Karl Cook Wins First American Gold Cup with Caracole de la Roque

The 2023 Traverse City Horse Shows season came to a close as Karl Cook (USA) found his golden girl on Sunday. He and Caracole de la Roque stole the show in the $650,000(cad) CSI5* American Gold Cup, presented by Great Lakes Sports Commission, during the conclusion of Major League Show Jumping’s fifth leg at Flintfields Horse Park. 

“It’s amazing,” said Cook after winning one of the United States’ most prized trophies. “It’s amazing to be alongside these unbelievable riders who I’ve looked up to for years. 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.”

Alan Wade (IRL) set a 1.60m course fit for the day and seven of the world’s top 20-ranked riders. Cook and Signe Otsby’s mare Caracole de la Roque jumped at the midway point, and they ultimately made up 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.

Karl Cook (USA) and Caracole de la Roque. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“This is the fastest horse I’ve ever sat on,” Cook said of the 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Zandor Z x Kannan), a mare 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.”

Prior to Cook’s round, Ashlee Bond (ISR) 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 the time to 32.95 seconds. Bond ultimately ended up second.

Ashlee Bond (ISR) and Donatello 141. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“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.”

Bond knew even prior to walking that the course would present an opportunity for her and her 12-year-old Westphalian (Diarado x Lamoureaux) gelding to come home with a top finish.

“Fortunately, Alan tends to build courses that are suited to my horse,” she explained of Wade’s tracks. “[He demands] a lot of adjustability, and Donnie has a short stride so things ride more normal for me than most. He had the right number of clears, I think the course rode well but it was careful. I didn’t think it was a killer, but it was smart, big enough, and the proper course for the day.”

Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Quintin. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In third was another rider on hot form, but with a horse he didn’t expect to see on a podium of this caliber just yet. Daniel Coyle (IRL) piloted Quintin, owned by Ariel Grange, to another fast double-clear, knowing third place was likely the best possible outcome for him on the given day.

“There are endless different ways to ride jump-offs. Quintin has quite a big stride and he’s generally fast but not quick over the jump or at the jump,” Coyle explained of the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quaprice Bois Margot x Emilion). “I talked about it with Conor Swail and a couple of the guys and I thought maybe if I was clever, third place would do today. There was quite a big gap between [Karl and Ashlee] and further down. I’m delighted with where I am today, and with the horse I have today stepping up to this level. I think the right two won.”

Though it wasn’t an Irish win, the week was extremely lucky for Coyle, despite a less-than-ideal initial trip to Traverse City. “Actually it wasn’t [lucky] the last time I was here; I couldn’t jump clear at all,” he said, after countless clear rounds and a victory in the Grand Prix Qualifier this time in Traverse City. “I never thought [Quintin] could be top three in my first time doing the Gold Cup so I’m really happy about him. I’ve had an extraordinary week this week so maybe it is lucky for me.”

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Matt Morrissey, as well as the entire team behind Traverse City Horse Shows, was thrilled with the turnout for the final week of the Tournament of Champions, as well as the entire 13 weeks of horse showing in Northern Michigan for 2023. 

“This week is the ending of our 13-week summer series,” Morrissey commented. “It’s been a long, great summer here. We brought the American Gold Cup from New York to Traverse City in the middle of 2020 during a pandemic. We weren’t quite sure but with [the Great Lakes Sports Commission’s] help we found a permanent home for the American Gold Cup and it’s now been a five-star the past few years for the first time ever.”

Traverse City Horse Shows raised $6,900 in ticket sales for Accelerate the Cure. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

 Eric Marvin, Executive Director of Great Lakes Sports Commission, noted the importance of Traverse City Horse Shows, noting, “Partnering with an event like this is exactly why the Great Lakes Sports Commission was created. We’re so honored to be a part of this. We get to see world-class athletes at the top of their game here and showcase our region to the world, which is exactly what we were designed to do. The impact that our community feels as a result of this championship is hard to explain. There’s a ripple effect that goes far beyond what we see at the culmination of this championship.”

