Ireland’s Conor Swail Gets Back to Back Wins at Spruce Meadows ‘North American’ Tournament

Conor Swail of IRL riding Simba de la Roque during the Suncast Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American show jumping tournament.
Conor Swail of IRL riding Simba de la Roque during the Suncast Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American show jumping tournament.
Conor Swail of IRL riding Simba de la Roque during the Suncast Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American show jumping tournament.

Calgary, AB, Canada – It is always difficult to get a win in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows with many of the world’s top horses and riders competing. It is even harder to win back-to-back competitions in one day, but that is exactly what Ireland’s Conor Swail did on Thursday of the 2015 ‘North American’ Tournament.

Swail began the day with a win in the $50,000 Suncast Cup 1.50m riding Simba de la Roque. He continued on to claim victory in the 85,000 Progress Energy Cup 1.55m. Also competing on Thursday, Eric Lamaze (CAN) won the $50,000 Sun Life Financial ‘Reach for the Sun’ 1.50m aboard Rosana du Park.

Continuing through Sunday, July 5, the ‘North American’ Tournament boasts $1.3 million in prize money across 14 FEI events throughout the week. Highlights include the $400,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Saturday and the $210,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby on Sunday.

Spain’s Santiago Varela set the course for 50 starters in Thursday’s highlight $85,000 Progress Energy Cup. With 19 clear rounds, 18 chose to return for the jump-off, and only five entries were able to clear the short course without fault. It was a star-studded line-up in the second round as top riders representing eight different countries vied for the winning prize of $28,050. In the end, Conor Swail earned his second win of the day in the International Ring aboard Grand Cru vd Vijf Eiken, owned by Vanessa Mannix. The pair completed the fastest clear round in 34.10 seconds.

Pablo Barrios (VEN) and ZL Group, Inc.’s Zara Leandra finished second in 34.61 seconds. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Artisan Farms LLC’s Coco Bongo were third in 34.70 seconds. Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner’s Cortes ‘C’ placed fourth in 35.54 seconds, and Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) guided Pessoa Stables’ Status to fifth in 37.75 seconds. Barrios also finished sixth with his second mount, Antares. The pair had the fastest time of the jump-off in 33.48 seconds, but one rail down.

In addition to his two major wins in the International Ring, Swail was also first and second in a 1.40m competition in the All Canada Ring with mounts Dillinger and Fortis Fortuna on Thursday.

“It has been an amazing day,” the rider beamed. “I have won three classes. It has been fantastic and that was a great win with Grand Cru. He is a wonderful horse owned by the Mannix family here in Calgary.”

“He was amazing today,” Swail said of the nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Contact vd Heffinck x Heartbreaker). “He was good here the first two weeks and then he got a few weeks off. He was a bit green yesterday. He jumped around nicely, but then today he was just right back at it again. He really showed what sort of performer he is.”

Coming into this week’s ‘North American’ Tournament, Swail was due for a win in the big ring. He placed second in three different competitions during the ‘National’ and finished in the top five three more times that week, but a win had eluded him.

“Even yesterday, the first day back in the International Ring, I thought I had it won and then I was second again. I was like, ‘Here we go again,’” Swail laughed. “It is not easy to win, so when you do, you have to cherish it and enjoy it. I have great horses and a good team of people around me, and things are going well, so it helps the process. Today was just my day.”

Commenting on his jump-off round with Grand Cru, Swail detailed, “I think it was very smooth. My horse is an extremely big mover. Fence one to two was smooth. I went down to the double nicely and I was trying to get one less stride after the double, but I did not get it. I got a nice eight strides to the white jump that not too many people got. Then I turned to the last fence and saw a distance extremely early and thankfully the horse picked up on it. We really raced to the last and he jumped it extremely well off a very difficult distance and speed, so he was very good to do that.”

Earlier on Thursday, Swail was the winner in the first competition of the day, the $50,000 Suncast Cup 1.50m riding Susan Grange’s Simba de la Roque. In a nine-horse jump-off out of 30 starters, Swail and ‘Simba’ raced to the fastest time of 43.01 seconds out of five double clear rounds. Their time was over two seconds faster than second place finishers, Quentin Judge (USA) and Double H Farm’s HH Dark de la Hart, who stopped the clock in 45.05 seconds.

“It was great to finally get a win in the International Ring,” Swail remarked. “I have been knocking on the door for a few weeks now and finally I got the door opened. It is also nice to get a win with Simba. He is a new horse for us. We got him just before the winter in Florida and he has been really good. He went a bit green at the beginning of the summer, but he is coming up trumps this week!”

“He is much happier in this main International Ring. We can get a nice gallop, and get under the front foot and off he goes,” Swail noted. “In the jump-off, everything came up smoothly for me. He covers the ground well and he is always very careful. It was a good round. I have to say, I was delighted with it.”

Juan Manuel Luzardo (URY) placed third aboard Mauricio Guerra Colorado’s Stan in 45.17 seconds. Emanuel Andrade (VEN) finished fourth with his own Nokia de Brekka with a time of 47.20 seconds, and Jaime Azcarraga (MEX) guided his family’s Anton to fifth place in 53.81 seconds.

