Thermal, Calif.—Dec. 2
It may have been Karl Cook standing atop the podium Saturday night in the $1 Million Coachella Cup Grand Prix CSI5*, but he was quick to give credit to his partner, Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet.
“I don’t know what’s in her,” said Cook of the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Signe Ostby, “but she’s just amazing. She brings such passion, and when you ride her, you can feel that passion. … She just has such desire to do the job well, and she loves doing the job. It inspires you as a rider. Anyone who’s around her, she inspires them. She lifts everyone up.”
Cook has had the ride on “Kalinka” (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve—Goldfee Van’t Zorgvliet, Flipper D’Elle) since 2019, and the pair has proven themselves to be fierce competition at the highest level of the sport, with grand prix wins at Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), the Hampton Classic (New York) and the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (Michigan). They also won the Major League Show Jumping Grand Prix CSI5* at Desert International Horse Park (California) in 2022.
This year’s Desert Holiday 1 event, the newly dubbed the $1 Million CSI5* Coachella Cup Grand Prix, saw 35 starters attempt the 1.60-meter first round course designed by Alan Wade of Ireland, and seven successfully navigated the challenging track fault-free to advance to the short course. Of those, only two pairs jumped off clean, and Kalinka and Cook crossed the timers in 44.99 seconds to take the win.
“She’s great at those combinations off a tight turn,” Cook said. “I think that’s a strength of hers that in a jump-off course like today, really helps…. She brought her whole self, and she was amazing.”
While Kalinka was in top form, Cook had a small injury to manage. He competed with a bandaged wrist, concealing stitches from a wound received Tuesday in a non-riding related incident.
“Everyone has issues they’ve got to overcome,” he said. “You have to go in, you have to do your job with your horse and you have to give her the best ride.”
Taking second place was Mario Deslauriers of Canada aboard Bardolina 2. The pair finished in 46.86 seconds, a result that made Deslauriers happy he made the trip from Canada. The event had not been on Deslauriers’ show schedule, but while cooking on Thanksgiving day he made the last-minute decision to compete.
“The horse has been jumping great … so I figured I’d come and give it a shot, and I’m totally thrilled,” he said of the 14-year-old bay Holsteiner mare (Clarimo—Villimey, Landos) he owns with Wishing Well Farm LLC.
Rounding out the podium with a third-placed finish was Kent Farrington and Landon, a pair that just helped the USA secure a gold medal and 2024 Olympic qualification at the 2023 Santiago Pan American Games (Chile) in November. Farrington and Haity McNerney’s 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Comilfo Plus Z—Indigo Van De Meulenberg, Quadrillo) blazed around the jump-off in a leading 43.75 seconds but touched a rail for a 4-fault score.
“Karl’s horse is very fast,” Farrington said. “I had to take all the risks, and unfortunately it didn’t pay off, but I’m still happy with third … [Landon’s] stepping up to that level; he’s still very inexperienced.”
Saturday night’s event was part of the final leg of 2023 Major League Show Jumping Tour hosted at the Desert Holiday series at Desert International Horse Park. The team final will take place Saturday, Dec. 10.
See full results here.