Karl Cook (USA), time after time, proves that it’s never over until it’s over. He did it again Sunday with Caracole de la Roque, a newer ride of his owned by Signe Otsby, stunning the crowd with a blazing-fast jump-off to win the $145,100 CSI3* Grand Prix of Traverse City.
Cook and the mare were one of 10 pairs qualified for the short course over Andy Christiansen’s (ECU) track. Kent Farrington (USA) made everyone think it was over with Greya, clocking in at 39.85 seconds. As more pairs went and couldn’t get near the time Farrington set, it became clear just how fast he was.
“I agreed because Kent was very fast and he didn’t add anywhere,” Cook said. “Then when I saw the people after him go that much slower, that further cemented that it was real. Sometimes things will look fast and the next person beats it and the next person beats it. They were four seconds slower and still going.”
But Cook didn’t let that alter his plan. He went in determined with Caracole de la Roque, took the pace up a notch, kept the turns tight, and proved to everyone that it wasn’t over. His time of 38.73 seconds took over the lead with only one remaining.
“I didn’t change my approach to the jump-off,” he explained after seeing how the class was unfolding. “It’s still a new partnership so I didn’t know 100% what to expect. I tried to ride the plan accurately. She’s so naturally fast and her stride length was a bit better suited to this jump-off than [Greya] so that’s what helped us.”
Cook is always keen to think about improving his turn after the fence by fixing his approach to the fence. “To the oxer at fence 11, it’s a forward seven [strides] and most people were landing and pulling,” he explained. “Because we have a bigger stride, I could do a more bending seven and get the turn done before the fence, then shave off two strides between fence 11 and fence 9A. Everything kept going and it was because she had a bigger stride than Kent’s horse. It favored me a little bit.”
Farrington ultimately took second place with Greya, and Callie Schott (USA) secured third place as last to go with Garant, owned by Southern Arches LLC.
Never quite satisfied with even the most exciting of wins, Cook is already aware of what he has to improve upon with his round Sunday.
“Of course I feel really good, but also fence one to two in the jump-off was not right. That’s something I need to fix,” he explained. “The rideability is getting better but it’s still new territory with her. I need to learn her more because she’s a horse you ride off feel. You can only do that with time.”
With another CSI5* contender who’s already a CSI5* grand prix winner in the barn, Cook is setting himself up to have two top mares to place in the highest divisions. “In an ideal world she and Kalinka [van’t Zorgvliet] would trade off,” he said of his plan with his two top mounts. “That was our hope when we got her. Then it’ll take a lot of pressure off both of them. One horse won’t have to shoulder all the load. If we can pull that off it’d be really great.”