Huge five-star wins for Swail and Howley

  • 9 July 2024, 10:54
Down and Sligo athletes shine in Calgary and Monaco

Conor Swail crashed over the $2m mark in Spruce Meadows earnings alone by winning just shy of a cool quarter of a million in topping a stellar field of 40 in the five-star Queen Elizabeth II Cup in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It was very evident from interviews after the conclusion of the Calgary venue’s 1.60m class, in which Cavan native, Neal Fearon also finished fourth, that the money was the furthest thing from Swail’s mind, however.

The man from Darragh Cross, just outside Downpatrick, was visibly emotional as he recounted the travails of his long-time equine partner Count Me In.

The 17-year-old “horse of a lifetime” was making a stunning return to form after a bout of stomach ulcers had threatened his future at the elite level.

Known in the stables as Crosby, Count Me In, who is owned by Mannon Farms, has had his fitness and confidence gradually rebuilt by Swail and they were one of just four combinations to record double clears as Spaniard Santiago Varela Ulastres, who will be co-designer at Paris Olympics with Gregory Bodo (FRA), set a supreme test for one of the most illustrious Grand Prix in the world.

Fearon and Cocktail De Talma were in the mix too and though quick, they had one fence down but earned a check of almost $75,000 for their troubles.

Count Me in was big and bold, as well as quick and nimble to post a third clear in a time of 39.29 seconds in the tie-breaker and that was one and a half seconds faster than the only other treble clear posted, by home favourite Amy Millar, riding Truman.

“Honestly, what that horse has done for me is just incredible,” said Swail afterwards. “The highlight reel for me is basically him in my career. He went through a little bad patch last year where we weren’t that comfortable jumping bigger.

“And then, we’ve just built him back up nicely. And honestly, he feels as good as ever.

“It feels amazing. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup is one of the most prestigious Grand Prix in the world.”

Just a few hours earlier in the idyllic surrounds of Monaco, Richard Howley also delivered at the highest level, winning the 1.45m speed class on the Longines Global Champions Tour in Monaco for the second year in a row.

Howley and the Hk Horses-owned 15-year-old were much too sprightly for a high-class field, recording a winning margin that was the equivalent of lapping the entire field over a 14-jump contest on a 440m track.

The Sligo athlete and his equine partner were 13th of 35 into the arena and they floated around in a breathtaking time of 55.33 seconds. Their superiority on the clock told its own story as runner-up Nicola Pohl (GER) and Arlo de Blondel registered a time of 59.13

“We had a great win at a five-star show, top-level sport with the best riders in the world there,” recounted an ecstatic Howley. “Unbelievable to get the win and I was over the moon with my horse. He was great and gave everything.

“It’s amazing to have an event like that in such a special place like Monaco. It’s unbelievable that they can put on such a show in such a tiny space. All credit to the team at the Global Champions Tour for what they can do and can make happen for us to be able to show our sport at the level it should be shown at.

“I think it’s fantastic and that it’s pointing the whole sport in the direction it needs to go.”