Swail is taking his time to develop a good partnership with Simba de la Roque and has learned a lot about the nine-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Kannan x Allegreto) in the last several weeks.

“I think this is where we are getting to know each other as the weeks go by,” the rider detailed. “Sometimes he can be tricky enough to ride. He gets a little careful and nervous, so it is just about trying to hold his hand and make it as comfortable for him as possible. Equally, we still have to make progress moving forward, learning how to win and learning how to jump bigger jumps. It is just that fine line between over doing it and doing enough. You have to find out what is enough and maybe take a step back and then move forward again. He has been fabulous and I am looking forward to the months ahead with him.”

Swail originally purchased Simba de la Roque himself, and was thrilled when owner Susan Grange chose to add the horse to her string and secure the ride.

“I always have to thank the owners,” Swail acknowledged. “I bought the horse, and told Sue to watch him and see if he would fit into our team and she took a chance on him. He looks like he is going to be a fantastic horse, so onwards and upwards.”

Final Results: $85,000 Progress Energy Cup 1.55m

1. $28,050 GRAND CRU VD VIJF EIKEN Belgian Warmblood / S / 9 Contact VD Heffinck x Heartbreaker
CONOR SWAIL (IRL) DARRAGH CROSS DOWN Vanessa Mannix: 0/0/34.10

2. $17,000 ZARA LEANDRA Dutch Warmblood / M / 11 Metropole x Ahorn

3. $12,750 COCO BONGO Rheinlander / S / 10 PRH Caretino x Calido
ERIC LAMAZE (CAN) SCHOMBERG, ON Artisan Farms, LLC: 0/0/34.70

4. $8,500 CORTES C Belgian Warmblood / G / 13 Randel Z x Darco
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA) CAZENOVIA, NY Abigail Wexner: 0/0/35.54

5. $5,100 STATUS Hanoverian / G / 11 Satisfaction x Sao Paulo
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA) Pessoa Stables LLC: 0/0/37.75

6. $3,825 ANTARES Warmblood / G / 10 Manhattan x Cavalier
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Pablo Barrios: 0/4/33.48

7. $2,550 CABALLITO Oldenburg / G / 13 Contendro x Argentinus

8. $2,125 CHIVAS Z Zangersheide / G / 16 Cumano x Lord Gotthard
RICHARD SPOONER (USA) AGUA DULCE, CA Richard Spooner: 0/4/34.29

9. $1,700 ARMSTRONG VAN DE KAPEL Warmblood / S / 10 Quasimodo Z x Farn

10. $1,700 HARDROCK Z Zangersheide / S / 12 Heartbreaker x Carthago Z
EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Emanuel Andrade: 0/4/35.42

11. $850 QUINTOL Oldenburg / G / 10 Quintender x Cento
EDUARDO MENEZES (BRA) CARLSBAD, CA Eduardo Menezes: 0/4/38.90

12. $850 CALENO 3 Warmblood / G / 11 Calido Ass x Lancer II
GEORGINA BLOOMBERG (USA) NEW YORK, NY Gotham Enterprizes, LLC: 0/4/39.92

Final Results: $50,000 Suncast Cup 1.50m

1. $16,500 SIMBA DE LA ROQUE Selle Francais / G / 9 Kannan x Allegreto

2. $10,000 HH DARK DE LA HART Belgian Sport Horse / S / 12 Kashmir van Schuttershof x Non Stop

3. $7,500 STAN Hanoverian / G / 9 Stakkato x Sacramento Son
JUAN MANUEL LUZARDO (URU) LA MOJONERA, ZAPOPAN Mauricio Guerra Colorado: 0/0/45.17

4. $5,000 NOKIA DE BREKKA Selle Francais / G / 14 Quick Star x Apache D Adriers
EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Emanuel Andrade: 0/0/47.20

5. $3,000 ANTON Warmblood / G / 11 Marlone x Orville
JAIME AZCARRAGA (MEX) MEXICO CITY Jaime Azcarraga & Family: 0/0/53.81

6. $2,250 VASCO Dutch Warmblood / G / 13 Andiamo x Clinton
ADAM PRUDENT (FRA) WELLINGTON, FL Adam Prudent: 0/4/44.13

7. $1,500 BALBOA 6 Warmblood / G / 12 Baloubet D.Ro x Cascadeur
LESLIE HOWARD (USA) DARIEN, CT Moormann, Rolf u. Paul Schockemohle: 0/4/48.34

8. $1,250 LUMINOSO LS Warmblood / G / 14 Lux x Tlaloc M

9. $1,000 SF ARIANTHA Dutch Warmblood / M / 10 Corland x Emillion

10. $1,000 DUTCH AMOURETTA Dutch Warmblood / M / 10 Dutch Capitol x Wellington
BRENDA RIDDELL (CAN) CALGARY, AB Silverstar Farms: 1/85.92

11. $500 WILSON Dutch Warmblood / G / 12 Onze Fons x Monaco
BRENDA RIDDELL (CAN) CALGARY, AB Silverstar Farms: 1/86.59

12. $500 UTAH Dutch Warmblood / G / 14 Andiamo x Jus de Pomme
LESLIE HOWARD (USA) DARIEN, CT Utah Group: 4/78.95