Langley, Canada – August 18, 2021 – Conor Swail (IRL) did not miss a beat. After more than a year away from Thunderbird Show Park, the venue’s winningest rider wasted no time getting back in Canadian form, finishing both first and second in the $37,000 George & Dianne Tidball Legacy CSI 3*.
“I’ve missed Canada,” said Swail, who before the global pandemic spent the majority of his spring, summer and fall circuits in the country.
The return of international competition to Thunderbird Show Park has accompanied the gradual reopening of the Canadian border to non-citizens. After spending much of his summer in Tryon, NC, Swail was ready to make himself at home in the Fort Grand Prix Field. So, too, were his horses.
In his first trip around the expansive grass field, the 9-year-old gelding Theo 160 took the win in the 1.45m challenge, the $37,000 George & Dianne Tidball Legacy CSI 3* . Swail rode Gamble to second honors, with Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and Catinka 25 third.
“The two of them jumped very well. We’re off to a great start,” Swail said.
Peter Holmes (CAN) set the speed course, a welcoming track littered with gallop lanes and winding lines of related distances. While some combinations aimed to leave out strides on course, Swail focused instead on doing the numbers and executing smooth rounds. Riding with precision, his horses’ natural footspeed carried him to the top of the class.
“[Theo 160] is one of those horses where his stride is not huge,” Swail said. “Actually doing the numbers is quicker than the other horses. For me, it was his first time being here, and I didn’t want to push him too hard. I knew if I just did the numbers, we’d be quick enough [for a good placing]. A win is a nice bonus.”
Swail has only had the ride on the chestnut, whom he co-owns with the Philippaerts family, since late in the winter season. The gelding stepped up to the international level in May and earned his first victory at the level in Tryon in July. Not unlike some stints at tbird, Swail won three classes—two international—that particular week in North Carolina.
“Tryon was great for me. My horses really thrived there and improved a lot,” Swail said. “I have a bunch of new horses that are just getting up to [this] level, but I’m lucky enough that they have a nice bit of quality, all of them. We’re getting a nice run together.”
Competition at the Summer Fort Classic continues Thursday with the $5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.35m, as well as the $25,000 Foxstone Stables USHJA International Hunter Derby. The week will culminate Sunday, August 22 with the $100,000 ATCO Cup 1.50m CSI 3* and the $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m Grand Prix.
Results – $37,000 George & Dianne Tidball Legacy 1.45m CSI 3*
Place / Rider / Nationality / Horse / Faults / Time
1) Conor Swail (IRL) & Theo 160 – 0 / 63.31
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Gamble – 0 / 63.34
3) Vanessa Mannix (CAN) & Catinka 25 – 0 / 65.25
Source: Press Release from Thunderbird Show Park
Photo: © Thunderbird Show Park / Quinn Saunders