Conor Swail Saves Best for Last in CSI3* Whittier Trust Grand Prix
Conor Swail (IRL) is typically an easy favorite to win international competition at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). Though Sunday was no exception for the $145,100 CSI3* Whittier Trust Grand Prix, he had tough competition to sneak past to score yet another victory to conclude Desert Circuit II.
Prior to Swail’s clean effort with Theo 160 over Colm Quinn’s (IRL) track, a few notable names on talented mounts had secured spots in the jump-off. Two Olympians, in Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Cassio Rivetti, plus Kyle King (USA) and young superstar Eliza Broz (USA), stood in between Swail and the eventual top call in the first FEI Grand Prix of Desert Circuit 2023.
As the crowd prepared for what could only be a blazing fast jump-off, each of the first four competitors pulled rails on course, leaving the door open for Swail and his trusty partner Theo 160 to put in a clear round and win the class. It wasn’t that easy, though.
Wathelet put the pressure on aboard Clarity, with a 4-fault round in 36.61 seconds, just to be topped by Rivetti with Ilan Ferder’s Nadale Van Dorperheide in a 4-fault time of 35.52 seconds. If an unlucky rail were to fall, the hope of winning from a play-it-safe strategy was lost.
“I was last to go and there were two very fast 4-faulters and two 8-faulters so my strategy was to go around clear,” Swail said of his ultimate double-clear effort. “I thought my horse was jumping well enough this week that we could gamble on slowing it down and just trying to jump a clean round.”
Swail admitted Theo 160 was prepared to go fast, as he is typically asked to do in jump-off action. “He dove a little right on me over fence one; he was probably waiting for me to do a sharp turn or something,” Swail remarked. “That wasn’t really the plan. It was just about trying to get home safely. Thankfully it went to plan apart from that first jump there. The horse has been great all week. He’s a fabulous horse, he’s been on a great run. He finished up fabulous last year. He’s continuing on the good form so it’s a great start for me.”