CO Down’s Conor Swail scored a massive win in the early hours of Sunday morning when taking the top prize in the $384,000 Rolex Grand Prix at the five-star fixture in Tryon, North Carolina, USA.
Riding the 12-year-old stallion Rubens LS La Silla (Rebozo Ls La Silla x Cash) owned by Rose Hill Farm, Swail produced the only double clear of the competition, crossing the line in 39.80 seconds in a three horse jump-off.
Swail was the first to go clear in the first round and said afterwards: “My horse has had a great year so far and he was coming in here with a lot of confidence. I thought that the time was going to be a little bit of an issue for me, but thankfully I squeezed just inside it.
"It started off a little scratchy for us at the start. I think it was because we haven’t competed in five weeks. The second half of the round he jumped beautifully. We squeezed just inside the time, but thankfully there weren’t many more in the jump-off.”
Swail also outlined his plans for the rest of the year, saying: “My two guys that I have here are heading over to have a week off next week, then they are heading to Lexington and then up to Toronto. After that, we will go to Florida and that wraps up the year.”
Limerick’s Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu also made it through to the second round and made it an Irish one-two when finishing second with two fences down against the clock.
O’Shea had scored another second-place finish aboard Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu in last weekend’s three-star Grand Prix at Tryon.
“I saw Conor go on the screen,” explained O’Shea, “and he didn’t look really fast, but he was really fast and is always really fast, so that didn’t tell me much, really.
"My horse has been jumping really well this year and we have been competing in Nation’s Cups all year. He won the Grand Prix here exactly a year ago and that was the last time we went this fast. He’s had a great year and it’s nice to finish with a result like this.”
American rider Margie Engle and Royce were the only other combination to jump-clear in the first round and they filled third place on the podium after picking up 12 faults in the jump-off.
Cork’s Shane Sweetnam also grabbed a slice of the prize fund when finishing sixth aboard Indra Van de Oude Heihoef with one of the faster four-fault scores from the opening round.