Ireland’s Conor Swail and Vital Chance took top honors at the $225,000 Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute at the Kentucky Horse Park Saturday night. In a format that saw the top ten return for the second round, Swail and Vital Chance produced two clear rounds over the course set by 2016 Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge. They posted the fastest clear in the second round with a time of 43.170.
“There were seven or eight riders in front of me and all of the four faulters were going as quickly as they could, so I was able to see from quite early on the pace I needed to deliver a good round,” Swail said. “I knew we had to be around 43 or 44 seconds. We knew the plan. It worked out really well. Everything came up nicely and the horse went with me the whole way. He’s a fast horse so thankfully tonight I came out on top.”
Swail partnered with “Vinny” in January of last year and soon found success with the 13-year-old Selle Français. “We’re a very good team together. He’s won four or five grand prix in the last year. He’s been such an incredible little horse and such a fighter. He’s a winner and I’m so thrilled to have him.”
The 2019 class winner Paul O’Shea of Ireland guided his longtime partner Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu to second place with two clear rounds and a time of 44.020 in the second round. They gave the crowd a thrill with a huge effort at the last fence, which just gave them the edge over third place.
“I’ve had Machu since he was 7 years old. He’s 15 now. We know each other very well. He’s been a life-changing horse for me,” O’Shea said of the KWPB gelding. “He’s got a great heart and I hope he stays right and keeps enjoying it.”
Daniel Bluman of Israel and the 11-year-old KWPN mare Gemma W rounded out the top three with two clear rounds and a second round time of 44.310.
“I feel her career is just now starting. She’s in great shape. She felt good today. The year is still long and we have a lot coming, but it’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden,” Bluman said. “This is my first time in this event. I think the course designer did a great job. I think the winner is the right winner, and the crowd had a great time. It’s fantastic for us riders to incorporate top show jumping into a day like today.”
After a full day of watching cross-country during the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™, 10,345 spectators remained to watch the show jumping competition. They filled the Rolex Stadium to the brim and cheered, adding to the incredible atmosphere of the show.
“These riders are attracted to the quality and exciting atmosphere of the event and the spectators create that,” said Derek Braun, the founder and president of the Split Rock Jumping Tour who produced the event for Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI). “It’s great to have this incredible crowd to draw from on cross-country day. These fans are so passionate, and I think that creates that level of adrenaline and excitement for the riders.”
Swail echoed Braun’s sentiment, saying, “It’s been a while since we’ve been in front of such big crowds and it gives us all more adrenaline. It’s so much fun having people watching and appreciating what we’re doing.”
Full results here.