Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2024

Kukuk Zips To Victory In The $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*



Wellington, Fla—March 30

Rider after rider in the jump-off for the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* kept outracing each other at breakneck pace. It looked like McLain Ward might have the class won until Christian Kukuk, riding last, used Checker 47’s footspeed to find the fastest way around the track and win the feature class of the Winter Equestrian Festival for Germany.

He edged out Ward and Ilex in that pair’s first jump-off together, with Karl Cook and Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet claiming third.

Christian Kukuk was thrilled to win the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* with Checker 47. Mollie Bailey Photos

“I was very excited [to win],” said Kukuk, who just arrived stateside for last week’s Longines League Of Nations Ocala, then stayed in Florida to contest the five-star in Wellington. “The pressure was a bit on. I could feel it in the warm-up, but I need that a little bit actually to be honest. I saw McLain. [His horse] has a huge stride and he tried everything.

“I knew, OK, in some places I cannot do the same strides but I can try maybe to turn a bit tighter after the double to that oxer, and that was my plan that worked very well, actually,” he added. “Then when I landed, I knew I could be close so I tried everything I could and left one out to the last. You can never be sure, but when I realized I was quicker and I won this grand prix, I got goosebumps. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Watch Kukuk’s jump-off round with Checker 47, courtesy of Showgrounds Live.


Christian Kukuk and Checker 47 flew around the track to win the biggest class of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

Nine of the 39 entries found a clear way around Guilherme Jorge’s first-round track, which was a true test of scope and made use of a 4-meter-wide open water.

The feisty Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet looked unbeatable with Cook when she cut a stride out of a line and left all the rails in the cups, but two horses later Ward and Ilex found a faster way around the track. Ward’s new mount threw in a buck as they raced around the track, which he said slowed them down.

McLain Ward surprised Christian Kukuk with a champagne bath as soon as the German national anthem ended.

“He has a great character, but it’s a lot,” Ward said of the energetic 10-year-old gelding. “The schooling area is very busy down there tonight—honestly, a little chaotic—and he’s handful and bucks, and he could almost unseat you. You need to pay attention, but that’s where the energy comes from. I thought he jumped the two rounds tonight very easily.

“If I were to go again, I would try to do eight to the last, which would be probably pretty extreme,” he added, “but, yeah, the horse is fantastic and I’m incredibly appreciative to [co-owners] Bonne Chance for allowing me to be part of owning him and then have the ride with him.”

Ilex jumped out of his skin for McLain Ward to claim second.

For his part, Cook said that the serious atmosphere of the Saturday Night Lights events at the Winter Equestrian Festival helps his electric mare.


“She’s always energetic, ever since Day One, and I think there’s something about her where she knows what the event is,” he said. “There were a couple times last year where we are going to do a two-star class, just have a nice show to be calm and whatnot, and [we’d get] 8 faults in the grand prix. I didn’t have the same horse. [It was] the same prep, everything the same, not the exact same result. You can just feel her energy when she’s in classes like this, with the crowd and everything, and she just she gets better in it.”

Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet jumped to third with Karl Cook.

Kukuk, who rides for Beerbaum Stables in Germany, paired up with Checker 47, a 14-year-old Westphalian (Comme Il Faut 5‑Pamina, Come On) three and a half years ago. Lately they’ve gone from strength to strength, though Kukuk said for a while he was in the background of his other horse, Mumbai.

“We had very good placements every now and then, sometimes a stupid fault, but OK, that’s always normal,” he said. “But I must say, in the last nine months, he grew so much. But I cannot really explain actually why it is like that. I mean, I think since July last year, nearly all the grand prix [classes he entered] he jumped clear. I won a five-star [grand prix] in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia], and I won a 1.60-meter class in Riyadh. We won the [Longines FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain)]. I was third in the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva. I’m twice clear in Doha [Qatar] this year already in grand prix, and so on and on. So I am really happy and proud to have him.”

Looking ahead to the Paris Olympics, Checker 47 is on form to get a serious look, he said.

“I think he showed and proved everything that you need actually to compete on the Olympic level, so I hope the year brings another special event for us,” Kukuk said. “I’m really looking forward, and for sure I will sit down now and make a good plan for him for the next three or four months, and then we see what can happen this year.”

Daniel Bluman and his veteran partner Ladriano Z jumped to fourth.
Ben Maher’s and Dallas Vegas Batilly finished fifth.
Ireland’s Darragh Kenny and VDL Cartello scored sixth.
Seventh went to In Time and Kendra Claricia Brinkop.
Laura Kraut thanked Bisquetta for a round that finished an eventual eighth.
Maurice and Cian O’Connor claimed ninth.

Click here for full results.



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