Langley, British Columbia, Canada – August 11, 2022 – Matthew Sampson (GBR) has quickly made an impression in his Thunderbird Show Park debut. The 31-year-old managed to beat the venue’s winningest rider, Conor Swail (IRL), in the feature class of the Summer Fort Welcome‘s opening day. He and the Evison family’s Curraghgraigue Obos Flight won the $37,200 tbird Speed CSI 3* Wednesday in the most memorable of fashions: The pair’s winning margin was just one one-hundredth of a second.
“My god, it doesn’t get any closer,” he said.
The winning time over the 1.45m track was 63.84 seconds. Conor Swail (IRL) and Gamble (Vingino x Indoctro) were relegated to second with their 63.85-second time. Kyle King (USA) and Etalon (Toulon x Gratulant) finished third (64.85 seconds).
Peter Holmes’ (CAN) track offered choices, and Swail took the most expedient track available, utilizing the open water option on course. But Sampson had natural quickness—and a hot streak—on his side. He and the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Obos Quality 004 x Errigal Flight) entered the Summer Fort Welcome off a tremendous Spruce Meadows circuit in which they won an eye-opening five classes at the two- and three-star levels.
“Conor [and I] kind of did similar strides around the course,” Sampson said. “I think my horse is probably naturally a bit quicker than [his], but Conor did the option to the water jump—which I didn’t do—which was definitely a quicker option. So, it kind of brought us back on level terms, and I think just luckily I was on the right side of the time.”
Sampson and “Jack” have been partnered for the last three years, after Sampson acquired the ride when the bay was seven, from the horse’s breeder, Baden Powell.
“I just loved his character. He is very ‘gamey,’ I’d call it. He really wants to win. He’s ultra careful and he’s fast and he’s brave,” Sampson said. “He’s just an all-around good horse, really. And I felt like that the first time I jumped him. He actually won at the Dublin Horse Show as a 4-year-old, which is quite a big deal in Ireland.”
But a big part of Jack’s success has been his management. Despite his winning record, Sampson hasn’t been tempted to test him too much. He excels at the 1.40m and 1.45m heights, boasting 77% and 51% clear round rates in each, respectively, according to JUMPR App. The bay gelding has made only one 1.50m FEI start.
“I don’t ask him to jump big every class, just because he gives so much heart in every class he jumps,” Sampson said. “But he’s so consistent around the ranking classes.
“I think [I] just don’t take advantage of [his effort]. That’s my opinion,” he added. “You never take advantage of how much your horse is trying to do for you, you know?”
The Summer Fort Welcome CSI 3* kicks off three weeks of international competition in August at tbird. Competition resumes Thursday with the Maui Jim Challenge CSI 3* 1.40m and the Amy Brattebo Real Estate USHJA National Hunter Derby.
Final Results – $37,200 tbird Speed CSI 3*
Place Rider / Nationality / Horse / Faults / Time
1) Matthew Sampson (GBR) & Curraghgraigue Obos Flight – 0 – 63.84
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Gamble – 0 – 63.85
3) Kyle King (USA) & Etalon – 0 – 64.85
Source: Press Release by Catie Staszak / Catie Staszak Media for Thunderbird Show Park
Photos: © tbird / Quinn Saunders