Conor Swail proved his Longines FEI Jumping World Cup North American League dominance Saturday night, Dec. 18, before a packed crowd at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, securing his third victory of the NAL season by way of an eight-horse jump-off.
Swail, who rides for Ireland, took victories at the league’s opening two events at Vancouver (British Columbia) and Sacramento (California) with Vital Chance de la Roque, but in Fort Wort—a new stop on the NAL tour this year—he brought forward a new winning partner in the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Count Me In (Count Grannus—Sunshine, Sherlock Holmes) owned by Sandy Lupton. He has ridden both horses for less than a year.
“I decided to bring [Count Me In] here for a few reasons. He was up in Thermal [California] for a few weeks, and this was a stop on our way back to Wellington [Florida],” Swail said. “The other reason is that it gives me another option if I decide to go to World Cup Finals. The horse that you use [at the Finals] has to have competed [in at least one qualifier].
“[Vital Chance de la Roque] is small and fiery, while [Count Me In] has more range,” he continued. “The one thing they have in common is that they’re both extremely good athletes and want to leave the jumps up for me, and that’s the reason why I’ve had such a good year.”
Canada’s Tiffany Foster finished second on Figor, and 24-year-old Ailish Cunniffe and Vivaldi du Theil took third.
Course designer Anderson Lima of Brazil set a big but fair track that saw rails fall throughout. First to jump on the evening, Kristen Vanderveen delivered an early clear round before the class quickly leveled out. Ultimately, seven other riders would join her for the jump-off.
Those two riders, the two leaders in the NAL standings, would battle it out for top honors. Swail and Count Me In set a standard that put immense pressure on their competitors, stopping the timers in 33.18 seconds. Last to go, Foster gave great chase and used Figor’s immense stride to her advantage. The duo narrowly missed the win, finishing second with their 33.27-second time.
“We all have our numbers in the jump-off. For me, it was a nice six [strides between the first two fences]. Then I had a nice rollback turn and got eight strides to the double,” Swail said. “On the rollback to the vertical in the middle of the arena, I caught a hot one, and that just about was the reason that, thankfully, Tiffany didn’t catch me.”
Swail maintains a comfortable lead in the NAL standings with 63 points; he has earned points in every World Cup event he has jumped this season. Foster sits second with 59 points, while Natalie Dean (USA) is third with 41 points.
Watch why he won the Fort Worth jump-off: