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Can't count out Swail in Las Vegas

Sunday, 19 November 2023
CSI4*-W Las Vegas National Horse Show 2023

Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography. Conor Swail and Count Me In, winners of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ NAL 2023/24 in Las Vegas, USA. Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography. Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography.


Edited press release from FEI written by Catie Staszak



Conor Swail (IRL) spent the last two seasons of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League at the top of the standings. But through the first four legs of the 2023-24 season, he uncharacteristically had yet to make the podium of a World Cup event.

But ahead of the league's fifth leg in Las Vegas (USA), Swail felt that his mount from the 2022 World Cup Finals, Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) was feeling primed for a confident effort. His feelings were justified, as he and his longtime partner bested a six-horse jump-off at the unique venue that is the South Point Hotel & Casino. 

The duo crossed the timers of Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) jump-off track in 38.28 seconds. Swail's student Vanessa Mannix (CAN) produced the only other double-clear effort to finish second with Lehar (Verdi x D'ukase) in a time of 39.49 seconds. Jill Humphrey (USA) finished third with Chromatic BF (Connor x Concept) after four faults in the jump-off, with a time of 39.18. 

"I'm lucky that 'Crosby' is very quick. Regardless, he is very careful. I thought I would just stick to the plan and have a nice, tidy round, and it worked out very well for me," Swail said. 

Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography Conor Swail and Count Me In. Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography.

Petersen, Jr.'s first round track proved formidable for the 28-strong field with its many options for striding, blind turns and a most technical final line that consisted of a 1.60m narrow upright and a steadying distance to the widest oxer on course. A clear round did not come until the 18th combination, when Katie Laurie (AUS) and her homebred Django II (Lordano x Brilliant Invader) cracked the code. Five other combinations would join them for the jump-off, all coming from the final eight riders.

"There were options everywhere throughout the course," Swail said, "so basically you had to stick to the plan that suited your horse best and try to execute."

Each of the first three combinations to jump off had rails, including defending champions Lillie Keenan (USA) and Agana van het Gerendal Z (Aganix du Seigneur x Topas). Third in the order, Swail broke things open with "Crosby," setting himself apart with a most expedient track to the combination and a swift gallop up the final line. 

Swail shared his strategy with his student of more than 15 years, Mannix. Mannix gave great chase, but she settled for second after finishing fourth a week ago in Toronto (CAN) with Carmela Z (Candillo x Nissan Caretano Z). Mannix has been training with Swail and James Chawke (IRL) since 2007.

"We're very good friends. Vanessa has been riding great [on the North American League] for a number of years now," Swail said. "She's got a nice string of horses at the moment, and it's fantastic to see her on the podium as well."

Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography Vanessa Mannix and Lehar, second placed in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ NAL 2023/24 in Las Vegas, USA. Photo © FEI/Andrew Ryback Photography.

But Swail gushed most about his equine partner, who has given him some of his career's most memorable milestones, including a top eight finish in Leipzig. Earlier in 2023, Swail felt his partner's confidence wasn't at its strongest, but the 16-year-old gelding is now having an exciting resurgence.

"This year has been a little up-and-down for him...Then we went through a little period where he wasn't comfortable jumping the bigger fences, so we took a step back," Swail said. "[Tonight], he felt as good as he ever has, so I'm really delighted."

"The horse owes me nothing. I think he's the best horse I've ever ridden. He brought me to the World Cup Finals. I won at Dublin (IRL). He's brought me incredible days and basically brought me to the top 10 in the world. If he didn't want to jump anymore, that's totally fine with me. But thankfully he's feeling really good again," Swail said. 

Swail's win catapulted him to second on the North American League standings with 30 points. Daniel Bluman (ISR) leads the standings with 43 points, while Mannix sits third (30 points). 

The North American League continues in Fort Worth (USA) on 16 December 2023.


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