Conor Swail (IRL) has a new kid in town. Casturano has earned top placings at the National level throughout Desert Circuit, but during Desert Circuit VII, Swail stepped his new mount up to the FEI levels, taking their first FEI victory together Saturday afternoon in the $38,700 Kask CSI3* 1.45m Classic.
Swail was one of five to navigate Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) course clear and had the pole position of last to go in the jump-off. A slick inside turn set Swail up for success early on, and the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Castelan x Canturo) used his stride to cover the rest.
“The course was nicely built by Joey,” Swail remarked. “If you look at the horses that were clear there are a few five-star grand prix horses in there. I was very pleased with how he handled himself and he gave me a great jump-off ride. It was nice and slick. I’m very happy for him because he needs to learn to go faster to be able to win at this level.”
Swail unseated leader at the time Katie Laurie (AUS) and her FEI World Championships mount, Django II, who ended up in second. Kyle King (USA) and Cerolino, owned by Strasburg Morin Inc., took third.
“I just got him at the beginning of the year and we just [showed] National up until now,” Swail remarked on the still-new partnership with Casturano. “He did three weeks of National and we worked our way up to the FEI level. So far so good; he’s been great. He was second the first day, jumped around the 1.40m very nicely and then I thought he was very good today.”
The inside turn from the second to the third fence in the jump-off proved to be crucial, with many riders debating whether that was necessary. King set the standard and Swail ended up using his horse’s weakness to his advantage in this particular scenario.
“There was an inside turn there that Kyle took and I felt that my guy could go high and land quite dead, so I let him do that so I could nip inside. He did that very well and I cut across the next vertical very sharply,” Swail shared.
His jump-off time of 37.79 seconds put him more than a second ahead of runner-up Laurie, proving Swail and Casturano are a pair to watch for the future.
“James Chawke has been with us the last 10 or 12 years; his friend Sam Buirs was riding [Casturano] all last year and has produced him extremely well,” Swail said of how the horse came into his current and very powerful string. “James thought I should go sit on the horse. Thankfully I did. We’re a good partnership; we started off well together and we got on very well. I’m really excited about him; I think he’s going to be a very big part of my string.”
Using the horse’s incredible jumping ability came in handy in Saturday’s class, but overall Swail is working on encouraging Casturano to jump lower and pick up more speed. “He goes a bit high, too high,” Swail continued. “Jumping high is good but you don’t want to jump 2.10m over 1.50m. I wanted to make sure he didn’t overjump things. At home he’s quite level and very smooth and relaxed. When I tried him it was just to make sure he wasn’t over-careful. Sam had done a beautiful job on him so it’s easy for me to continue what she has already done.”