Ireland’s Conor Swail won today’s ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup, leading a determined starting competition of 40 of the world’s best riders to take the coveted prize.

Twelve of those athletes advanced to the second round, but only four made it to the jump-off: Swail, Canada’s Amy Millar, American Nicholas Dello Joio and Neal Fearon, also of Ireland.

Two men and a woman standing on a podium behind a large trophy.

Amy Millar (Can), Conor Swail (IRL), and Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) following the ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup. (Spruce Meadows Media/Bart Onyszko)

In the end, Swail was victorious while Amy Millar and Truman finished second and Nicholas Dello Joio and Cornet’s Cambridge came third.

An elated Swail, who finished his clear jump-off round in 39.29s, declared afterwards: “It feels amazing. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup is one of the most prestigious Grand Prix in the world.”

He told onlookers how just last year the now 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding stopped performing out of the blue, but this year his ‘horse of a lifetime’ is back in full swing after successfully battling stomach ulcers.

Swail said, “Honestly, what that horse has done for me is just incredible. The highlight reel for me is basically him in my career.

“He went through a little bad patch last year where we weren’t that comfortable jumping bigger.

“And then, we’ve just built him back up nicely. And honestly, he feels as good as ever.”

Millar, who will soon head to France as one of the Team Canada Olympic show jumpers, was over the moon with her second-place finish.

Millar, who was also faultless but came in at 40.85s, said: “This is my last class before Paris so I couldn’t be feeling better about everything that’s going on with that horse and myself and our Canadian team going into what’s coming up next.

“Right now, our team is looking fantastic. All the horses are jumping clean, all the riders are riding great.

“Really, that’s all you can ask for.”

Dello Joio was more dejected after finishing in a swift 36.79s but knocking a rail down on the final fence.

“It’s hard going first, especially with these guys behind you,” Dello Joio said.

“You got to think, do as much as you can to shut the door and really make them chase.

“I think I just chanced it a little bit too much. But I couldn’t be happier with my horse. I mean, he jumped unbelievably today.”

The trio and their competitors enjoyed one of Spanish course designer Santiago Varela Ulastres’ last creations before he too heads to Paris, where he will join fellow designer, Gregory Bodo, of France, as Olympic co-course designer.


A man and a bay horse jumping a fence at Spruce Meadows.

Manuel Gonzalez (MEX) won the challenging Sun Life Derby the Belgian Warmblood gelding Martialis. (Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk)

Mexico’s Manuel Gonzalez Wins Sun Life Derby

An adrenaline-filled Sun Life Derby packed the stands at Spruce Meadows this afternoon, with Mexico’s Manuel Gonzalez emerging as the only rider to complete the incredibly difficult course with zero faults.

Gonzalez, aboard Martialis, successfully navigated 18 obstacles over 1050m including a steep bank, water jump, and the notoriously challenging Devil’s Dyke, famed for tripping up even the most skilled horses.

“It’s an amazing day,” said Gonazalez, whose only other win at the Summer Series was a tie with Ireland’s Conor Swail in the West Canadian Cup during the ‘Pan American’, presented by Rolex.

“I’m really happy about winning this,” he added. “I jumped the same Derby two years ago here at Spruce. I finished seventh place. The Devil’s Dyke is really difficult, and the time allowed was also quite short, so I was worried about that.”

Second place went to Vaclav Stanek (CZE) and Jasper.

Stanek last month won his first-ever 5* competition, the Duncan Ross Grand Prix, during the ‘Continental’, presented by Rolex. His performance since then, at Spruce Meadows alone, before today’s result, has catapulted him from 1,813th in the FEI world rankings to 718th.

It also made him the first rider from Czechia to win an event of that level at Spruce Meadows, or anywhere on earth.

“Even though I didn’t win today, it’s a dream come true because I always wanted to jump the Derby,” said Stanek, whose country’s flag now proudly adorns the wall of Spruce Meadows’ riders’ pub Time Faults. “It was also the first Derby today for Jasper, so I’m happy with the day today and with the whole show.”

Third place went to Australia’s Katie Laurie, who now lives just outside of Okotoks, aboard New Zealand Sport Horse Django II.

Her delighted family, some visiting from abroad, cheered her on from the stands.

“I was super happy with my horse,” Katie told us. “He’s never jumped the Derby. He’s actually never even seen the Devil’s Dyke before, so he was great.”

A noticeably younger field of 24 daring riders took to charismatic course designer Leopoldo Palacios’ (VEN) creation, which had a time allowed of 158s. Both Stanek and Laurie finished with four faults, as did Canada’s Isis Landsbergen, with Carnaval, who came fourth after finishing over a second longer than Laurie. All the other riders finished with between eight and 48 faults.

Up next this year is the tournament for which Spruce Meadows is famed around the world: the ‘Master’s, from Sept. 4 to 8.

For complete results, visit HERE.