Harrisburg, Pa. – Oct. 17
As Conor Swail watched the six riders ahead of him in the jump-off of the $40,000 Pennsylvania Big Jump, his plans for Game Ready changed quickly.
He thought a nice, slow clear would get him a good placing when four riders dropped rails, but then Todd Minikus on Quality Girl, Brianne Goutal on Nice de Prissey and Kent Farrington on Willow put the pressure on with fast clears.
“I’d seen Todd, and he was very quick,” said the Irish rider. “His time was 37 [seconds], but I thought it was a very fast time and Brianne went in 38, and I thought, ‘OK, that’s beatable.’ Then Kent was 36, and I thought, “OK, it’s kind of all or nothing. You have be tight, take your first distance and really give it a go.’”
Luckily, jump-offs are Game Ready’s specialty, and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding sliced the turns to beat Farrington’s time, stopping the clock in 34.54 seconds.
“I think the reason I won by such a distance was that on the landing side, he’s so quick to turn,” said Swail. “That’s where he makes up so much time. In the indoors, you can see the tracks that were in front of you and everywhere I was inside all of the tracks.”
Twenty-eight riders started over Alan Wade's track and seven made the jump-off.
Farrington went early and set a blistering pace of 36.80 seconds, but he had to settle for second. Goutal took third, while Katie Dinan and Glory Days took fourth.
McLain Ward was on track for another win with Rothchild, but the gelding stopped at the first fence in the jump-off, a vertical on the longside.
Margie Engle picked up a frustrating time fault with Indigo, finishing just .01 seconds over the time allowed.
Swail got the ride on Game Ready, who’s owned by Sue and Ariel Grange, in January, and it’s taken some time to build a partnership.
“He has his own quirky ways,” the 41-year-old said. “He can throw some funny jumps, but the great thing about him is he’s a real winner and he gives you confidence when you’re riding. He was a little difficult in the beginning because he has his own way, but we’ve built a good relationship. He’s a fabulous horse.”
This marked the first trip to Harrisburg for Swail and he’ll be jumping Game Ready in the $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National on Saturday.
“It’s a good start for me!” he said. “It’s a great arena. I’m really lucky. I’ve had a fabulous year. When I have such good horses to ride, you get a lot of opportunities to win and thankfully I’m taking some of those opportunities. My two top horses are finished for the winter and this is my number three. To be able to bring your third horse here and win a big class just shows you the quality I have. Long may I continue!” he said with a laugh.
Want more Harrisburg? Stop by The Chronicle of the Horse's official Pennsylvania National page and catch up on all the news.
There will be a full report from the senior week of Pennsylvania National in the Nov. 4 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. Check out the Pennsylvania National's website for results. There's also a live feed at USEFNetwork.com