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Christian Kukuk scores Rolex Grand Prix victory with Checker 47 at Wellington International

Sunday, 31 March 2024
CSI5*/CSI2* Winter Equestrian Festival 2024 (W12)

Photo © Sportfot. Christian Kukuk and Checker 47 won Saturday's $500,000 CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix in Wellington. Photo © Sportfot.


Edited press release from Wellington International



Germany’s Christian Kukuk and Checker 47 clinched a win in the $500,000 CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix during the finale ‘Saturday Night Lights’ of the Winter Equestrian Festival’s (WEF) 2024 season on March 30. From final draw, Kukuk made his Wellington debut a winning one in the last of a 12-week run of FEI competition in front of a sold-out crowd at Wellington International.

“I had goosebumps after that last fence,” said Kukuk, 34. “It's an incredible feeling. I had only heard about Wellington and the Rolex week before this. I brought my two best horses and everything went exactly how I wanted.”

After finishing as the runner-up in the qualifier earlier in the week on Mumbai, Kukuk piloted 14-year-old Westphalian gelding Checker 47 (Comme Il Faut 5 x Come On), owned by M.H & Partner GBR, to top call in his first-ever Rolex Grand Prix win.

“These [Rolex classes] are the best grand prix events in the year—we all know that—and we all work for them in the end,” said Kukuk. “This crowd and this stadium are special. To be last to go and win is an incredible feeling."

Photo © Sportfot. Christian Kukuk receives his Rolex watch from Kyle Younghans, Sports Marketing Manager, Rolex Watch USA. Photo © Sportfot.

The evening’s courses were designed by Guilherme Jorge’s (BRA), who is named as the Jumping Technical Delegate for the Paris Olympics this summer. Kukuk tackled the jump-off track with the foot speed of Checker 47, his winning mount from the 2023 FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain, to unseat current leader and local crowd favorite Mclain Ward (USA) and Ilex (Baltic VDL x Chin Chin). 

“The pressure was a bit on and I could feel it in the warm-up, but I need that to be honest,” continued Kukuk, who posted a time of 35.82 seconds over Ward’s 36.24 seconds. “I knew I could not do the same strides [as Mclain], but I could try to turn a bit tighter after the double and that worked very well. When I landed, I knew I could be close so I tried everything I could and left one out to the last.”

Mclain Ward & Ilex. Photo © Sportfot. Mclain Ward and Ilex placed second behind Kukuk and Checker. Photo © Sportfot.

Karl Cook (USA) capped the podium aboard Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet, a 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Thunder VD Zuuthoeve x Flipper d’Elle), owned by Helen Signe Ostby. Cook’s early clear set a pace of 36.62 seconds, which ultimately landed him third.

“She has been energetic since day one and I think there's something about her where she knows what the event is,” said Cook of Kalinka rising to the five-star occasion. “You can feel her energy when she's in classes like this with the crowd and atmosphere; she gets better in it. I've shown up here the second half [of the season] and it's worked. Last year, I was fourth in this class and this year, I'm third. I am happy with that, and it was an unbelievable class.”

Photo © Sportfot. Karl Cook and Kalinka van't Zorgvliet completed the podium in third. Photo © Sportfot.

To close the evening, winning groom and Checker 47’s caretaker Sofie Karlsson was honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm’s Quentin Judge and Cayce Harrison.

Photo © Sportfot. Winning groom and Checker 47’s caretaker Sofie Karlsson is honored with the $500 Grooms Award, presented by Double H Farm’s Quentin Judge and Cayce Harrison. Photo © Sportfot.

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