Michael Culbert, President & CEO, Progress Energy presents Conor Swail with his winning prize. (Photo © Spruce Meadows Media Service).
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.
Conor 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.”
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
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL ZL Group Inc: 0/0/34.61
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
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/4/34.03
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
OLIVIER PHILIPPAERTS (BEL) MEEUWEN-GRUITRODE Ludo Philippaerts: 0/4/34.71
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
Source: Spruce Meadows Media Service