Sweetnam and Cornwall for the win in the $35,000 1.45m Horseware® Ireland Opener CSI 5* to begin the week of international competition during Tryon Fall V at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). Swail and Cenzo made quick work of the jump-off track as the last pair to enter the George H. Morris Arena, securing a time of 35.056 seconds. Sweetnam (IRL) and Cornwall crossed through the timers in 35.582 seconds for second place honors, while Kent Farrington (USA) and Willow earned third with a time of 35.596 seconds.
In Swail’s first appearance at TIEC this season, the veteran Irish rider guided Cenzo, a 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Harley VDL x Cavalier) owned by Ilan Ferder & Tal Milstein to first place in the class, which featured a strong count of 50 entries. The pair drew late in the order and capitalized on their additional time to observe the other 14 combinations qualified to test the jump-off track set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA). Seventeen original pairs qualified for the jump-off round while three combinations decided to voluntarily withdraw before the start.
“I thought that it was a nice course for the first day and there were a few questions there. It was certainly a careful course. The jump-off ended up quite fast,” explained Swail. “I went last so I was able to watch how everything had gone and unfolded in front of me.”
“Basically, when I went in I knew that my horse was going to have to go very fast and do everything well. Thankfully today, that’s how it worked out for us,” he added, commenting on his strategy for the short course, which saw the top four combinations finish less than seven-tenths of a second within his winning time.
Swail has established a successful relationship with the gelding throughout the year, as he took over the ride this past winter season and has placed in numerous FEI competitions, garnering top five finishes in Wellington, FL, Coapexpan, Mexico, Spruce Meadows, Canada, and St. Lô, France.
“I started riding him in Florida at the start of the year and he’s owned by Ilan Ferder,” he elaborated. “He’s a very good jumper but can be a little bit difficult to ride. He’s brave and scopey though. We’ve had a reasonably successful year with him and it’s nice to finish up feeling like we’re progressing well.”
Cenzo is still young and is gaining valuable experience with Swail piloting from the irons, but looks to be a strong mount for the future. His adjustability stands out as a quality that will be essential to his development in international competition next season.
“His strengths are that he is careful and has a big step, but also has a short step as well. Equally, when we need to balance and put in that step he does it quickly and whenever we need to leave a stride out he does that quickly. I think with those attributes it makes him a fast horse,” noted Swail.
Swail will compete two horses this week in the highly anticipated FEI CSI 5* at the venue and feels the “luck of the Irish” may be playing in his favor for the remainder of the week.
“From what I see so far this is an amazing facility. There’s a lot of space to ride your horse with beautiful stables and a good arena. For me, it’s great that I started with a winning round here,” he smiled. “I do believe that I have lucky shows and unlucky shows. The way that this is starting off, it looks like it’s going to be a good one.”
For more information on Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and surrounding amenities, please visit www.tryon.com.
Richard Spooner and Cristallo. Photos by Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Calgary, AB, Canada – One of the most challenging competitions at the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, the CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby always has plenty of drama for spectators. Sunday was no different as Richard Spooner (USA) and Cristallo won for the second year in a row and third time in their careers. Lisa Carlsen (CAN) and Worlds Judgement finished second, while Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Ridley were third.
In the ATCO Classic 1.45m, Conor Swail took the win aboard Cenzo. Sunday’s competitions marked the end of the Spruce Meadows ‘National’, presented by Rolex. It was another incredible week of turnout at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’, with 34,561 in attendance on the final day and 79,455 throughout the week.
The Spruce Meadows ‘Continental’ Tournament runs June 15-19 with more top CSI 5* show jumping competition, featuring the Scotiabank Cup 1.55m on Friday, June 17, the Repsol Cup 1.50m on Saturday, June 18, and the highlight competition, the CP Grand Prix, on Sunday, June 19.
There were 15 entries in the CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby, and 12 completed the course. The course, which was designed by Leopoldo Palacios nine years ago, is the same each year. The test of endurance and stamina asks questions at a variety of jumps, including double liverpools, the table bank, the derby bank, and the Devil’s Dyke. There are 19 numbered obstacles and 25 jumping efforts on course. While the derby has been held since 1990, the course changed in 2007. Since then, there have only been three clear rounds.
The early pacesetter was Irishman Daniel Coyle on Ridley, a 10-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding (Ustinov x Adiantus AS) owned by Susan Grange. They just missed joining the jump-off as they had four jumping faults and one time fault in 166.91 seconds. They would finish in third place.
