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Conor Swail is coming up trumps at Spruce Meadows ‘North American’ Tournament‏

Friday, 03 July 2015
CSI5* Spruce Meadows 2015

Michael Culbert, President & CEO, Progress Energy.
Michael Culbert, President & CEO, Progress Energy presents Conor Swail with his winning prize. Photo (c) Spruce Meadows Media Services.

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.”

The final competition on Thursday was the $50,000 Sun Life Financial ‘Reach for the Sun’ 1.50m with a win for Canada’s Eric Lamaze and Rosana du Park. Twenty-six entries contested the first round course, with six moving forward to the jump-off and four double clear rounds.

Lamaze and Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable’s Rosana du Park, a ten-year-old Selle Francais mare (Kannan x Ukase), soared to the win with a clear round in 42.48 seconds, last to go.

Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) finished second in 44.57 seconds aboard Ludo Philippaerts’ H&M Quenzo de la Roque. McLain Ward (USA) and Double H Farm & Francois Mathy’s HH Azur finished third with their time of 45.04 seconds, and Brian Morton (CAN) and Grafton Farm’s Atlantis T placed fourth in 49.32 seconds.

Lamaze and Rosana finished second two days in a row during last week’s ‘Canada One’ Tournament, but this time they had the advantage of going last in the jump-off.

“You cannot complain about being second at Spruce Meadows. I would take second any day, but in the other jump-offs I did not get to go last,” Lamaze noted. “Going last is always an advantage. You know exactly what you have to do and you know you have nobody behind you that can beat that time. A lot of these jump-offs, if you go earlier, you really have to risk everything because there is so much speed behind you and great riders. Going last is a big advantage in any competition.”

While he was waiting for his turn, Lamaze heard what was happening and knew what he had to do.

“They said that McLain went quite fast and then Nicola took the lead from him,” he detailed. “Rosana is really quick across the ground, so one to two was a good opportunity to make up some time, which I felt that I did. You could only go around the playpen to go to the Sun Life oxer, but I thought I was for sure on the inside track to the double. Then I did six strides, which I’m sure most people did. I do not think anybody risked five. Then I knew I was pretty close (to Nicola’s time). If I was not ahead, I was at least close. I just needed to not knock down the second to last jump and try to secure that turn. At the end, I saw a really forward distance and Rosana was really kind to me to make the effort that she did. I ended up quite far from the last jump, but that kind of gave me a little rhythm to finish up.”

Just ten years old, Rosana du Park started showing last year with Carly Anthony, and Lamaze took up the ride at the end of the summer. He spoke of how much she has improved this year and even throughout this series.

“Last year I struggled a bit with her here. It was her first time at Spruce Meadows. One of my riders, Carly Anthony, rode her here at the beginning and then I took her on at the end and I was not sure where she fit,” he remarked. “Then we came back this year and she has been great. I am a great believer that when you leave here, you know what you have and for sure the horses you came with are going to be improved. I think I came here with good horses and I am going to leave with better horses. This really tells you where you are.”


Source: Press release from Spruce Meadows Media Services


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