Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Swail Wraps Up Desert Circuit With A Big Win

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Thermal, Calif.—March 19

Heading into the final grand prix of the Desert Circuit on Sunday, Conor Swail had a conundrum: Should he show Theo 160 or Vital Chance De La Roque in the $226,000 FEI 1.55m Grand Prix CSI4*?

Theo 160 is on a roll, having won his latest big class on Saturday, but his comfort zone is in the 1.45- to 1.50-meter range. Vital Chance De La Roque is one of his top 1.60-meter horses, but has been suffering a crisis of confidence lately.

In the end, he opted for Vital Chance De La Roque, and that horse didn’t disappoint, topping the grand prix and winning Swail and owner Mannon Farm the top check.

Conor gallop-6003

Vital Chance De La Roque and Conor Swail celebrated their win. Mollie Bailey photos

 

Not that it was a sure thing. Only two of the 23 horses entered qualified for the short course over Peter Grant’s track. U.S. young rider Sophia Siegel went first, and when A-Girl picked up 8 faults, things were looking good for Swail. But “Vinny” pulled a rail early in the jump-off, and another shortly thereafter, forcing Swail to turn on the afterburners to beat Siegel with a faster time.

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1 Conor Swail Vital Chance de la Roque-5858

Despite pulling two rails in the jump-off, Conor Swail and Vital Chance De La Roque earned a win in the final grand prix of the Desert Circuit.

“Normally the jump-off is, obviously, less technical—and especially today it was just … a lot of single fences there,” said Swail, Wellington, Florida. “So you know that. Especially when Sophie had a couple of down, I thought, I’ll just try and step around handy, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have any more than one down anyway, but I suppose it made it a bit exciting again. He was very aggressive on me. I’ve come down to that double again, and he made a few mistakes. And thankfully we just did enough to get home in the lead.

“I mean, the manner I won in isn’t the way I would want to win any grand prix, to be quite honest,” he continued. “But like I said, I got the job done that I needed to do there. I think, you know, my horse is still not where he should be or, you know, where he’s going to be. But it was a day just to get in the trenches and and fight it out. And thankfully, you know, it’s a great result today as far as going forward.”

2 Sophia Seigel A-Girl-5837

Sophia Seigel and A-Girl placed second.

Vinny lost his confidence when he crashed through a jump in a class a few weeks ago, and Swail has been working to rebuild his trust since then. That’s been a tough process because he can’t jump the Selle Français (Diamant De Semilly—Image Du Chateau II, Rivage Du Poncel) at home.

“I do try and just do small jumps and a few smaller classes and things like that just to try and try and build his confidence up. So like I say, we’re making progress, but we’re still not near back to where his level is. He’s one of the best horses in the world when he’s when he’s in top form.”

3 Cassio Rivetti Natale Van Dorperheide-5739

Brazil’s Cassio Rivetti and Natale Van Dorperheide were the fastest four-faulters to finish third.

Swail has been traveling back and forth between the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) and Desert Circuit, keeping several horses on each coast.

4 Chic D Emma Z Samantha Buris-Darville-5399

Chic D Emma Z and Samantha Buirs-Darville of Canada jumped to fourth.

“You know, I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “Honestly, I feel that there should be a few other guys do it. You know, it’s a great facility here, and I’m lucky enough to have enough nice horses that I can divide them up a little bit and do both circuits, being reasonably competitive are both. So it’s been great.”

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Next up for Swail? He’ll be heading to Omaha, Nebraska, for the Longines FEI World Cup Final, taking Count On Me, with whom he finished eighth at the event last year.

5 Calacas D Aubigny Zume Gallaher-5781

Calacas D Aubigny and Zume Gallaher finished fifth.

 

6 Echo De Virton Marie Valdar Longem-5771

Echo De Virton and Marie Valdar Longem of Norway jumped to sixth.

Steve Hankin Pat Boyle-5881

Desert International Horse Park president Steve Hankin (left) joined show manager Pat Boyle after the grand prix.

podium-5927

Sophia Siegel (left) joined Conor Swail (center) and Cassio Rivetti on the podium.

Conor champagne drying off-5978

After a celebratory champagne spray, Conor Swail dried off his hair on Vital Chance De La Roque’s cooler.

 

For more from Desert Circuit, click here.

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