Conor Swail did not miss a beat.
After more than a year away from Thunderbird Show Park, the venue’s winningest rider wasted no time getting back in Canadian form, finishing both first and second in the $37,000 George & Dianne Tidball Legacy 1.45m on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
“I’ve missed Canada,” said Swail, who before the global pandemic spent the majority of his spring, summer and fall circuits in the country.
The return of international competition to Thunderbird Show Park has accompanied the gradual reopening of the Canadian border to non-citizens. After spending much of his summer in Tryon, NC, Swail was ready to make himself at home in the Fort Grand Prix Field. So, too, were his horses.
In his first trip around the expansive grass field, the 9-year-old gelding Theo 160 took the win. Swail rode Gamble to second honors, with Vanessa Mannix and Catinka 25 third.
“The two of them jumped very well. We’re off to a great start,” Swail said.
Peter Holmes (CAN) set the speed course, a welcoming track littered with gallop lanes and winding lines of related distances. While some combinations aimed to leave out strides on course, Swail focused instead on doing the numbers and executing smooth rounds. Riding with precision, his horses’ natural footspeed carried him to the top of the class.
” For me, it was his first time being here, and I didn’t want to push him too hard. I knew if I just did the numbers, we’d be quick enough [for a good placing]. A win is a nice bonus.”
Swail has only had the ride on the chestnut, whom he co-owns with the Philippaerts family, since late in the winter season. The gelding stepped up to the international level in May and earned his first victory at the level in Tryon in July. Not unlike some stints at tbird, Swail won three classes—two international—that particular week in North Carolina.
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Theo 160 / Conor Swail / IRL / Conor Swail / 0 63.31
2. Gamble / Conor Swail / IRL / Asta Torokvei / 0 63.34
3. Catinka 25 / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0 65.25
4. Collin 4 / Kendall Bourgeois / USA / Imagination Lane / 0 65.39
5. The Freshman / Ben Asselin / CAN / Attache Stables / 0 66.36
6. Dominka van de Lucashoeve / Susan Horn / CAN / Kingsfield Farm / 0 68.49
7. Vienna / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms, LLC / 4 61.48
8. Cunningham 4 / Christopher Lowe / CAN / Christopher Lowe / 4 64.12
9. Chardonnay / Robert Blanchette / USA / RTS LLC / 4 64.6
10. Balzane du Mazes / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 4 65
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