Langley, British Columbia, Canada – September 23, 2021 – Conor Swail (IRL) strategically brought a fresh horse into Thunderbird Show Park’s Harvest Celebration CSI4*-W. Vital Chance de la Roque hadn’t jumped a class since an August 7 win in CSI4* Grand Prix competition in Saugerties, NY (USA).
There was little rust to rub off in Thursday’s $75,000 CSI4*-W Welcome. Swail (IRL) and the 12-year-old gelding took the win over a six-horse jump-off that included World No. 13 Kent Farrington (USA), winner of tbird’s last international grand prix, Robert Blanchette (IRL), Australian invader Rowan Willis (AUS) and rising talent Hilary McNerney (USA).
Vital Chance de la Roque is known to show off some exuberance in the ring, and that proved true Thursday evening in the Thunderbird Jumper Arena, as the bay kicked up his heels after the jump-off’s first fence. But the naturally quick gelding was still more-than focused enough to clear Peter Holmes‘ (CAN) shortened track with ease—the pair crossed the timers as comfortable winners on a time of 39.35 seconds.
Leadoff competitors Coupis and Blanchette finished second (40.68 seconds), with McNerney (USA) and Chuck third (43.03).
“I had two weeks here at Thunderbird in August, and then I was in Spruce [Meadows] for three weeks, and he had a break during that time,” Swail (IRL) said of his mount. “This is just his first show back. He finished off [his last competition] very well. He won the CSI4* Grand Prix at Saugerites, and he had a very well-deserved break. He’s come back feeling better than he was before. I’m really chuffed.”
The jump-off proved to favor the early riders, as the first two returning combinations would ultimately claim the top two placings. Holmes’ shortened track was characterized by sweeping turns and angled lines that came up quickly. Swail gave credit to his mount’s carefulness, which allowed him to take risks with confidence.
“It’s fun to ride [him],” he said. “He’s so careful; he doesn’t want to knock jumps down. So, it makes it very easy for riders whenever you can be a bit far away, a bit too close, a bit slow, a bit too quick, and it doesn’t matter. Good horses hide riders’ mistakes, and I feel he’s a very good one.”
Vital Chance de la Roque will be Swail’s mount in the week’s feature, the $150,000 CSI4*-W Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Vancouver, the opening leg of the 2021–2022 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League, in which riders strive to qualifying for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final next April in Leipzig, Germany. While Swail has only been partnered with his mount for a short time, having purchased half of the gelding in January, he is excited about the horse’s potential.
“[World Cup Finals] is something I hadn’t thought about particularly too much,” Swail (IRL) said, “but if he keeps continuing to grow as much as he is, it’s maybe not a bad way to go with him.”
Final Results – $75,000 Welcome CSI 4*- W
1) Conor Swail (IRL) & Vital Chance de la Roque – 0 / 0 – 39.35
2) Robert Blanchette (IRL) & Coupis – 0 / 0 – 40.68
3) Hilary McNerney (USA) & Chuck – 0 / 0 – 43.03
Source: Press Release from Thunderbird Show Park
Photos: © Thunderbird Show Park / Quinn Saunders