The 2023 Traverse City Horse Shows season came to a close as Karl Cook (USA) found his golden girl on Sunday. He and Caracole de la Roque stole the show in the $650,000(cad) CSI5* American Gold Cup, presented by Great Lakes Sports Commission, during the conclusion of Major League Show Jumping’s fifth leg at Flintfields Horse Park.
“It’s amazing,” said Cook after winning one of the United States’ most prized trophies. “It’s amazing to be alongside these unbelievable riders who I’ve looked up to for years. If you’re a rider who cares about the sport, the American Gold Cup is one you want to win. I’m so proud of my team and my horse, and I’m so happy to be amongst these great riders.”
Alan Wade (IRL) set a 1.60m course fit for the day and seven of the world’s top 20-ranked riders. Cook and Signe Otsby’s mare Caracole de la Roque jumped at the midway point, and they ultimately made up one of eight clear rounds. Coming in for the jump-off, they left nothing to chance, with Cook trusting the mare’s unbelievable foot speed to make the field chase him.
“This is the fastest horse I’ve ever sat on,” Cook said of the 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor Z x Kannan), a mare he’s still undefeated with in jump-off action . “I’ve had a lot of fast horses throughout my career, but this horse feels most comfortable at speeds that horses are not normally comfortable at. It’s not anything I’m doing, it’s all her.
“My plan was to do six [strides from fences] one to two; that worked out well,” he recalled. “But when we walked the jump-off, 12 ‘B’ to 16 was a forward seven [strides], and off a tight turn to the combination, you’re bound to land shallow. The idea is you land and go to get seven. I did that, but what I didn’t realize is I actually did six instead of seven. That wasn’t the plan but I’m happy I’m sitting here.”
Prior to Cook’s round, Ashlee Bond (ISR) led the way with Donatello 141 with a time of 34.35 seconds, which appeared a tough task to beat. Two rounds later, Cook shaved the time to 32.95 seconds. Bond ultimately ended up second.
“I think that’s probably our best jump-off ever,” said Bond, who is coming off major wins this year with “Donnie.” I said to Karl before we got on, ‘we’re going to be the podium and you’re going to be first and I’m going to be second.’ Because I just knew. Donnie can go fast, but he has a small stride. I’m always pushing. [Karl] is always holding. I felt like we won today because he could not have given me more. It’s validation for my team, which is actually a new team. It just feels good.”
Bond knew even prior to walking that the course would present an opportunity for her and her 12-year-old Westphalian (Diarado x Lamoureaux) gelding to come home with a top finish.
“Fortunately, Alan tends to build courses that are suited to my horse,” she explained of Wade’s tracks. “[He demands] a lot of adjustability, and Donnie has a short stride so things ride more normal for me than most. He had the right number of clears, I think the course rode well but it was careful. I didn’t think it was a killer, but it was smart, big enough, and the proper course for the day.”
In third was another rider on hot form, but with a horse he didn’t expect to see on a podium of this caliber just yet. Daniel Coyle (IRL) piloted Quintin, owned by Ariel Grange, to another fast double-clear, knowing third place was likely the best possible outcome for him on the given day.
“There are endless different ways to ride jump-offs. Quintin has quite a big stride and he’s generally fast but not quick over the jump or at the jump,” Coyle explained of the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quaprice Bois Margot x Emilion). “I talked about it with Conor Swail and a couple of the guys and I thought maybe if I was clever, third place would do today. There was quite a big gap between [Karl and Ashlee] and further down. I’m delighted with where I am today, and with the horse I have today stepping up to this level. I think the right two won.”
Though it wasn’t an Irish win, the week was extremely lucky for Coyle, despite a less-than-ideal initial trip to Traverse City. “Actually it wasn’t [lucky] the last time I was here; I couldn’t jump clear at all,” he said, after countless clear rounds and a victory in the Grand Prix Qualifier this time in Traverse City. “I never thought [Quintin] could be top three in my first time doing the Gold Cup so I’m really happy about him. I’ve had an extraordinary week this week so maybe it is lucky for me.”
Matt Morrissey, as well as the entire team behind Traverse City Horse Shows, was thrilled with the turnout for the final week of the Tournament of Champions, as well as the entire 13 weeks of horse showing in Northern Michigan for 2023.
“This week is the ending of our 13-week summer series,” Morrissey commented. “It’s been a long, great summer here. We brought the American Gold Cup from New York to Traverse City in the middle of 2020 during a pandemic. We weren’t quite sure but with [the Great Lakes Sports Commission’s] help we found a permanent home for the American Gold Cup and it’s now been a five-star the past few years for the first time ever.”