New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley has a new five-star horse and Olympic hopeful in his stable.
Carollo, owned by Anton and Michele Marano of Chicago, joined Wordley’s string in Ocala, Florida, in November of 2019.
Carollo made headlines in 2019 when U.S. rider Andy Kocher guided the 11-year-old Mecklenburg gelding (Chacco-Blue—Lee Lou, La Piko) to victory in the $382,435 Queen Elizabeth II ATCO Cup at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta, in July.
The Queen Elizabeth Cup was Kocher and Carollo’s biggest win to date, but the attention it garnered quickly turned when Kocher entered the horse in the “Reach for the Sun” Derby the day after the victory. Carollo racked up 28 faults over the derby course, and Roy Wilten, whose Stal Wilten sold the horse to the Maranos, made a social media post attacking Kocher’s horsemanship that went viral.
The Fédération Equestre Internationale and the U.S. Equestrian Federation investigated the incident and found “nothing untoward,” according to an FEI spokesperson. “In addition, the FEI is aware that the U.S. chef d’equipe spoke to the athlete after the derby, and that he acknowledged his poor judgment in continuing the round. It is clear that the athlete regrets his actions.”
Kocher issued a public apology for entering the horse in the second class.
“We brought the horses home, and we talked to Andy. He apologized profusely, and we made a plan to move forward,” said Michele. “I watched 5,000 people berate us on Facebook silently because I know the truth and who we are and how we take care of horses.”
Kocher continued to campaign Carollo for the Maranos in the fall of 2019, notching a fifth-placed finish at a CSI3* in August and placing second in the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier CSI4* at the Hampton Classic Horse Show (New York).
But he realized the horse would need a new situation for 2020.
“I had different owners in my program with competing interests, and unfortunately I wasn’t going to be able to reconcile them,” Kocher said. “I love the horse; he’s a great horse, and Sharn [Wordley] is a great friend, so I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you talk to the Maranos and see if this could be a horse for you.’ ”
Kocher also recommended Wordley to the Maranos, and Wordley tried the gelding at their stable in Chicago in November.
“When he showed up his aura was so great,” said Michele. “He’s such a phenomenal person and a professional. He did a test ride at the barn, and it was just beautiful. They really got on well.”
Wordley immediately appreciated Carollo’s ability. “He obviously has all the power and scope to jump the biggest jumps,” he said. “He’s [by] Chacco-Blue, so he has a lot of blood, and he’s a real fighter. He was a little over enthusiastic at the start, but we think we have a good partnership now, and he seems to be really with me.”
The pair contested some national classes in November and December, and Wordley, who splits his time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Florida, is aiming to move into FEI classes this month.
Wordley, who represented New Zealand in the 2008 Olympic Games (Hong Kong) and the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina), has been named to his country’s high performance team with his WEG mount, Casper, and he could qualify with Carollo for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“New Zealand’s got an Olympic spot, so we’re going to see if that’s something we think we’re ready to do,” Wordley said. “Carollo is a fantastic horse, so we’re just going to start stepping up to the bigger classes and see what we think.”
While Michele would love to see her horse go to Tokyo, she’s thinking well beyond the 2020 Games.
“We are definitely in this sport for the long haul,” Michele said. “As long as the horse and rider are doing well and enjoy each other and are having a great career, then have at it. If that means this year’s Games or some other goal, we’re here to support them all the way.”