May 31, 2018 — Conor Swail (IRL) caught a flyer to the last and came out on top in the $35,500 CSIO5* North West Rubber Cup at Thunderbird Show Park, on day two of the 2018 Odlum Brown BC Open in Langley, BC. The $235,000 Longines Grand Prix and $400,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup ™ of Canada highlight the 5* competition, taking place on Friday, June 1, and Sunday, June 3, respectively.
Swail, 46, rode the 10-year-old Domino van de Valhoeve to victory over an international field of 37. Of the 13 combinations to qualify for the jump-off over the 1.50m track designed by Peter Holmes (CAN), three elected not to return. Swail’s winning time was 35.77 seconds, while young rider Eve Jobs (USA) finished second with Venue d’Fees de Hazalles in a final time of 37.36 seconds. Karrie Rufer (USA) rounded out the podium with Georgie d’Auvray EC, jumping cleanly in 39 seconds flat.
“The horse is very fast and extremely careful, so I felt I could make the time up,” said Swail, who co-owns the horse with Vanessa Mannix (CAN). “[From fences] one to two, I was a little slower than I’d like, but I got a good rollback to the next jump. I probably had one to two seconds on everyone to the last, because I galloped forward, and I didn’t stop. I got a mad flyer to the last, which I think really helped me win in the end.”
Swail has had the ride on the bay since November after scouting him at a horse show in Europe and is excited about the gelding’s potential. He plans to jump him in the Longines Grand Prix, which will be the horse’s first test in a five-star grand prix.
“He’s been exceptional since I’ve had him,” Swail explained. “He’s so careful. He’s a little bit tricky to ride, but he’s unbelievably careful. He will not touch a jump. I feel he has enough scope as well that we can, in time, jump championships or whatever’s in front of him. It’s super exciting to have him. With the right management, we can have a great partnership.”
Swail will ride longtime mount Rubens LS when he represents Ireland in the Nations Cup on Sunday as he continues to build up Domino van de Valhoeve’s confidence.
“It’s the rideability,” he said, describing Domino van de Valhoeve. “He’s quite spooky. When he looks at things, he really shifts in all directions. Then, the canter gets a little difficult. That obviously snowballs into us getting into places we shouldn’t be in. So, it’s all about trying to keep him as calm as we can and putting him in the right places that he doesn’t get too careful. It’s about him getting confidence and him doing enough rounds that are comfortable for him, so when we go to that higher level, he’s as comfortable as he can be.”
By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Photos by Cara Grimshaw Photography/tbird