Conor Swail and Count Me In continue winning streak in $182,000 Whittier Trust CSI4* Grand Prix

Conor Swail and Count Me In continue winning streak in $182,000 Whittier Trust CSI4* Grand Prix

It’s not often that Conor Swail (IRL) isn’t the favorite in a CSI4* Grand Prix. But nearly a year ago, his top horse Count Me In, who took him to FEI World Cup Finals, to the Dublin Horse Show, and to Aachen, had a lapse in confidence. Taking a step back, Swail positioned the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes, breeder: Friedrich Luessmann) at a lower height, letting the horse tell him when he was ready to move back up.

Swail listened, and the horse was ready. He’s now taken on quite a winning streak, beginning during Desert Circuit 3 and lasting well into Desert Circuit 4, presented by Whittier Trust.

On Saturday, with a triple threat of Grand Prix classes going on, Swail took the win in the biggest one: the $182,000 Whittier Trust CSI4* Grand Prix.

“Obviously I’m quite confident going in with him; he’s back in very good form,” Swail said of stepping onto the grass field with “Crosby” as last to go, despite only one clear round recorded at that point. “He had a nice win Thursday so we were quite confident going in, but I spoke to Alan Wade before the start of the course and asked him how he felt. He said it was full height and full spec, so I think that showed a little.”

Wade (IRL) is famous for his worldwide courses and is known to be one of the best course designers, and only one pair, Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Castlefield Cornelius, had navigated his first-round track penalty free. She stood up at the top by herself, and the only one who was going to change the fate of the day was Swail.

“It was tough enough to jump,” Swail continued. “The course I thought was very getable if you rode it well, and thankfully I have a lot of quality underneath me with Crosby. I was quite nervous going in actually because there was one clear; nobody had really mastered the course that well. I’m expected to go clear with Crosby so there was enough pressure on me to do well. The horse felt super good.”

Swail picked apart what he thought made the course ride more difficult, but in the end he attributed it to Wade’s master design skills.

“The combination, the oxer vertical-vertical, was causing some trouble in the beginning with the carefulness,” he explained. “And the triple-bar caused a lot of trouble off the in-gate. It fell down a lot. The double as well was an ‘off your eye’ to vertical in, oxer out, and it created enough trouble. The jumps fell everywhere; that’s how Alan builds his courses. There were no big dramas, everyone got around safely and he did a great job like he always does.”

But Wade and Swail share a home nation, and because of that they have a fondness for one another. Swail has jumped Wade’s courses all over the world, and he always looks forward to seeing what’s in store from the famous designer.

“He’s Irish so I might be a little biased but I feel he’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” Swail said of Wade. “He’s not about building these big courses that are unjumpable. He’s very thoughtful about what he does. I’ve walked a lot of tracks and it doesn’t look difficult and then there are few clears. He’s very smart that way; he can put a little width on jumps and he’s very good with the material that just makes the horses look in a little more. He’s very rounded in his thoughts as well. He has a look to see who he has to jump tracks and will adjust accordingly. But he makes you have to jump around like he did today.”

With Campbell going first, Swail knew what he had to do and it wasn’t an all-out gallop to catch her. But a clear round was required.

“I had seen Kaitlin and she had a nice round but my horse is so fast that it was just a matter of getting around smoothly and clear,” he said of going in for the jump-off. “It was a pressure round in that I had to go clear. Kaitlin put it up to me and thankfully, normally I’m used to going flat out and he’s really good at it, so it was kind of strange going three-quarters speed and having to do the same thing. But as always he was just magnificent.”

Campbell ended up second with the 3P Equine Partners-owned Castlefield Cornelious (Cornet Obolensky, breeder: Sue Jagger), while Mathijs Van Asten (NED) took third with Sirocco (Balou du Rouet, breeder: Sarah Williams).