By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Conor Swail (IRL) strategically brought a fresh horse into Thunderbird Show Park’s Harvest Celebration CSI4*-W. Vital Chance de la Roque hadn’t jumped a class since an August 7 win in CSI4* Grand Prix competition in Saugerties, NY (USA).
There was little rust to rub off in Thursday’s $75,000 CSI4*-W Welcome. Swail and the 12-year-old gelding took the win over a six-horse jump-off that included World No. 13 Kent Farrington (USA), winner of tbird’s last international grand prix, Robert Blanchette (IRL), Australian invader Rowan Willis (AUS) and rising talent Hilary McNerney (USA).
Vital Chance de la Roque is known to show off some exuberance in the ring, and that proved true Thursday evening in the Thunderbird Jumper Arena, as the bay kicked up his heels after the jump-off’s first fence. But the naturally quick gelding was still more-than focused enough to clear Peter Holmes’ (CAN) shortened track with ease—the pair crossed the timers as comfortable winners on a time of 39.35 seconds.
Leadoff competitors Coupis and Blanchette finished second (40.68 seconds), with McNerney and Chuck third (43.03).
“I had two weeks here at Thunderbird in August, and then I was in Spruce [Meadows] for three weeks, and he had a break during that time,” Swail said of his mount. “This is just his first show back. He finished off [his last competition] very well. He won the CSI4* Grand Prix at Saugerites, and he had a very well-deserved break. He’s come back feeling better than he was before. I’m really chuffed.”
The jump-off proved to favor the early riders, as the first two returning combinations would ultimately claim the top two placings. Holmes’ shortened track was characterized by sweeping turns and angled lines that came up quickly. Swail gave credit to his mount’s carefulness, which allowed him to take risks with confidence.
“It’s fun to ride [him],” he said. “He’s so careful; he doesn’t want to knock jumps down. So, it makes it very easy for riders whenever you can be a bit far away, a bit too close, a bit slow, a bit too quick, and it doesn’t matter. Good horses hide riders’ mistakes, and I feel he’s a very good one.”
Vital Chance de la Roque will be Swail’s mount in the week’s feature, the $150,000 CSI4*-W Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, the opening leg of the 2021–2022 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League, in which riders strive to qualifying for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final next April in Leipzig, Germany. While Swail has only been partnered with his mount for a short time, having purchased half of the gelding in January, he is excited about the horse’s potential.
“[World Cup Finals] is something I hadn’t thought about particularly too much,” Swail said, “but if he keeps continuing to grow as much as he is, it’s maybe not a bad way to go with him.”
Nyah Chernoff Flies to First in $10,000 CSIU25-A MarBill Hill U25 League 1.35m Powered by Grant Productions
Nyah Chernoff (CAN) did not have much time to prepare for Thursday morning’s opening U25 class at the Harvest Celebration. In fact, she only arrived in Langley the night prior.
A student at Western University in London, Ontario, Chernoff, 18, is studying for a nursing degree, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete in tbird’s first international U25 division of the year. She left school just in time to record a victory in the $10,000 CSIU25-A MarBill Hill U25 League 1.35m, Powered by Grant Productions, aboard her longtime mount, Casuality Z.
Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana finished second, with Reid Pankewicz (CAN) and Barack third.
“I’ve been away at school, so I probably haven’t ridden in three weeks,” Chernoff said. “I’ve ridden [Casuality Z] for a few years now, so we get each other.”
The strength of this partnership shined through in the speed competition. The field was closely bunched until Keith broke through convincingly more than halfway through the class, shedding more than six seconds off the then-leading time. While Pankewicz closed the gap, she could not quite match Keith, leaving just three riders to challenge.
When Chernoff entered the ring aboard her 14-year-old Zangersheide, the pair established a forward tone from the moment they set off. Utilizing her mount’s large stride, Chernoff cracked the code to victory, coming home six-hundredths of a second fastest; the winning time was 62.95 seconds.
“My plan was definitely to go as fast as I could!” Chernoff exclaimed. “I didn’t want to go inside in too many places to save him for [Sunday’s $25,000 CSIU25-A MarBill Hill U25 League Grand Prix 1.40m], but I just tried to stay tight, and everything came up really nicely for him. He has a really big stride, so that makes it easy to go a bit faster. You can do the leave-outs really easily.”
$75,000 CSI4*-W Welcome 1.50m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Vital Chance de la Roque / Conor Swail / IRL / Adeline Hecart, Conor Swail / 0/0 39.35
2. Coupis / Robert Blanchette / IRL / Robert Blanchette / 0/0 40.68
3. Chuck / Hilary McNerney / USA / Hilary Ann McNerney / 0/0 43.03
4. Landon / Kent Farrington / USA / Haity McNerney / 0/0 43.03
5. Crusador Z / Brian Morton / CAN / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 0/4 46.48
6. Austria / Kent Farrington / USA / Take the High Road, LLC / 0/8 42.66
7. Ekita Eindeken Z / Rowan Willis / AUS / Rowan Willis / 4 66.07
8. Theo 160 / Conor Swail / IRL / Team Philippaerts / 4 67.06
9. Ashton Dakota / Rowan Willis / AUS / Rowan Willis / 8 62.61
10. Catinka 25 / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 12 64.46
$10,000 CSIU25-A MarBill Hill U25 League 1.35m Powered by Grant Productions
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Casuality Z / Nyah Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co. / 0/62.95
2. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Kassidy Keith / 0/63.01
3. Barack / Reid Pankewicz / CAN / Reid Pankewicz / 0/65.97
4. Fiventum Kieni / Nyah Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co. / 69.07
5. Ilana / Halle Duke / CAN / Halle Duke / 0/72.23
6. Lestat OLD / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 0/73.07
7. Pasquinelle / Emily Fitzgerald / CAN / Emily Fitzgerald / 4 68.24
8. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 4 69.22
9. Lux la Loi / Cassie Gorsline / CAN / Lisa Carlsen / 4 70.05
10. Treffer VDV / Nyha Leclerc / CAN / Lyha Leclerc / 4 73.88