Coyle only recently traveled to the United States for a job through Conor Swail and Barry O’Connor, so his relationship with Ridley is a new one. But he has experience in derby competition, having competed in the Hickstead Derby for the last three years.
“I never won it or came close to winning it, but I always loved doing it,” he said of the Hickstead Derby. “I actually hadn’t planned to jump this class on the horse. We thought maybe it would be too much for him; he’s only nine and only just getting to this level. When I heard there wasn’t an awful lot in it, I said we might as well try. It’s his type of thing. He’s so quiet and does absolutely everything you ask of him. He’s a brilliant horse for these types of classes. He’s a real trier; he’ll try every time. I’m really glad now that we jumped him in it.”
Eleven trips later, it was Lisa Carlsen and Worlds Judgement, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Judgement, a horse that Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden rode to victory in this same event three years in a row in 2006-2008. Their four faults in the first round in 158.74 seconds put them into the lead.
When asked about Worlds Judgement’s lineage, Carlsen remarked, “She’ll eventually win it three times too, I think. She’s going to live up to her father. This is her class. It will be in the future. I think she’s just going to learn as she goes a little bit. She’s made the mistake at that Devil’s Dyke (twice). Last year we came in too fast and had it in front, and this year it was slow and we had it behind. She keeps learning as she’s doing it. I think eventually I’ll be sitting there (as the winner) and Richard will be sitting here.”
Spooner and Cristallo went last and had a rail for four faults in 162.45 seconds to tie Carlsen and force a jump-off.
Carlsen and Worlds Judgement returned for the jump-off first and had electric speed from the start. In a short rollback to the “Canadian flag planks” jump, they had a slip, and the horse was unable to get her feet under her to clear the fence. They finished with four faults in a very fast 42.89 seconds.
“She really lost her balance in the corner to the plank, which was unfortunate,” Carlsen said. “But that’s the shot you take when you go that fast. [Richard is] fast; he could outrun me. My strategy was basically to make him chase me, go clean, and hope he makes a mistake.”
Spooner went in knowing that he could go slower for a clear round and the win, and that was exactly what he did. They were clear in 52.38 seconds for victory.
“When I watched [Lisa] go, I was sweating,” Spooner admitted. “I was deeply concerned as fast as she was going. It was not going to be so easy. I got lucky.”
Spooner described Cristallo as a bird in a horse’s body. He said, “All that horse wants to do is fly.
“Lisa left the door open for me by having the rail. I made the decision just to chicken-peck my way around and take my time. But if you have one down anywhere on the course with that strategy, your goose is cooked…I’m done with my fowl jokes,” he laughed.
Cristallo, an 18-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Caretino x Cicero) owned by Show Jumping Syndication Intl, shows no signs of slowing down as he repeated his derby victory at Spruce Meadows. They also won the competition in 2012, and competed for the first time in the CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby in 2006.
“On the ground he’s as sweet as can be, and he doesn’t want to go anywhere. When you get on him, he wants to go everywhere,” Spooner said. “In the prize giving, he basically ran away with me. I had to pull up so I wasn’t lapping my fellow competitors.”
The love that Spooner has for Cristallo is obvious and shows when he talks about the horse.
“That horse has meant so much to me and done so much for me,” he expressed. “At this point in his career, every time we have a round period, let alone a successful round, it really strikes a chord in me. He’s been a huge part of my life, my family’s life, for over a decade. I just look forward to every ride on him.”
Swail Continues Winning Streak
Conor Swail of Ireland continued his streak of leading the victory gallop at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’, presented by Rolex, when he topped the ATCO Classic 1.45m with Cenzo, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Harley VDL x Cavalier), owned by Ilan Ferder and Tal Milstein.
Swail was the last to go in a jump-off of 15, out of an original starting order of 39. The leading time was set early in the jump-off by Antonio Chedraui (MEX) on Corcega La Silla, who finished in 36.07 seconds. Swail and Cenzo sped around the course and won with a time of 35.56 seconds.
Swail had never gone that fast with Cenzo before, he said. “The plan was to run and try to keep it as smooth as possible,” he continued. “His left turn is not as good as is right, so the turn back to the Rolex (jump) I thought would be too slow for me to be the winner, but he actually did that quite good. I got a lot of time up to the last. He cut in and raced hard at it and jumped it really well.”
Third place went to Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Acita with a time of 36.61 seconds. Leslie Howard (USA) and Up & Blue Chapelle were fourth in 37.11 seconds, while Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Fortis Fortuna were fifth in 37.23 seconds.
