Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 15
Conor Swail’s name had been popping up in headlines quite a bit recently.
First it was a win in the $85,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier (N.Y.) with Viva Columbia. Then it was the $125,000 New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix (Ohio), which he promptly followed with a win in the $40,000 FEI Speed Class at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show (N.Y.) with Simba de la Roque.
Well add the $40,000 Pennsylvania Big Jump at the Pennsylvania National to that list.
He and Simba de la Roque bested a field of 24 that contested Michel Vaillancourt-designed course.
“I thought the first round, he was excellent,” said Swail of Ireland. “It was a great course tonight; it was difficult to jump. There was carefulness and quite short turns off the bend. I thought [Vaillancourt] put up a good test, and he got a nice amount clear in the jump off. I thought my horse jumped fabulous in the first round. I thought he was outstanding. He went in and concentrated very well and jumped a beautiful round.”
Seven pairs returned to jump the shortened track, including last year’s Grand Prix de Penn National winner Beat Mandli, this time riding Zander. Three went clear with Callan Solem and VDL Wizard finishing about a second behind (Swail stopped the clock at 36.33, while Solem crossing the timers at 37.22). Aaron Vale also jumped clear for third with Finou 4 (38.13).
Speed definitely played in Swail’s favor, as his track didn’t ride the smoothest, particularly to the original fence 5 which was the second-to-last obstacle in the jump-off. Simba swung out wide, but the pair cleared it and finished strong.
“In the jump off I thought I was a little too aggressive, and we set off with a nice rhythm, and I’d say that I had a bit too much spur on,” said Swail. “He was running enough without me kicking him, and just when I needed to balance he was still running. The jump off wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to have been but again he gets himself out of the way. He does what he has to do, but it certainly wasn’t the smoothest round I’ve ever had on him, but again, it’s another win and I’m just delighted.”
Swail purchased the Selle Francais (Kannan—Opium de Chamant, Allegreto) at the beginning of the winter circuit, and then his owner Susan Grange bought him out to keep the horse in his barn. Before Swail, the 9-year-old gelding campaigned with Marie Hecart to the five-star level. Since the Irishman paired with him, the two have nine FEI wins under their belts.
“He’s just been simply outstanding,” said Swail. “And how quickly we have gelled. For me there’s a lot more to come—like tonight it wasn’t the smoothest round—and I can get that smoothed out, then it’s going to be even more consistent.”
Simba will jump again on Saturday evening for the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National. He then heads to the Washington International (D.C.) and the Royal Horse Show in Toronto. After that he’ll have a nice long break until mid-Florida circuit.