IT had been seven months since USA’s Lillie Keenan had jumped internationally in the United States when she met her stallion Agana van het Gerendal Z for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup in Las Vegas last weekend. She received a warm homecoming when she recorded her first career World Cup victory, besting a six-horse jump-off before a packed crowd Saturday night at the South Point Hotel.

Derry’s Daniel Coyle had set the standard over Anderson Lima’s 1.60m jump-off track aboard Ariel Grange’s nine-year-old mare Ivory TCS, breaking the beams in 36.47 seconds which looked like it was good enough for victory.

However, Keenan was last to go and, in exceptional form, was coming off the back of a five-star Grand Prix win in Mexico with Queensland Z. In the end, she was just fractions of a second faster than Coyle in 36.31 seconds to win her first World Cup and $37,500 in prize money.

Coyle, who was fresh off a World Cup win in Toronto, Canada with Legacy, picked up $30,000 for second place, with 18-year-old USA rider Elisa Broz finishing third in 36.65 with Kardenta van’t Meerhof.

“I’ve taught myself when I go later [in the start order] to just walk my course, think about my plan and stick to it. I know Daniel’s really fast. I didn’t need to see him do it to know that I’d have to do everything I could to try to beat him,” Keenan said afterwards.

Keenan gained the advantage with an early gallop up the first line and a particularly tight turn back to the penultimate fence. “On the approach to [fence] one, I can trust my horse so much to go on a slice. For him, he’s so competitive in every kind of class.”

Keenan was not 100% about chasing qualification for the World Cup Finals, held in Omaha next April, but has decided to chase more points after this victory. She commented: “My idea was, if I was top three here, I would go on to Fort Worth. Obviously, that turned out to be the case, so I will be changing my plans now to do that,” Keenan said.

Co Down’s Conor Swail has won two North American League legs already this season, and although he did not make the podium in Las Vegas, he regained the lead in the standings with an 11th place finish aboard Vital Chance de la Roque; he has 56 points. Kentucky’s winner Daniel Bluman (ISR) sits second with 54 points, and Coyle is third with 49 points.

Swail victory

While he did not feature in the top 10 of the World Cup, Conor Swail won two four-star classes at the Las Vegas venue. The first came with Sagamore Farms’ 11-year-old chesnut geling Errol who won Thursday’s 1.35m jump-off.

There were 11 clears in the competitive 18-horse jump-off; Swail was the fastest in 32.18 seconds, just beating compatriot Daniel Coyle into second place with Ariel Grange’s eight-year-old gelding Jeffrey Jarden (0/0 32.21).

Swail then took first and second place in Saturday’s 1.45m winning round competition. He guided Theo 160 to victory when best of six clears in 39.87, before slotted into second with Errol in 40.07 to win a combined total of $22,500.

Coyle won Wednesday’s 1.45m welcome class aboard Ivory TCS, who went on to finish runner-up in the World Cup.