Swail started riding Cenzo this past winter in the 1.30m Jumpers and had moved up to the 1.45m division by the end of the winter circuit. He competed in Mexico before trying his hand at Spruce Meadows.
“He’s got a little bit of mileage,” Swail said. “He’s a little bit difficult in the mouth, but very careful. He’s a good jumper. He scared himself a little bit in the 1.50m the last time he was out, so that was a great comeback for him.
Cenzo will stay competing at the Summer Series for the four weeks of tournaments to further his education and gain consistency.
“We want to improve the rideability,” Swail explained. “That’s why we’re here at Spruce Meadows, to try and collect prize money, jump clear rounds, and work on things that need to be improved. It’s a great place to be to do that.”
The Spruce Meadows Summer Series continues with the ‘Continental’ tournament on June 15-19.
Conor Swail and Martha Louise. Photos by Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Calgary, AB, Canada – It was a beautiful day of top show jumping competition at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’, presented by Rolex. Spectators numbered 28,477 to see Ireland’s Conor Swail win the $500,000 RBC Grand Prix, presented by Rolex. It was the highlight event of the CSI 5* tournament, which concludes on Sunday, June 12. Second place went to Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Fine Lady 5, while Rich Fellers (USA) and Flexible placed third. Earlier in the day, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Rosana du Park won the Transcanada Winning Round 1.50m.
The Spruce Meadows ‘National’, presented by Rolex, concludes on Sunday, June 12, with the $175,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby.
Thirty-three entries took to the course in the RBC Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, which was designed by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil, who will be designing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Swail said of the course, “There was a premium on carefulness today. There were a lot of tall, light verticals. Scope-wise it wasn’t a huge test, but I thought he did an excellent job creating the right amount of clear rounds.”
The first phase was held earlier in the morning and had ten entries. There was one clear round in Maggie McAlary (USA) and HH Ciske van Overis. They were the first to return in the jump-off and had one rail for four faults in 47.95 seconds. They would finish in fifth place.
Next in was Jonathan McCrea (USA) on Aristoteles V. They were more careful in a time of 49.72 seconds in order to ensure their clear round, which would hold up for fourth place.
McCrea has developed Aristoteles, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Candy Tribble, since he was five years old. “To produce him to this level has been a long road,” he said. “I’ve believed in him from the start. This year he’s really stepped up to jump the bigger classes. He jumped his first Nations Cup a few weeks ago. I felt very relaxed today when I walked the course. He stepped up to the plate and delivered, so I was happy with him.”
In the first round, McCrea finished exactly on the 86-second time allowed.
“The two 1.55m classes earlier in the week, for me personally, built my horse up to today. I was clear with a time fault in both of them, so that was in the back of my mind today. I could hear the people in the box in the middle of the ring, as I was going to the second to last oxer, they were clucking. I thought, ‘Oh geez, I’m a bit slow here,’” he said with a smile.
Rich Fellers (USA) and his expectation-defying horse, Flexible, brought the winning time down to 43.77 seconds with no faults and they would end up in third place. The 20-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion, owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman, has survived multiple potentially career-ending injuries. He looked as bright and sharp as ever as he made easy work of the jump-off.
“It’s kind of getting to the point where I’m literally living a dream,” said Fellers. “He felt as good today as he’s ever felt. There’s really no explanation. I do notice little things day-to-day, working with him, he’s getting older and he has some of the typical characteristics of an older athlete. But when he walks in the ring, he gets young. Maybe he gets a lot out of adrenaline. We just take it day by day and see how he feels.”
Going just that much faster next in the jump-off was the crowd favorite, Canada’s Eric Lamaze on Fine Lady 5. Zipping around the course, they stopped the timers in 41.96 seconds.
“She’s naturally quick, and I knew Conor was after me,” Lamaze said. “I thought I’d done enough, or for sure enough to put the pressure that he had to take a few risks and see where it goes. I’m thrilled with this mare today. She jumped fantastic.”
When Lamaze started riding Fine Lady 5, a 13-year-old Hanoverian mare (Forsyth x Hauptstutbuch) owned by Artisan Farms LLC & Torrey Pines Stable, he did not consider her to be a solid 1.60m horse. However, when asked to step up, she has proven that she can be competitive at some the biggest venues in the world.
