Kicking off St. Patrick’s Day week in a very Irish fashion, Conor Swail claimed the top two spots in Wednesday’s $10,000 Whittier Trust 1.35m Welcome Speed during Desert Circuit IX, the final week of a thrilling 2023 Desert Circuit.
Aboard Ikonic PB, owned by Vanessa Mannix, Swail took yet another victory in the competitive Wednesday class to open National show jumping action, claiming second-place honors as well aboard Casturano.
“Ikonic has done quite well in these [Welcome Speeds] between myself and James [Chawke],” Swail remarked on the 10-year-old mare’s success. “She’s won quite a few of them with both of us riding her. She’s gained a lot of experience throughout the circuit. As you can see, her consistency is showing. Each round is getting relatively more similar. Consistency is the key, really, to success.”
Swail, even at number six in the world rankings, is still learning something with every round he jumps. “You’re always working on something new and you always get feedback from every round, whether you’re winning or losing. It’s all about working with that [feedback] and trying to make improvements.”
A win is a win to most, but Swail is more focused on the next win, thinking about the changes that he will make from the way the round goes. “She was a little mouthy today actually, so that’s something I can be smoother with,” he detailed. “She was flipping her head a bit and I prefer that to be a little better. As much as winning is great, I still would like it to be better, which is an important message to learn.”
The famous hackamore might make a return, according to Swail. “We’re going to try to change a few things, put her in something else. I might even go to my favorite hackamore. I might try her in that to see how she likes that.”
Swail’s second-place mount, Casturano, is filled with promise but still working on experience.
“I’ve never jumped him on grass actually,” Swail remarked of Casturano, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “This was his first round back since the [three-star Grand Prix]. I was really happy with him; I thought it was a really nice round where you could gallop along, and the jumps were relatively small compared to what he did last. That round I was really pleased with. He jumped super on the grass.”
Katie Laurie rounded out the podium with Carissa McCall’s McCaw MVNZ.
“This place is a fabulous place to come,” Swail said of DIHP. “The facilities are second to none. It’s been great for my horses and it’s been very beneficial for me and Vanessa and James. We’ve all had a great time here.”
Week IX offers a full slate of feature classes, including four FEI classes at the CSI4* level, concluding with Sunday’s $226,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI4* 1.55m Grand Prix. Aside from FEI show jumping, the $30,000 FarmVet 1.45m Open Classic takes place Thursday on the grass field, as well as the $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic Sunday morning. Hunters will enjoy center stage Friday with the $100,000 WCHR West Coast Hunter Spectacular and the $20,000 DIHP Young Hunter Championship, while equitation stars rise to the occasion Saturday for the R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship.
Final Results: $10,000 Whittier Trust 1.35m Welcome Speed
1. Ikonic PB / Conor Swail / Vanessa Mannix / 0/69.020
2. Casturano / Conor Swail / Conor Swail / 0/70.066
3. McCaw MVNZ / Katie Laurie / Carissa McCall / 0/72.100
4. Hero W / Robert Sean Leckie / Ilan Ferder / 0.73.243
5. Fardence / Braden James / Braden James / 0/73.795
6. Granito Noordenhoek / Michael Williamson / Michael Williamson / 0/74.061
7. La Capitol / Alexis Taylor / Aleron LLC / 0/77.666
8. Dakota IV / Courtney Miller / Infinity Farm / 0/78.223
9. Zuperman MT / Mariano Maggi / Jessie Jia / 0/79.062
10. Hanakine / Katherine Huffstutler / Katherine Huffstutler / 0/79.428
11. Fair Katie VDH / Maddy Riddle / Brian Vander Helm / 0/79.760
12. King-Boy / Katie Kehring / Kehring Family / 0/80.055