Palgrave, Ontario – For the second year in a row, Ireland’s Conor Swail stood in the winner’s circle following the $50,000 World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva Insurance, held Sunday, September 28, at the CSI2*-W Canadian Show Jumping Tournament at the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park in Palgrave, ON.
While Swail was the winner last year riding Lansdowne for owners Susan and Ariel Grange, this time it was Ariana who carried the Irishman to victory. It was no easy feat, as 34 horses took the test set by course designer Bernardo Cabral of Portugal. A total of eight passed to advance to the jump-off while a single time fault kept two entries, Ljubov Kochetova of Russia riding Urus 2 and Colombia’s Daniel Bluman aboard Apardi, from contesting the tie-breaker.
As the first rider back for the jump-off, local favourite Chris Sorensen, 32, of Caledon, ON, set the early pace with a clear round in a time of 43.66 seconds riding Bobby, a 12-year-old black Dutch Warmblood gelding (Concorde x Joost) owned in partnership with Britland Hughes.
The lead quickly changed hands, however, as 67-year-old Ian Millar of Perth, ON, and Dixson, an 11-year-old bay Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco), eclipsed Sorensen’s time, taking more than three full seconds off the leading time by crossing the finish in 40.27 seconds.
Having topped a starting field of 46 entries to win Friday’s $35,000 CSI Caledon Cup, Phase I, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva Insurance, Millar looked to be on track to continue his winning ways. That’s when Swail decided to up the ante in an attempt to dislodge the 10-time Canadian Olympian from the top of the leaderboard. A risky turn inside the double combination to an oxer saved Swail precious time, and proved to be the winning move when the clock flashed 39.61.
“I kept an eye on Ian because he has been on such a roll, and he had a very fast round,” said Swail, 42. “There was a turn inside the double combination to an oxer that I did. I was the only one that did it and, obviously, it saved a lot of time. It was a high-risk move, and it paid off for me today.”
Swail has been competing in International Equestrian Federation (FEI) sanctioned competition with Ariana since 2011. While the pair enjoyed two victories on the indoor circuit last fall, the $50,000 World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva Insurance, marked their biggest win to date.
“She is a very consistent horse, and this was a step up for her,” said Swail of Ariana, a 13-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood mare (Oklund x Damiro). “This was my fourth time showing here, and it was the biggest track that I’ve jumped so far. This was a big class for her, but she’s the type of horse that has an unbelievable heart and gives you everything. She’s quite nervous, whenever the crowd claps she tries to run away, but, at the same time, she always tries to leave the jumps up. She is not the easiest but if you give her a good ride, she will normally not be too far away in the results.”
While Millar may have been relegated to second, it was a win-win for owner Susan Grange of Cheltenham, ON, who owns Ariana as well as Dixson in partnership with her daughter, Ariel. As Swail noted, “My owners are great supporters of the sport, and it was nice for them today to be first and second.”
In addition to being a qualifier for the 2015 World Cup Final in Las Vegas, USA, the $50,000 World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva Insurance, acted as the second and final phase of the RAM Equestrian Caledon Cup. With a win in Phase I on Friday riding Team Works’ Star Power and a second place finish in Sunday’s Phase II with Dixson, Millar was awarded the RAM Equestrian Caledon Cup. In addition, he won a $1,000 bonus from Henry Equestrian Plan (HEP) as the highest-placed rider using the HEP saddle pad presented to all entries at the FEI horse inspection.
The $50,000 World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Peel Maryborough and Aviva Insurance, marked the final class of the 2014 season for the Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park. Following a complete rebuild, the finishing touches will now be put in place as the Park prepares to host the equestrian events for the 2015 Pan American Games next July.
“I’ve seen the transformation of the facility, and what they’ve done here,” said Swail. “It is one of the better facilities in the world now. It’s top-notch, and worth coming to. The ground is super, and horses are jumping well off of it.”
Craig Collins, Managing Partner of competition organizer Equestrian Management Group (EMG) as well as Sport Organizing Chair – Equestrian for the 2015 Pan American Games, summed it up by saying, “Our week of weather has been absolutely spectacular. The crowd certainly was appreciative of the great performances the riders gave them today. It was a spectacular day with great jumping, and a starting field that included many of our American and international friends. We could not have asked for a better end to our 2014 season.”
For more information, including full results, please visit www.equiman.com.