“She proved to me that she can jump some big courses if you manage her well and build her up. She again stepped up today to do a bigger class quite easy,” he commented. “She’s a very light, Thoroughbred-y type jumper. She doesn’t have raw power. That’s why all these speed classes and jump-offs, she runs so fast. You just have to give her the courage to look at a big jump and believe she can jump it. She’s very talented and very careful. It’s important that she has a lot of confidence in me and I have a lot of confidence in her. That’s how a little horse like that can make it over some of these big fences.”
But it would not be enough as the last horse in the ring was able to find that bit more speed to win. Swail and Martha Louise, a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare (Maloubet de Pleveille x Wolfgang) owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, opened up around the course, made a daring dash to the double combination, and cleared the final oxer in 40.66 seconds.
Swail said he took the “fastest and shortest route,” and it was his turn back to the combination that may have made the difference. He explained, “Going to the double I took a huge risk. I saw one very early and she was very, very good to jump in and out of that double. Once I had done the double – this is what goes through your head when you’re running around at that speed – I thought I’d done enough, so I’d go a little wider to the last and make sure to clear the back rail. That’s how it worked out for me.”
Going last in the jump-off “made a big difference,” Swail said. “I watched Eric’s round and I saw how good of a round he had. There were five clears, I have a fast horse, I ride not too bad, so I thought I would give it a good go and it all came off very well today.”
Of his win, Swail said, “Honestly, I’m over the moon. I thought today, in this big ring, it’s one of the biggest wins I’ve had here. I was just saying to Eric earlier in the day that I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot because Martha hasn’t shown so much since Florida. She really excelled today. It’s nice sometimes when you get a bit of a surprise. I suppose when Martha Louise comes here, she loves this arena. She was amazing, phenomenal today.”
Lamaze Leads Winning Round
The Transcanada Winning Round 1.50m had 28 entries. In this format, the top 10 regardless of first round faults return for a jump-off. Faults do not carry through to the jump-off, but determine the order of go.
Lamaze and Rosana du Park, an 11-year-old Selle Francais mare by Kannan owned by Artisan Farms LLC & Torrey Pines Stable, were fast and clear in the first round, setting them up for the perfect position in the second round order.
“This mare doesn’t often have four faults, (but) if she did, that would be all she had,” Lamaze pointed out. “I just had to look at the time on the board if I had an unlucky rail (in the first round). Fortunately she jumped clear and I had the pole position, last to go in. I had my plan. There were maybe a couple of options, but I thought I would just take the route the others took more or less, but put on some more speed. I would have gone faster if I had to go first.”
When Lamaze entered the ring, he was following fellow Artisan Farms rider Tiffany Foster (CAN), who had set the leading time with a clear round in 55.88 seconds on Brighton. Lamaze and Rosana du Park sped around the course, turning in a time just under in 55.69 seconds for victory.
Third place went to Sameh El Dahan (EGY) on WKD Diva. They recorded a clear round in 56.82 seconds. Conor Swail (IRL) and Hetman of Color J, with a time of 60.53 seconds, finished fourth. Patricio Pasquel (MEX) and Babel were fifth with four faults in 57.28 seconds.
Lamaze is the winningest rider in Spruce Meadows’ 41-year history, earning more than $4.55 million. But he said that winning never gets old, especially at Spruce Meadows.
“They do it in such a fun way with the presentations. You can go around the world and not see presentations like that at major shows,” he said. “Here it’s fun to ride in (to the ring in) the golf cart too; you don’t do that at any other show. I love the presentations here, and that’s what keeps you wanting to win.”
Rosana du Park was one of a handful of horses that were purchased by his owners, Artisan Farms, a few years ago and started competing at Spruce Meadows as young horses in the 1.30m and 1.40m Jumpers. She and Check Picobello Z are now winning consistently at the 1.50m level around the world.
“We’ve had some good luck, but you need great owners behind you in order to do this,” he acknowledged. “There are plenty of horses that we purchased, that you will never see because they weren’t good enough. That’s the game. You don’t bat 100 buying horses and competing. You’ll make some mistakes, and some horses will disappoint you. With Artisan Farms behind me, and Tiffany, they’ve made it possible and not be afraid to buy young horses, trying to find a special one, and get great horses to compete on. We’re very fortunate to have that.”
With an Artisan Farms 1-2 finish, Lamaze was happy. “We’re all on the same team, and you have to cheer for each other. If [Tiffany] went after me, she probably could have caught what I just did on Rosana. She had one down and went earlier, but she came back to finish second, which is a very good result,” he said.
The highlight competition at the ‘National’, presented by Rolex, on Sunday, June 12, is the $175,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby and ATCO Classic 1.45m.