Conor Swail Back to Winning in Wellington With Casturano

March 28. 2024

Seventeen of the world’s top-30 show jumping athletes have converged at Wellington International’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) for the 12th and final week of international competition in Wellington, FL. The $117,000 Adequan® CSI5* WEF Challenge Cup Round 12 kicked off the Rolex-sponsored finale week on Thursday with a win for an on-fire Irish contingent. Conor Swail (IRL) and Casturano, an 11-year-old Holsteiner Castelan 3 gelding, topped the fifty-seven horse field. 

Conor Swail & Casturano, winners of the $117,000 Adequan® CSI5* WEF Challenge Cup Round 12. Photo © Sportfot

WEF 12 comes to a peak during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ with the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix before the 2024 season concludes on March 31. 

Tapped as the Jumping Technical Delegate for the Paris Olympics, course designer Guilherme Jorge’s (BRA) saw 15 horses advance to the tie-breaking jump-off. Six Irishmen and representatives of five other nations found their way forward. Swail set the time-to-beat of 36.25 seconds early in the jump-off.

“The horse is phenomenal,” said Swail of the Conall Murray-owned gelding that is still gaining experience at the five-star level. “He just needs a few more big classes—another six or seven five stars—and I'm going to have a lot of fun with him. He’s so much quality, careful; he's honestly incredible. In the beginning he was going too high, but he’s matured a lot over the last year. 

“I was in California over the winter because I thought that would be a better start for him,” Continued Swail, 52, who made his WEF debut during WEF 11. “The plan was always to come here and give him a little bit of a tougher test and it’s worked out great.”

Conor Swail & Casturano are presented as winners of the $117,000 Adequan® CSI5* WEF Challenge Cup Round 12. Photo © Sportfot

Casturano rose to the occasion in one of the horse’s most challenging tests to date. Foot speed, swift corners and efficiency in the air secured Swail the win. 

Just off the pace, Germany’s Christian Kukuk gave the victory a solid effort, piloting 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion Mumbai. The Beerbaum Stables’ owned Diamant De Semilly son secured the runner-up position in a time of 36.35 seconds.

Christian Kukuk & Mumbai. Photo © Sportfot

With less than four tenths of a second separating the top three, Ireland bookended the podium with Andrew Bourns taking third in a time of 36.56 seconds. He piloted QBS Equestrian’s 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Sea TopBlue (Chacco-Blue x Lux Z).

Andrew Bourns & Sea TopBlue. Photo © Sportfot

“There are so many good riders here in Wellington that winning a class is really just about sticking to your plan and doing your best,” said Swail. “Ireland has so many strong riders right now in the U.S. and Europe, it’s wonderful to be among them.”

Rising Stars of the Hunter Ring Ride to Wins in Equine Tack & Nutritionals Green Hunter 3’6” and 3’9” Stakes 

The best of the best in the hunter discipline took one final opportunity to show off their rising stars at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) as Thursday saw the conclusion of Green Hunter divisions in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Arena.

Meagan Murray-Tenuta of Lake Forest, IL, and Dessert First, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare by Cador took the first top placing in the Equine Tack & Nutritional Green Hunter 3’9” Stake as the highest scoring pair of 10. The mare, owned by Leap of Faith Sport Horses, LLC, earned an 89 for the blue. 

Meagan Murray-Tenuta & Dessert First. Photo © Sportfot

“It has taken this many weeks to really figure her out, so it feels great to end this way,” Murray-Tenuta said of the win. “She has been second and third a few times, but we hadn’t won a class yet so I’m super happy.”

With her hunter career spanning less than a year, the mare appears to be adapting well to the career change from the jumper ring. 

“We were looking for a horse for an amateur adult—who also shows her—and we loved her expression and the way she hunts the jump,” she described. “She is super careful at the jumps and tries hard; the bigger the jump, the better she jumps.”

No stranger to the winner’s circle in the Green Hunter 3’6” division, Jennifer Hannan of Wakefield, RI, and Frosted once again rode to the top of the Equine Tack & Nutritionals Green Hunter 3’6” Stake as well as the division championship. 

Jennifer Hannan & Frosted. Photo © Sportfot

“I’m ecstatic that we finished this way,” she gushed. “He’s had a great season and he’s truly an incredible horse.” 

Continuing the theme of transitions from the jumper to hunter ranks, The Rindy Dominguez-owned 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Connor has quickly excelled in his new discipline, which Hannan credits to his calm and quiet demeanor. 

“I think being a jumper played a big part in his career,” she described after collecting a stake score of 91. “He was a little challenged as a jumper because he's a nice quiet horse, so now he’s taking a breath, relaxing and understanding how to use his body. He’s truly gifted.”

Hunter and jumper competition during the finale week of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival will resume Friday, March 28, as the action ramps up into the weekend.