The 2023 Traverse City Horse Shows season came to a close Sunday with Karl Cook and Caracole De La Roque stealing the show in the $480,860 CSI5* American Gold Cup during the conclusion of Major League Show Jumping’s fifth leg in Williamsburg, Michigan.
“It’s amazing to be alongside these unbelievable riders who I’ve looked up to for years,” Cook said, after topping a field of 31 contestants that included seven of the world’s top-20-ranked riders. “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.”
Ireland’s Alan Wade set a 1.60-meter course fit for the day and the field of riders. Cook and Signe Otsby’s 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor Z—Pocahontas D’Amaury, Kannan*GFE) jumped at the midway point, producing 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.
Caracole previously was campaigned through the five-star level by France’s Julien Epaillard, notably winning one round of last year’s Agria FEI World Jumping Championships (Denmark).
“This is the fastest horse I’ve ever sat on,” Cook said of the mare, with whom 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.”
Watch their winning round, courtesy of ShowGroundsLive.com:
Prior to Cook’s round, Israel’s Ashlee Bond 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 strides and seconds off her round to finish in 32.95 seconds. Bond took second and Ireland’s Daniel Coyle was third on Quintin in a time of 34.47.
“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.”