Harrisburg, Pa. – Oct. 19
After winning the $40,000 Pennsylvania Big Jump on Thursday at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show with Game Ready, Irish rider Conor Swail commented that the gelding was his third string horse.
But after capturing the victory in the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National, he admitted the horse may have moved up on his list.
“I’ll have to rethink that!” he joked. “He may be my number one the way he’s jumping. Tonight was a big test for him, I thought, and he did it with comfort. He gave me a good feeling and I was very impressed with him. He really stepped up to the plate whenever I needed him. I’m delighted.”
Alan Wade set a tough first round course that saw only Swail, McLain Ward on Rothchild, and Kent Farrington on last year’s winner, Uceko, jump clear out of 24 entries.
A packed house created an energy that Swail admitted he loved. “It affects us all,” he said. “You want to come to do well and show off the horse’s talent and show off your own talent. Competing against two of the best guys in the world, I think maybe this is the first time that I have them sitting either side of me!”
Swail’s win came on the heels of fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny’s win in the Gambler’s Choice on Top Gun IV and victory in the $33,000 Keystone Classic with Prof de la Roque, resulting in the open jumper speed championship title.
Swail also picked up the open jumper championship and the leading open jumper rider title.
“They have great riders and great horses and they’re always competitive and raise the standard for all of us, so that’s great,” said Ward.
Ward went for it in the jump-off with Rothchild, but had to settle for second, the fifth time he’s been runner-up at Harrisburg.
An unusual run-out in a speed class earlier in the week didn’t worry Ward as he headed into the grand prix.
“Honestly I was trying to be a little too cutesy and shave the corner, and in an indoor ring with people on the sides, the horse never got his eye on the fence. Sometimes you outslick yourself,” he admitted.
“He felt great tonight. That horse has stepped up for me this year and I’m very proud of what he’s done. He’s a feisty horse, and he’s probably not everybody’s horse, but I believe in him, and I think he trusts me,” he continued.
Farrington tried a daring turn to an in-and-out in the jump-off and knocked a rail.
“He has a big stride, so my strategy was to kind of match their stride all the way through and then roll back really short to the vertical [in the combination,] he said. “You take risks turning into a combination that tight, and unfortunately I had it down, so after that I just cantered around the rest of the course.”
All three riders were complimentary of Wade’s course. “Not to give the Irish any more kudos than they need right now,” Ward said with a laugh. “But right now, [Alan’s] my favorite course designer in the world right now. I find him to be a horseman. You can talk to him. The problems are presented with thought, not to make life impossible, not to screw up the horse and make him afraid. The rider has to think about what they’re doing and really execute well.”
- Giavanna Rinaldi won the NAL Children’s Jumper Finals aboard Juliette.
- Cathleen Driscoll had the only clear jump-off round in the NAL Adult Jumper Final to clinch the win with Forever Blue.
- Kelsey Thatcher rode Athena to the top of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur/Owner Jumper Classic with the only clear first round, and picked up the amateur/owner jumper championship.
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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 .