Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – November 18, 2023 – 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 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.
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 cracked the code. Five other combinations would join them for the jump-off, all coming from the final eight riders.
Swail and the 16-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) crossed the timers of Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) jump-off track in 38.28 seconds.
“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.” – Conor Swail (IRL)
Swail’s student Vanessa Mannix (CAN) produced the only other double-clear effort to finish second with Lehar, crossing the final timers in 39.49 seconds.
Jill Humphrey (USA) finished third with Chromatic BF, registering four penalty-points in 39.18 seconds during the tiebreaker.
“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. 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. 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.”
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.
“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.” – Conor Swail (IRL)
“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 North American League continues in Fort Worth (USA) on 16 December 2023.
Final Results – $226,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Las Vegas CSI 4*-W
1) Conor Swail (IRL) & Count Me In – 0 / 0 – 38.28
2) Vanessa Mannix (CAN) & Lehar – 0 / 0 – 39.49
3) Jill Humphrey (USA) & Chromatic BF – 0 / 4 – 39.18
Source: Press Release by Catie Staszak / Catie Staszak Media for the FEI – Fédération Equestre Internationale
Photos: © FEI / Andrew Ryback Photography