Despite unconventional equitation, Irish rider Conor Swail piloted Game Ready to victory in both the Grand Prix de Penn National and the PA Big Jump during the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA.
The 68th annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show came to a thrilling conclusion on October 19 as many of the world's top riders competed in the $85,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix de Penn National. You could hear the crowd collectively hold its breath as each horse sped around the course, but it was Irish rider Conor Swail and Game Ready who pulled out all the stops to clinch the win.
Twenty four competitors attempted course designer Alan Wade's big track, set at 1.60 meters with 13 obstacles and a time allowed of 78 seconds. Riders had issues with various jumps, but the combinations seemed to be the most influential. Only three riders made it to the jump-off round, and it was Swail, in his Harrisburg debut, who set the pace with a clear round in 35.20 seconds.
The Grand Prix de Penn National is one of the few that McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) has never won, and for a moment it seemed as though he may have finally done it. However, his fractionally slower time of 35.48 seconds on Rothchild once again relegated him to second place - for the fifth time.
Last year's winners, Kent Farrington (Wellington, FL) and Uceko were up on the clock half way around the course but unfortunately had a rail down, dropping them to third place. Farrington was attempting a record fourth win as he and Beezie Madden are tied with three Harrisburg grand prix wins apiece. "That would have been nice," said Farrington. "With these two guys (pointing to Swail and Ward) it's hard to do. Maybe next year."
Swail also won the Leading Jumper Rider Award, while his groom Anne Sophie (Annso) Canut from France won the Caretaker Award. Brianne Goutal (Wellington, FL) won the Leading Lady Jumper Rider Award.
PA Big Jump
Swail and Game Ready, owned by Sue Grange, also won the $40,000 Pennsylvania 'Big Jump' in 34.54 seconds on October 16.
Only seven out of 28 starters made it to the jump-off over the Alan Wade designed course and Swail was last to go. Second placed Kent Farrington and Willow, owned by Amalaya Investments, crossed the timers in 36.80 seconds, edging out Brianne Goutal and Nice de Prissey, owned by Remarkable Farms LP, who finished in 38.01 seconds and third place.
"This is my first trip to Harrisburg so it's a good start for me." Swail said after the class. "It's a beautiful place - it's a great arena, and the warm-up is fantastic.”
Darragh Kenny of Ireland and Top Gun IV were victorious in the $10,000 Gambler's Choice, jumping the ‘All In’ 5’4” bonus fence, which doubled his score to 2020 points. McLain Ward and Wings had a flying round and were the ones to catch for most of the competition after scoring 1960 points, but finished in second place. Of the twelve starters, four played the 'Joker'—which added 200 points or subtracted 200 for a knockdown-- and eight went 'All In', five of them successfully.
"I had an attempted plan which worked out great up until I ran out of my plan," joked Kenny. "I jumped all the jumps inside my plan, and then I was left with time so I kind of just winged it. I jumped three or four more jumps than I planned to jump."
Kenny, 25, and Top Gun IV, owned by Oakland Ventures LLC, also won the Open Jumper Speed Championship. In addition, Kenny won the $33,000 Keystone Classic Speed Stake in 62.28 seconds with Prof de La Roque, owned by Postage Stamp Farm, LLC. More than a second behind was compatriot Conor Swail and Ariania, who stopped the clock in 63.84 seconds to finish in the runner-up spot.
Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) and Breitling LS won the $7,500 Open Jumper II class, beating nine other riders in the jump-off with a clear round in 35.486 seconds. Second place went to Irish rider Shane Sweetnam, who now lives in Wellington, FL, and Diktator Van De Boslandho, who also jumped clear, but crossed the timers in 35.905 seconds.
Lillie Keenan, of New York, NY, topped a field of 234 starters to win the coveted Pessoa/ USEF Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Final riding Clearway. She was reserve champion last year.
Just 25 riders were called back by judges Ralph Caristo and Leo Conroy for a second round, and only six were asked to remain for the extremely difficult final test, which included: a halt, a trot fence, counter-canter, demonstrating two changes of lead before the final combination, and sitting trot to the line-up. All without stirrups.
Reserve Champion was Michael Hughes of Allendale, NJ aboard Curtis in just their third competition together. Third place went to Charlotte Jacobs, who led after Round 2 on Patrick but who missed the lead changes.
Prix de States
The team from Zone 5 defended their 2012 Randolph College/USEF National Junior Jumper Championship title with a win over silver medal team Zone 2. Zone 1 took the Bronze. The championships follow a modified Nations Cup format; teams jump the same course twice with one drop score permitted from each round.
After the first round, Zones 1, 2, and 5 were tied with four faults and seven riders had clear rounds. The Zone 5 team included Gabriela Mershad (New Albany, Ohio) and Skara Glen's Basel; Lauren Tyree (Chicago, Ill.) and Audi's Top Secret; Vivian Yowan (Lexington, Ky.) and Ralvesther; and Kalvin Dobbs (Carmel, Ind.) and Tea Party; who finished with a total of 12 faults. Zone 1’s score was 20.
The scores from Phases I and II carried over into Phase III of the National Junior Jumper Individual Championship, with the top 60 percent qualifying for Saturday's competition. Lillie Keenan, 16, riding Londinium, finished on a score of 9.5 faults for the Individual gold.
Gabriele Mershad and Michael Hughes, tied with 13 faults, performed an exciting jump-off for the Silver medal. Mershad and Skara Glen's Basel went first and jumped a clear round. Hughes and Christina Fried's nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare had one rail to take the Bronze medal.
Hunter Grand Champion
Quotable, an 8 year old gelding owned by DL Glefke & Kenneth Garber and shown by Kelley Farmer, won the Grand Hunter Championship, sponsored by P.P.C. Lubricants. The Beaufort Hunt Perpetual Trophy is presented to the horse that accumulated the most points in the Green Conformation Hunter, Regular Conformation Hunter, Green Working Hunter, or High Performance Working Hunter divisions. Farmer, of Keswick, VA, also won the Leading Hunter Rider Award for accumulating the most points in Green Conformation, Regular Conformation, Green Working, or High Performance (excluding model classes) sections.
Quotable also won the Green Conformation Hunter Championship. The Reserve Championship was awarded to Marino, shown by Sandra Ferrell (Bernville, PA) and owned by Stephanie Riggio (New York, NY). Cold Harbor, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker and ridden by Hunt Tosh, was named Regular Conformation Hunter Champion. Kelley Farmer and Quotable were Reserve Champions.
Kelsey Thatcher, of Bluffdale, UT, won the $15,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic on October 19 and earned the division Championship with Athena. She also was Reserve Champion with Everything. Thatcher, who is trained by Alex and Maggie Jayne, was also named the horse show's Leading Amateur-Owner Jumper Rider. Athena is Charlie Jayne’s former grand prix horse, who was purchased by Thatcher, a 21-year-old University of Georgia senior, in August 2012. She is a half sister to Everything. Talent runs in the family as Thatcher’s sister, Madeline, was second in the $5,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Final.