By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Conor Swail (IRL) is widely regarded as Thunderbird Show Park’s winningest rider, and he wasted no time living up to that reputation at the Harvest Celebration CSI4*-W. On Friday in the Thunderbird Jumper Arena, Swail won a four-star event for the second day in a row.
In fact, he took the top two places in Friday afternoon’s $75,000 CSI4*-W tbird Cup, a 1.50m speed contest set by Canadian course designer Peter Holmes. After topping Thursday’s $75,000 CSI4*-W Welcome with the 12-year-old Vital Chance de la Roque, the less experienced Theo 160 took his turn atop the podium, crossing the timers in 71.74 seconds.
Swail and “Vinny” finished second (72.82 seconds), while Swail’s student Vanessa Mannix (CAN) rode to third honors (73.83) aboard her longtime mount, Catinka 25.
“He’s such a nice horse,” Swail said of Theo. “He’s brave and careful, he’s nice and scopey and fast, so it’s everything. I’m really enjoying riding him and developing him.”
Swail and Team Philippaerts’ 9-year-old gelding had a breakout summer in Langley, winning three CSI3* classes in the span of just two weeks at the Summer Fort Classic and Summer Fort Festival. The liver chestnut has rested since.
“He’s just learning the game,” Swail said. “He was exceptional here at Thunderbird in August, and he’s had a little break, and this is his first show back. After three weeks, he’s started where he left off.”
Swail and Theo were just the second combination to take on Holmes’ course, which featured a myriad of rollback turns and opportunities to shave time with inside tracks. The pair would set the standard.
Swail’s track was the picture of expedience. He and his mount executed a challenging inside route after the first fence with a smoothness that was not replicated in the remainder of the 19-horse field. The round continued with highlights, including tremendous turns to the final two lines on course.
“He actually jumped a very good round yesterday [in the Welcome], and we just had the last fence down. So, for him to come out today again and go in second, to go quite early, we didn’t really have much information at that stage about how quick it was going to be,” Swail detailed. “Everything came up very well. I thought he jumped extremely, extremely well and stayed careful the whole way around.”
Swail owns the gelding in partnership with members of the Philippaerts family, who helped make the pairing in February. Previously, the Philippaerts owned the horse with Nicole Mestrom (NED) after acquiring him from his breeder, Jenny Abrahamson.
“Now that I have him, there’s quite a few people that say ‘You know, I know that horse. I like that horse. I tried to buy that horse,'” Swail said. “So, he certainly had a reputation before he came here. It is very nice that he’s continued to grow with me. He looks like a super competitive, lovely horse.”
$75,000 CSI4*-W tbird Cup 1.50m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Theo 160 / Conor Swail / IRL / Team Philippaerts / 0/71.74
2. Vital Chance de la Roque / Conor Swail / IRL / Adeline Hecart, Conor Swail / 0/72.82
3. Catinka / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/73.83
4. Gravin A / Charlie Jacobs / USA / CMJ Sporthorse / 0/75.51
5. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / IRL / RTS LLC / 0/76.80
6. Deejay / Braden James / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co. / 0/81.27
7. Landon / Kent Farrington / USA / Haity McNerney / 0/82.54
8. Vienna / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms, LLC / 4/74.82
9. Beneficial / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / CAN / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / 4/75.73
10. Crusador Z / Brian Morton / CAN / Spruce Meadows, Ltd / 4/78.72