Monday, Jun. 3, 2024

Video: Karl Cook Tops Rolex Grand Prix Of Rome

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With a breathtaking last-to-go round, Karl Cook became just the sixth American to win the Rolex Grand Prix at CSIO Rome in the event’s 91-year history, scorching to victory Sunday aboard Caracole De La Roque at Piazza di Siena.

It was a huge achievement for the 33-year-old, San Diego-based rider, and for the 12-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor—Pocahontas D’Amaury, Kannan*GFE) owned by Signe Ostby. 

Fifty pairs started Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani’s track in round one, and 13 advanced to the jump-off. 

Karl Cook and Caracole De La Roque became just the sixth U.S. pair to win the Rolex Grand Prix in the 91-year-history of CSIO Rome on May 26. Fotografi Sportivi Photo

It seemed Austria’s Max Kuhner, ranked No. 7 in the world, had pinned down the win with a storming jump-off performance from his 12-year-old gelding Elektric Blue P. Their time of 39.58 seconds appeared unbeatable until Cook entered the ring, last to go. They were on fire when galloping through the timers to take the win in 38.27 seconds.

“I was going to win it—not like I was actually going to win, but in my head I went in there to do it,” Cook said. “I’d seen Max go, and how crisp and clean all his turns were, I wasn’t thinking I could shave two strides off anywhere. I just had to be quick, clean and do the strides I hoped were possible. I didn’t leave any strides out different to Max, but ‘Caracole’ is just so fast along the ground and over the jumps, she looks where she’s going, she gets very square right out of the turn and she’s just so fast.

“It’s a bit like lighting a rocket,” he added, “and you can’t turn it off so you just have to point in the right direction.”

Watch their winning jump-off round, courtesy of Horse & Country.tv:

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Cook has had mixed fortunes since taking over the ride on the mare from flying Frenchman Julien Epaillard whose horses are always speed machines. When they were part of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2023 Pan American Games in Quillota, Chile, last year it was clear they still hadn’t quite ironed out a mutual understanding. But all that has changed.

“I started riding her in the middle of February last year, so it hasn’t been very long,” Cook said. “We’ve made some mistakes but we’ve learned a lot and it feels like we are almost there putting it all together.”

Cook complimented his trainer Eric Navet for helping him get in sync with Caracole.

“It’s been the gift of my life to be able to work with the amazing horseman and rider Eric Navet for so many years,” he said. “It’s almost exactly 12 years that we’ve been together now. I came over [to Europe] in the summer of 2012 to first work with him.” 

Navet helped him with the challenging task of learning to ride the mare, who had already risen to the top of the sport with Epaillard.

“It was probably the most daunting thing I ever tried to do, to start riding her, because trying to follow Julien is impossible,” he said. “Everyone knew how good the mare is, including me, so it’s been a lot of work to get here, and I’m very proud about where we’re at. She keeps pushing me to get better, she’s very clear when I’m not good enough and she pulls me along when we need it. She’s an amazing, amazing mare.”

Along with winning the Rolex Grand Prix, Cook also participated in Friday’s FEI Jumping Nations Cup Rome CSIO5* as part of the NetJets U.S. Show Jumping Team with Lillie Keenan, Alise Oken and Aaron Vale. The team finished fourth.

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