“I’m lucky enough at the minute; I have a string of small, fast horses,” said world no. 5 Conor Swail on Friday.
“They’re so much fun. They run along very quickly, you can turn quickly, and they think quickly. But I’ve had a lot of bigger, slower ones as well [in my career]. At the moment, I have a great group of very fast, competitive horses that are able to jump at the highest level, so I’m really reaping the benefits.”
Just how quick is Swail’s fleet-footed fleet?
Eleven-year-old gelding Theo 160 boasts a spectacularly consistent 71% top 10 finish rate and a 62% clear round rate at 1.50m over 39 rounds with Swail in irons. Vital Chance de la Roque, aka, “Vinnie,” has a 67% top ten finish rate in 17 rounds in the more demanding height of 1.60m (Jumpr App).
The speed of both was on display in Friday $38,700 Pomponio Ranch CSI3* 1.50m Speed at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) in Thermal, CA.
Fourth in the order on Vital Chance, Swail and the 14-year-old Selle Francais gelding set the time to beat in a quick 58.68 seconds over Manuel Esparza’s (MEX) speed track. The time held until Swail returned, 24th in the order, with Theo 160 and shaved half a second off, crossing the timer’s in 58.01. It proved uncatchable by the remaining five horse and rider combinations in the field.
“I was super happy with Theo,” Swail remarked. “I’d had a good round already with [Vital Chance]. At that point, actually, I was still leading. So I thought, ‘How do I play it out with Theo?’ He’s quick enough that I decided just to have another go at it. It was a great round, and I was very pleased.”
The key to their consistency beyond stride and scope?
“[Theo] is very brave,” Swail reflected. “Even if you’re running a little fast at the jump, he’s always going to try and be careful at it. I trust him. Thankfully, he’s pulling out all the stops for me, so it’s great.”
USA’s Kyle King was the only rider to catch one of Swail’s time’s, claiming second-place honors aboard Sig Chiari in 58.64.
Swail will compete both horses again this weekend, but it’s Vital Chance De La Roque that he’s pointing at for Sunday’s CSI3* Gillibrand Sand Grand Prix.
“I was super happy with Vinnie [on Friday],” Swail continued. “I thought he was so good. He hasn’t jumped there in about a month, so this is his first show back and he felt super good. We’ll have a nice run on Sunday and see what happens.”
The Gillibrand Sand Grand Prix streams on Sunday at 1pm PT live on DIHP TV.