Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 25, 2019 – Conor Swail (IRL) and GK Coco Chanel took the win in the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round III on Friday morning at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). After the weather forced a cancellation of the class on Thursday, Swail returned for the jump-off on Friday to conclude the class, along with four others. It was ultimately Swail and GK Coco Chanel, owned by Vanessa Mannix, who took the lion’s share of the prize money.
The first round featured 16 fences set at 1.50m in height and with a time-allowed of 77 seconds. It proved difficult for some riders, as the tight line from fence three to the fourth obstacle, a triple bar to a tight one stride of airy verticals, saw faults at the a and b elements of the double. In addition, a skinny liverpool vertical jumping towards the ingate also accrued faults for many riders. Set by Canadian course designer Peter Grant, the time-allowed was tight at 77 seconds, with 11 horse-and-rider combinations going clear to finish on just 1 time fault.
Swail and GK Coco Chanel, a 2008 Holsteiner gelding, have been partnered for two years, and the familiarity shows. A change of bridle played to his horse’s strengths on Thursday and Friday, with the horse now going in a hackamore. Week Three is the gelding’s first time out in the show ring this season and Swail is aiming him for the CSI5* during Week Five of WEF.
Swail managed to sneak his first round in before the storm hit on Thursday, adding his name to the jump-off order-of-go, along with five others, after seeing 67 entries. It was only a few minutes later when Spencer Brittan (USA) had to pull up due to the weather. Brittan luckily got another chance at the commencement of the class on Friday morning, adding his name to the jump-off list for a total of seven.
Kent Farrington (USA) led the pack heading into the jump-off, posting the first clear round as fourth in the order on Thursday. In addition to Brittan and Swail, Daniel Bedoya (BOL), Fabio Leivas Da Costa (BRA), David Blake (IRL) and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) posted clear rounds to challenge the jump-off. Ultimately, Gallagher and Farrington elected to not jump-off, having already qualified for Saturday’s grand prix under the lights.
Swail got to see a few rounds before his jump-off, and after Bedoya posted the first clear round in 42.57 seconds riding his own Quattro, to eventually finish second, it was Swail’s tight, clean turns that gave him the edge to stop the timers in 41.82 seconds to take the win. Costa, riding Tosca De L’Esques owned by Bonne Chance Farm LLC, had the time to win in 39.12 seconds, but had one rail to finish in third.
Saturday’s $134,000 Adequan Grand Prix CSI3* will see many top riders in the lineup, as competition continues to heat up at WEF. The class starts at 7 p.m. as part of the popular Saturday Night Lights series, which runs through Week Twelve of WEF.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Conor Swail – $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round III Winner
On his partnership with GK Coco Chanel:
“I think I’ve had him nearly two years now. He is not the most straightforward horse I have ever ridden but is very, very talented. He’s very quirky, very afraid of other horses and his mind is like a light switch. One minute he’s so placid and the next, you’re going in the other direction 100 miles per hour. He’s very alert and very sharp. In this sport, at the moment you need something with a lot of quality and he has all the scope and carefulness. Every horse you ride, you have to find their strengths and weaknesses and work on the weaknesses and build on the strengths. He has all of the power; he’s a really good athlete as a jumper. He has a big stride and it’s easy to get down any distances that are a little forward. For me now, he’s quite rideable and a very exciting horse.”
On the class:
“Obviously we had a big delay in between the two rounds. Thankfully I could jump just before the storm hit yesterday. The course was obviously very difficult but it felt good with my guy. I just switched the bridle last week to a hackamore just to try it and I have to say it’s suiting him very well. He tries to get his tongue over the bit and he’s a little awkward in a bit, so I just tried that to see how it would work and, for me, it’s fitting very well at the moment. He’s being very careful, and it felt very easy yesterday even though it was not.”
On Friday’s jump-off:
“Normally, it would be better if I could’ve shown him in the jump-off yesterday. Even today, when I went to go a little quicker, he was a little wary. Normally, if I can get a round in first and then jump-off he’s better so it probably didn’t suit me as well today to try and go fast just from not having a first round. It didn’t do any harm though and they have to flat anyways. Certainly tomorrow I think he’ll be perfectly fine. I saw the first couple of guys go so I had a gauge of the time. Just before I went in, there was a clear in 42 seconds so I knew it wasn’t really quick. I did six strides from one to two but I was a little slow and did 10 across to the outside and there was a nine there. It wasn’t that I was taking a lot of risks, I still felt comfortable enough and I think I just got a nice rollback tight turn to the vertical, the second to last, and that just helped us sneak past the guy in front.”
On his plans for GK Coco Chanel:
“I will do Saturday night with this horse, his first time under the lights. We’ll see what happens, he’s a funny guy. I am always hoping he behaves himself, but I am looking forward to that. This is his first week showing this year so it’s very nice that he started off in a positive way. The horse is very talented. Honestly, when we bought him I felt he could jump anything. It’s taken us a while to get him consistent at this level, although I have to say he loves Spruce Meadows and he wins a lot there. He has been consistent over the past six months so it’s great that we’re continuing the good trend. I am going to do the 5* in two weeks, so that will be a level up for him but he could jump anything if he’s in the right frame of mind. It’s exciting that he’s being so good and competitive.”
$36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round III:
Place / Horse / Athlete / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. GK Coco Chanel / Conor Swail / IRL / Vanessa Mannix / 0 / 75.96 / 0 / 41.85
2. Quattro / Daniel Bedoya / BOL / Daniel Bedoya / 0 / 76.0 / 0 / 42.57
3. Tosca De L’Esques / Fabio Leivas Da Costa / BRA / Bonne Chance Farm Llc / 0 / 73.85 / 4 / 39.12
4. Uncle Blue / Spencer Brittan / USA / Spencer Brittan / 0 / 77.0 / 4 / 41.23
5. Don’t Touch Du Bois / David Blake / IRL / Pine Hollow Farm / 0 / 75.48 / 4 / 41.90
6. Hunters Conlypso II / Lorcan Gallagher / IRL / Dacantos Group / 0 / 75.28 / WD
7. Baltic Star 2 / Kent Farrington / USA / Tanma Corp & Kent Farrington / 0 / 76.94 / WD
8. Karel VDB / Martin Fuchs / SWE / SPCS / 1 / 77.11
9. Caletto Cabana / Wilton Porter / USA / Sleepy P Ranch Llc / 1 / 77.16
10. Canamera 2 / Peter Wylde / USA / Kathleen Kamine / 1 / 77.16
11. Fellini S / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Ilan Ferder / 1 / 77.86
12. Balintore / Susan Horn / CAN / Kingsfield Farm / 1 / 78.03