Super Swail digs in for 4* Desert Park Grand Prix win

  • 20 March 2023, 11:01
World number six Conor toughs it out to win $226,000 heat 

Conor Swail had a big choice to make with his entry in Sunday’s $226,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI4* Grand Prix at Desert International Horse Park in California.

His options were Theo 160, who had won the three-star 1.45m class the evening previous, or Vital Chance De La Roque, who has been in the midst of a mid-life crisis of sorts.

The world number six opted for the latter and his decision paid off, taking victory in the final Grand Prix of the season at Desert International Horse Park.

It wasn’t straightforward, however, and Vital Chance De La Roque wasn’t at his best, but Swail was pleased to get over the line and take top spot on the podium.

“I’m very happy, obviously,” Swail said. “He’s still not where he should be or where he’s going to be, but it was a day to get in the trenches and fight it out. It’s a great result today but as far as going forward we have a lot to improve on.”

Conor Swail (IRL) and Vital Chance De La Roque. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Swail and “Vinny” put in the second of only two clear rounds, following Sophia Siegel and A-Girl in the jump-off.

With Siegel dropping two rails on her way to a time of 52.13 seconds, Swail kept his pace slow, but still accumulated 8 faults, meaning it came down to time. He picked up the pace and finished in 48.31 seconds, taking the win in an uncharacteristic fashion.

“When I won the CSI3* Grand Prix on Theo in week three here, there was no other clear and I just went slow clear on him, and that was the first time I ever had to go in and try to jump clear,” Swail said.

“This was the second and I kind of failed but at least I still won. The jump-off is a lot less technical, and especially today – it was mostly singles out there. When Sophia had a couple down I thought I’d just tip around and be handy. I suppose it made it exciting again.

“He got aggressive on me and he made a few mistakes. I sped it up a bit and I think cutting inside to the last helped me.”

Conor Swail (IRL) topped the podium in the $226,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI4* Grand Prix. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Choosing between two impressive mounts as candidates for a CSI4* Grand Prix isn’t the worst of problems for elite riders, but Swail recognized a lot was on the line with his decision.

“Theo has been incredible the whole season here. A four-star Grand Prix is a bit of a stretch for him. The better horse is obviously Vinny – it’s his job to come and do this and he’s normally very good at it. We’re just in a bit of a confidence crisis at the moment. Thankfully we pulled it off today,” he said.

Swail knows he has work to do with Vinny, but their partnership is a strong one and they have the results behind them to prove he will get back to the top.

“He’s always a feisty horse – I think that what makes him so good,” he added

“But he really is boiling over on me at the minute and I’m struggling to try to manage that. This was a big step forward, winning the four-star Grand Prix.

“We’re going in the right direction. He’s one of the best horses in the world when he’s in top form. It’s going to take another three or four shows at least.”