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Classic win for Karl Cook and Caracole de La Roque in thrilling Rolex Grand Prix of Rome

Sunday, 26 May 2024
CSIO5* Rome 2024

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. Karl Cook and Caracole de La Roque won the CSIO5* 1.60m Rolex Grand Prix of Rome. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.


Edited press release from CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena 2024



With a breathtaking last-to-go round, America’s Karl Cook and the super-mare Caracole de La Roque (Zandor x Kannan) scorched to victory in this afternoon’s Rolex Grand Prix at CSIO Rome - Master d’Inzeo at Piazza di Siena.

It was a huge achievement for the 33-year-old rider who is based in San Diego, California and for the 14-year-old mare. 

Cook was clearly humbled by the success he enjoyed today. He knows he’s riding one of the all-time-great mares of the sport of showjumping and, together, they are gelling into a formidable partnership with huge potential.

It seemed world number seven, Austria’s Max Kühner, had pinned down the win with a storming jump-off performance from his 12-year-old gelding Elektric Blue P (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x For Pleasure) who set the pace halfway through the 13-horse second-round decider when stopping the clock with a super clear round in 39.58 seconds.

However, Sweden’s Petronella Andersson came very close indeed when storming through the finish just 0.2 seconds slower in 39.78 seconds with her 10-year-old mare Odina van Klapscheut (I Am Moerhoeve's Star x Landor S) to slot, temporarily, into second place.

But Cook and Caracole de La Roque had the best of the draw and once they set off with their last-to-go run there was no doubting their intentions. They were on fire when galloping through the timers to take the win in 38.27 seconds.

Photo © Mackenzie Clark In it to win it: Karl Cook and Caracole de La Roque. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

The American rider 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 US team at the Pan American Games 2023 in Quillota, Chile last year it was clear they still hadn’t quite ironed out a mutual understanding. But all that has changed.

Today they came into the ring with just one thing in mind, and they pulled it off with a jump-off round that was confident and classy and that had the Italian crowd roaring with delight as they pinned Kühner into runner-up spot and Andersson into third.

Asked about his mindset as he set off on his final run, Cook replied, “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! 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!” he explained.

Caracole is enthusiastic about her job and the American rider said once he gets in the saddle “it’s a bit like lighting a rocket, and you can’t turn it off so you just have to point in the right direction!”

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

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. "It's a bit like lighting a rocket, and you can’t turn it off so you just have to point in the right direction!” Karl Cook said about riding Caracole de La Roque. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

Kühner had to settle for second place but was delighted that two of his Austrian compatriots also qualified for the second round because Team Austria is increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“Yes, that’s another thing that makes me very happy about today,” said the 49-year-old rider who sits in seventh place on the current world ranking.

He complimented Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani for the challenge he set for the 50 starters today. “He showed once more that he’s one of the best course builders in the world. He set up a fantastic course and he asked for good technical riding between the fences, but still we had a very good number of clears for the second round,” he pointed out.

Talking about Elektric Blue P he said, “he is kind of a family member, we are now 10 years together and have him since he was three so we’ve known him right from the beginning. He has quite a long career already because he jumped big classes from an eight-year-old,” he explained.

The horse is a seasoned campaigner and Kühner decided to give him a break at the beginning of this season but it didn’t please Elektric Blue P at all.

“He wasn’t so happy about that because he really likes to go to the shows but I think it was good for him,” the Austrian star said. “This is just the second big show he does since then and he feels very good and I hope he can keep up this form.” The pair will compete in the Austrian team at the next leg of the brand new Rolex Series in La Baule in two weeks’ time “and then I do two or three more shows on sand and then that’s my preparation for him for Paris (Olympic Games),” he pointed out.

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P finished second. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

Andersson was delighted with her third-place finish in such a prestigious Grand Prix.

Talking about Odina Van Klapscheut she said, “I got her as a seven-year-old so we came up the levels together. She means a lot to me and my whole team. She’s a special character, she’s feisty and a bit like Karl’s horse - when she’s turned on you have to be on your toes! To be honest my plan was not to ride her today, but I had a strong push from my partner and owner Stephan Conter and from my coach as well, Helena Stormanns. So I guess I have to say thank you to them as well! She did two World Cups, at Mechelen where she was placed and then Gothenburg, and she did the Rolex Grand Prix in Windsor three weeks ago which was her first 5* Grand Prix, and she was double-clear in sixth place,” she explained.

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Petronella Andersson and Odina Van Klapscheut took the third place. Photo © Mackenzie Clark.

Cook then talked a little more about his trainer, Eric Navet and about Caracole who gave him today’s career-defining victory.

“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, 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,” he explained. And he recognised the contribution of his background support. “Everything that it takes to get in the ring with a horse that’s happy, sound, looking good and prepared for the class at hand is a mountain of work, and I’m so grateful for everything my team puts in,” he added.

As for his partnership with Caracole….”it was probably the most daunting thing I ever tried to do to start riding her because trying to follow Julien is impossible! 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!” he said.

Nobody was arguing with that this evening when he became the sixth US rider to take the 91st anniversary Grand Prix title at CSIO Rome.


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