“It’s hard to win the class when you’re 20th to go in the order and there are 30 good riders chasing you,” said current world number five Conor Swail (IRL).
On Thursday at Langley, BC’s Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), he did precisely that.
Swail topped a 52 horse field in Peter Holmes’ 1.50m speed track for the CSIO5* Nations Welcome to capture his third 5* win at tbird in seven days—this time aboard Theo 160. The pair took a direct path around the winding course, making use of the few related distances and ample room between the fences to gallop and tighten up the turns.
“I thought I got a very, very good turn back after the four-stride line (fences 8–9) to the [ATCO] vertical on the end,” Swail said.
Just half a second separated the top three. Swail and Theo crossed the timers in 66.32 seconds, two tenths of a second ahead of fellow Irishman Daniel Coyle and Ivory Tcs (66.50). Egypt’s Nayel Nassar and El Conde took third in 66.86.
“It worked out well. He was fabulous today. He is such a cool little horse.”
Theo 160 is a horse who, in Swail’s own words, he’s still developing. Yet the pair has already done a fair bit of winning. The 10-year-old gelding sports a 67% clear round rate at 1.50m, and has a top ten strike rate of 70% out of 24 starts at that level, according to JUMPR App. Many of those results have been achieved on the Fort Grand Prix field. In 2011 alone, the pair finished top ten in 11 of 12 international appearances at tbird, winning four, including the the CSI4*-W 1.50.
Thursday marked Theo’s first 5* win at the venue.
“Last year we built him up and he won a lot of 1.45m, 1.50s and we’re continuing with that. He’s getting easier to ride,” said Swail.
In Swail’s stable, determining which horse will contest which class comes down to the horse’s respective skills and the questions each format presents. It’s a formula he appears to have mastered. Swail’s 15-year-old World Cup Finals mount Count Me In is currently the number one horse in the world, with 13-year old gelding Vital Chance De La Roque following just behind in third.
“[Theo’s] job was to win today and he did it extremely well, whereas Crosby [Count Me In]’s job is to jump double clear in Nations Cup,” said Swail. “They all have different jobs for the week.”
Theo is slated to contest two more ranking classes this week.
“If he has a good day Friday, and we have a good a placing, normally he won’t go the third day. When you’ve done your job for the week, you get a reward of having a day off,” said Swail.