Wellington, FL - On the final afternoon of the Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) 2015 Holiday Series, Irish phenom Conor Swail collected yet another victory at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), this time aboard Martha Louise in the $50,000 UHealth Ear Institute Grand Prix, the final grand prix class before the commencement of the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on January 13. Swail finished the jump-off in 40.731 seconds to edge fellow Irish rider, Darragh Kenny of Wellington, FL, and Picolo, who crossed the timers in 42.29 seconds. Amanda Derbyshire of Wellington, FL, and Lady Maria BH earned third place honors with a time of 44.264 seconds.
Swail and Martha Louise, a 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare (Maloubet de Pleville x Virginia Wolf) owned by Five Way Farm, LLC, displayed their prowess in the second round, edging notoriously fast jump-off riders Kenny and Derbyshire. According to Swail, Martha Louise has been knocking on the door for a win and he feels confident that the mare is entering WEF in top form.
"I just arrived back in the States last week and I had the plan to do Martha Louise and Rubens LS La Silla this week. We gave them both the class on Thursday and I thought the class today was very nice," noted Swail. "Anthony [D'Ambrosio] did a good job as usual. It was a nice course and not huge, but I was very pleased with both of the horses. I think it was a great start for us."
With 35 trips in the first round, Swail knew that a difficult task was ahead with nine combinations moving forward to the jump-off round, including his second mount, Rubens LS La Silla, owned by Vanessa Mannix, who finished in ninth place.
"I thought Darragh was very fast. I really had to hustle hard to beat him and I have to say everything happened the way that we wanted it too. She jumped very well, but it was one of those jump-offs where you couldn't leave anything on the table," he explained. "You couldn't miss a step and thankfully she was very alert since she has not competed since November. It was fantastic."
Martha Louise has come out strong in the past two months and Swail commented on her unflappable consistency, a quality that he says is invaluable entering the WEF season, as many of the world's best competitors will test the International Ring at PBIEC throughout the 12-week circuit.
Conor Swail and Martha Louise in their presentation ceremony with (L-R) Dr. Sergio Guerreiro, Sean Knowles, Karen Garcia, Jennifer Smith, Dr. Xue Liu, Dr. Bjorn Herman and ring master Christian Craig. "Martha was off for quite a substantial period of time last year, but did very well towards the end of circuit. She actually jumped really well here in the Holiday & Horses CSI 4* and think she got cheated a bit because she didn't get anything, but she was right there the whole time," commented Swail.
A number of strong mounts in Swail's string will be legging back up to begin their season in Wellington, FL, including Cita, Dillinger, and Grafton, but Swail made sure to note that Martha Louise will always be a go-to mount for him, especially as her dependency continues to show its worth.
"She's got an incredibly big step and she turns very well. She has good experience now at this level. When you look at the class list I think she probably went into this class as one of the favorites and in that way it's nice to know that she proved that she should be. She's incredibly consistent," he elaborated. "I'm very thankful to have Lothlorien Farm and the support of Sue and Ariel Grange. It's a nice way to start off the year."
Final Results $50,000 UHealth Ear Institute Grand Prix
1. MARTHA LOUISE, 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare by Maloubet de Pleville x Virginia Wolf CONOR SWAIL, Five Way Farm, LLC: 0/0/40.731
2. PICOLO, 2003 Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Talme D'Or DARRAGH KENNY, WhiteRock Farm LTD: 0/0/42.29
3. LADY MARIA BH, 2006 Holsteiner mare by Cartani x Freia V AMANDA DERBYSHIRE, David Gochman: 0/0/44.264
4. HEROS, 2007 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Canadian River x Vivita de Fribois AMY MILLAR, AMMO Investments: 0/0/44.611
5. STANLEY STONE, 2005 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Karandasj x Summerdrive KIM FARLINGER, Sher-Al Farm Inc.: 0/0/45.336
6. ENTRE NOUS, 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Conan Z v Topia van de Padenborre LAUREN TISBO, Tequestrian Farms, LLC: 0/0/45.974
7. LE CONTE, 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Lancer II x Malin ANDREW KOCHER, Andrew Kocher: 0/0/47.67
8. EREGAST VAN'T KIEZELHOF, 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Quinta SHANE SWEETNAM, Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 0/4/42.626
For more information on PBIEC please visit www.pbiec.com to see a full schedule and list of results.