Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 5, 2021 – International athletes competing in the FEI CSI3* competition, presented by Marshall & Sterling, returned to the Grand Prix Ring on Friday afternoon for a speed class at the Desert International Horse Park. Their sights were set on speeding through a tough track set by Ireland’s Alan Wade to earn the top prize in the $36,600 Sun Air Jets 1.50m CSI3* during the National Sunshine Series I. Ultimately, Conor Swail (IRL) and his rockstar Vital Chance de la Roque topped the 35 entries to secure the win.
Wade’s winding course featured 12 numbered obstacles, including three double combinations, bending lines and tight rollbacks. The track began with unrelated bending lines across the middle of the arena, allowing riders to open their horses’ strides and gallop before navigating the more technical aspects of the course.
Only the third pair to take on the track, Swail and the 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly blazed through the course, setting a time to beat of 63.31 seconds, turning back tight and utilizing the horse’s natural footspeed to their advantage. Richard Spooner (USA) followed quickly after as fourth in the order with Quirado RC, stopping the timers in 71.62 seconds, which would hold second place throughout the class as rails fell with riders attempting to catch Swail’s early time to beat. As the class drew closer to the end, Uma O’Neill (AUS) took to the ring with her longtime partner Clockwise of Greenhill Z and laid down a clear round. O’Neill’s time of 70.17 seconds was good enough to overtake Spooner and slide into second but still nearly seven seconds off Swail’s unmatched winning time.
Though Swail has an impressive string of horses, several of which accompanied him to Desert Horse Park for the National Sunshine Series, Vital Chance de la Roque has proven to rise to many significant challenges since Swail took over the ride in early 2021. Since June of this year, the pair has captured major FEI wins in Lexington, Tryon, Saugerties, Langley and Sacramento, winning back-to-back FEI World Cup Qualifiers at the first two legs of the North American League. With his eyes set on Sunday’s $101,000 FEI Grand Prix 1.55m CSI3*, sponsored by Marshall & Sterling, Swail has his top mount well prepared for the pair’s first FEI outing at Desert International Horse Park.
Swail planned his stops at the Desert International Horse Park accordingly with his tour of the western part of North America. While campaigning several horses in FEI and World Cup Qualifier competition, he’s traveling with a separate group of horses along the Major League Show Jumping tour in North America, culminating with his return to Desert Horse Park in December for the tour’s finale, featuring CSI5* and CSI2* FEI competition.
Following the conclusion of the $36,600 Sun Air Jets 1.50m CSI3*, national athletes competed in the $10,000 1.35m Open Classic, sponsored by Interactive Mortgage. Eleven horse and rider combinations qualified for the jump-off, and at the end of the night it was Mark Kinsella (IRL) and Corradina, owned by Valhalla Equestrian, who led the lap of honor after clearing the tiebreaker in 31.937 seconds. Following just behind them was Eric Navet (FRA) with Signe Ostby’s Coronado Blue NF, producing a clear round in 32.353 for the second place honors. The third place prize was presented to Lauren Whitlock and her own Lente’s after they stopped the clock in a faultless 34.079 seconds during the jump-off.
FEI CSI3* competition, presented by Marshall & Sterling, will continue on Saturday with $36,600 1.45m, sponsored by Silver Rock/Talus, and conclude on Sunday with the $101,000 1.55m, sponsored by Marshall & Sterling.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Conor Swail – $36,600 Sun Air Jets 1.50m CSI3*
On Vital Chance de la Roque:
“Vinny has had an outstanding year with me. He’s coming into this show in good form; his last two shows he won two World Cup [Qualifiers] in Thunderbird and Sacramento. He’s had a nice three weeks. He had a lovely round out there today. He felt really good and he jumped super – he felt very smooth, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
On the course:
“I thought it was a good course. Alan Wade is a fellow countryman and one of the best course designers in the world. I seem to do well on his courses. We have some course designers we like and others we like less. Alan is one of those guys that always has a nice flow to his courses, so I think if you ride them well, and you don’t take too much out of your horse, and at the same time you can still be quick and smooth.”
On returning to Desert International Horse Park:
“I’ve been here before, but four or five years ago, and I’ve never competed in FEI here so this was my first time. It’s lovely; the owners have clearly upgraded it and are doing a lot of nice stuff. The footing is good and it’s jumping well. It’s a lovely area. I enjoy golfing and it’s a good golf area.”
$36,600 Sun Air Jets 1.50m CSI3*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time
- Vital Chance De La Roque / Conor Swail / IRL / Conor Swail / 0 | 63.31
- Clockwise of Greenhill Z / Uma O’Neill / NZL / O’Neil Show Jumping LLC / 0 | 70.17
- Quirado RC / Richard Spooner / USA / Show Jumping Syndications International / 0 | 71.62
- C’sest Roberto / Stephanie Gershon / USA / Everardo A Hegewisch / 0 / 71.65
- Ariell La Sirene / Keri Potter / USA / Tres Palomas / 0 | 72.36
- Grand Desert / Nicholas Choi / USA / Nicholas Choi / 0 | 72.85
- A-Girl / Sophia Siegel / NZL / Sophia Siegel / 0 | 75.26
- Jamica Van Kattebeek / Kendall Gath / USA / The Equine Platform / 1 | 78.92
- Jarpur / Lindsay Archer / USA / Rhys Farms LLC / 4 | 64.62
- Con Calle / Mavis Spencer / USA / George Maskrey-Segesman / 4 | 65.06
- Theo 160 / Conor Swail / IRL / Team Philippaerts / 4 | 65.16
- Cana Van De Blom / Lorcan Gallagher / IRL / Hot Horses LLC / 4 | 65.29