Edited Press Release
The roster of jump-off riders read more like the lineup one would see in a major international grand prix in Saturday’s $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix during week one of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors. With riders including Shane Sweetnam (IRL), Karl Cook (USA), and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) to name a few, the win was going to have to be earned.
Cook certainly earned it on his relatively new mount, Caracole de la Roque, owned by Signe Otsby.
Cook came into the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring third in the order of five jump-off contenders over Catsy Cruz’s (MEX) track. He laid it all on the line with the 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor Z x Kannan), finishing in 33.128 seconds and taking over the lead.
“With her, if you’re able to do the leave-out, the rideability is better,” Cook said of the ride on Caracole de la Roque. Cook omitted strides in all the lines on course while still taking slick turns in the corners. “In the jump-off, that pace is easier. She’s so comfortable in that canter it just happens.”
The remaining two entries knew it was a tall order to catch Cook, but still ended up on the podium. Sweetnam and Birdy Du Thot, owned by Ashley Vogel, took second with their time of 37.279 seconds, and Charlotte Jacobs and North Star’s Edocenta claimed third in 38.786 seconds.
Since he acquired the ride on the mare, Cook has been planning their rise in show jumping, strategically placing the mare where he thinks they will shine at any given moment.
“We knew the learning curve was going to take time,” Cook said of getting to know the mare. “Our most recent show was in Kentucky, where we did a two-star and then a three-star, and she was really great in the two-star. We had some issues in the three-star. If we didn’t have that we would’ve done the three-star this week but it made sense dropping it down a little and taking what we learned and applying it. Today I tried to be very patient everywhere and tried to ride it more traditionally. A lot of good things [happened] but there’s definitely still a lot to work on.”
Many in the sport know Caracole de la Roque as the former ride of Julien Epaillard (FRA) that he piloted at the 2022 World Championships.
“I’d followed her because of what she had done, but I didn’t really pursue her,” Cook said of Caracole de la Roque. “We all want to ride [those top horses]. But it was never on my radar to actually buy her because I didn’t think it was possible. The opportunity came up and at first I was not for the idea because I’d have to follow Julien. But I guess I got convinced.”
Since the horse came home to Cook, Epaillard has not played a huge role in advising him, allowing Cook to develop his own way to ride her. “I went to try her and we talked about what he does and doesn’t do, but it’s hard because every rider is different,” Cook explained of adapting to the ride. “In many ways, I wish I could ride like Julien, but I can’t. If my goal was to ride her like him I’d fail, so I have to do my best to ride her most successfully.”
With the $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix win in his pocket, Cook plans to return for CSI3* action with Caracole de la Roque before their CSI5* debut in the second leg of Major League Show Jumping in August, where he can let the mare’s speed shine.
Traverse City has been a lucky spot over the years for Cook, who is happy to be back. “It’s great,” he said of the horse show. “The weather is great, and they’ve invested a lot in their footing and their facilities so the horses are comfortable here. [There are] little things like the show running on time. It doesn’t take much to keep us happy; good footing and safe barns and we’re happy. It’s good to come back. It’s a good group of people who come here, and it’s great being by the lake.”
Show jumping concludes Sunday afternoon with the $145,100 CSI3* Meijer Grand Prix.
See full results here.