Cook and Caracole Capture CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix

U.S. rider and Olympic hopeful Karl Cook and Caracole de la Roque put in a fast jump-off ride to win the CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix.

May 26, 2024—As the last-to-go round, U.S. rider Karl Cook and the the mare Caracole de la Roque scorched to victory. The event was Sunday’s CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix—Master d’Inzeo at Piazza di Siena, Italy.

The achievement was huge for the 33-year-old rider who is based in San Diego, California. It also was for the 14-year-old Selle Français mare who carried him to the top of the class. “She keeps pushing me to get better,” Cook said of Caracole. “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.”

U.S. rider Karl Cook and Caracole de La Roque won the CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix. © Fotografi Sportivi

Earlier in the Rolex Grand Prix jump-off, it seemed Austria’s Max Kuhner, had pinned down the win. His partner was the 12-year-old gelding Elektric Blue P. They set the pace halfway through the 13-horse jump-off when stopping the clock with a clear round in 39.58 seconds.

However Sweden’s Petronella Andersson came close. She rode through the finish just 0.2 seconds slower in 39.78 seconds with her 10-year-old mare Odina van Klapscheut. The finish slotted them, temporarily, into second place.

But Cook and Caracole had the best of the draw. And once they set off with their last-to-go run there was no doubting their intentions. They galloped through the timers to take the win in 38.27 seconds.

Cook on Taking Over the Ride on Caracole

Cook is one of 10 U.S. riders named to the U.S. Jumping Team Olympic Short List. He was named to the list wit Caracole and Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, a 2010 Belgian Warmblood mare. The riders were chosen for continued observation at European competitions ahead of team selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games later this summer.

Since taking over the ride on Caracole from France’s Julien Epaillard, Cook has had mixed fortunes. The U.S. rider and mare were part of the gold-medal-winning US team at the Pan American Games 2023 in Quillota, Chile, last year. But they still hadn’t quite ironed out a mutual understanding. But all that has changed.

Cook CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix Mindset

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. The ride had the Italian crowd roaring with delight as they bumped Kuhner into runner-up spot and Andersson into third.

Cook discussed his mindset as he set off on his final run. “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. So 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.

U.S. rider Karl Cook at the award’s ceremony after winning the CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix. He is with Rome’s mayor Roberto Gualtieri. ©Fotografi Sportivi

Caracole is enthusiastic about her job. Cook 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.

Max Kuhner on Team Austria

Kuhner had to settle for second place. But he was delighted that two of his Austrian compatriots also qualified for the first round. The performances showed that 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. He sits in seventh place on the current Longines World Rankings.

Kuhner 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.

Kuhner About Elektric Blue P

Talking about Elektric Blue P, Kuhner said, “he is kind of a family member. We are now 10 years together and have him since he was 3. So we’ve known him right from the beginning. He has quite a long career already because he jumped big classes from an 8-year-old,” he explained.

The horse is a seasoned campaigner, and Kuhner decided to give him a break at the beginning of this season. But it didn’t please 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.” They will compete for Austria at the next leg of the new Rolex Series in La Baule in two weeks. “And then I do two or three more shows on sand. And then that’s my preparation for him for Paris [Olympics],” he said.

Petronella Andersson and Odina Van Klapscheut

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 7-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 Stephen 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 five-star grand prix. And she was double-clear in sixth place”, she explained.

Cook’s Trainer and Team

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 Cook recognized the contribution of Navet’s 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 put in,” he added.

Cook spoke about 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,” he said. “So it’s been a lot of work to get here, and I’m very proud about where we’re at.”

Cook is the sixth U.S. rider to take the CSIO5* Rome Rolex Grand Prix title. This win was at the event’s 91st anniversary.

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Thanks to Zoetis for our coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics. It includes rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.

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