Heather Irvine, winner of the Ride Every Stride Trainer Award. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

During the awards presentation for the $650,000 CSI5* American Gold Cup, presented by Great Lakes Sports Commission, Cathleen Driscoll (USA) was honored as the winner of the M. Michael Meller Style Award while Heather Irvine of Hillside Farm received the Ride Every Stride Trainer Award.

Cathleen Driscoll, recipient of the M. Michael Meller Style Award, pictured with Kelly Soleau-Millar and Jonathan Millar. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Final Results:

  1. Karl Cook (USA) & Caracole de la Roque: 2012 SF mare (Zandor Z x Kannan)

Owner: Signe Otsby

  1. Ashlee Bond (ISR) & Donatello 141: 2011 Westphalian gelding (Diarado x Lamoureaux) 

Owner: Ashlee Bond

  1. Daniel Coyle (IRL) & Quintin: 2010 KWPN gelding (Quaprice Bois Margot x Emilion)
    Owner: Ariel Grange
  2. Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) & Dez’ Ooktoff: 2008 KWPN stallion (Colandro x Lys Rouge)

Owner: Roberto Teran Tafur 

  1. Chloe Reid (USA) & Crossover 4: 2013 HANN gelding (Cascadello x Chacco-Blue)

Owner: Team Reid LLC

See full results here.

Cathleen Driscoll Claims Another Win and $30,000 Traverse City Open Jumper Rider Bonus

Cathleen Driscoll (USA) and Flotylla. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Cathleen Driscoll (USA) wasn’t going to leave Traverse City without another win. She took one final victory in Sunday’s $38,500 CSI5* Winning Round aboard Don Stewart’s Flotylla, a horse she’s had tremendous success with over the past year. 

“Floytalla is a special horse in my string,” Driscoll said of the 12-year-old Polish-bred mare (Alvaro x Balou du Rouet). “She’s such a winner, so we really try to place her in classes where we think she can be competitive. She stepped up beautifully to these 1.50m five-star classes so looking ahead at our fall schedule we’re going to aim her for these Major League 1.50m classes. We try to make sure she has plenty of down time so we’re not overusing her. We place her where she has her best opportunity to shine.”

With Sunday’s win and a second place in the CSI2* Grand Prix, Driscoll ended up the winner of the $30,000 Traverse City Open Jumper Rider Bonus, a title she took quite convincingly. She stepped into the lead early on in the season and held onto it with her consistent wins and top results. 

Cathleen Driscoll (USA) and Flotylla in their winning presentation. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It’s something that’s always been on my mind,” she said of winning the bonus for 2023. “It’s a great bonus. In this line of work, a bonus doesn’t come along every day. When I had a good start in July, I knew it was doable but it’s a long circuit and there are a lot of good riders. Anyone can come in and have a good couple weeks like I did. It’s an exciting moment for me.”

Despite her seemingly overnight success, Driscoll hasn’t been competing at the top of the sport for long. Now 30, she only began FEI show jumping at age 28, though she aspired to those levels for quite some time as a young rider.

“I always had dreams and aspirations growing up,” she shared. “For a while it was hard to see a path forward. If you told me at this point when I was 30 I’d be here doing this and having this much success it would have been hard to imagine. I’m just so grateful for all the people that have helped me get here and are supporting me along the way.”

Cathleen Driscoll winning the Leading Jumper Rider bonus. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography.

Riders often ask Driscoll for her advice given her speedy rise to success, so she has a well-thought out answer prepared: “My biggest piece of advice is to trust the process and put in the work. It’s a long road. You can’t get discouraged when you see the young riders jumping the big grand prix. It doesn’t happen for everyone. I didn’t jump my first grand prix until I was in my late twenties. If you have the dedication and you put in the work and commit yourself, people will take notice and opportunities will come.”

Jacob Pope Prevails with Conchalon in $100,000 3’ Pro Traverse City Hunter Derby

Jacob Pope and Conchalon. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Jacob Pope spent all summer working towards the final hunter feature of the season, the $100,000 3’ Pro Traverse City Hunter Derby. Though he stayed tremendously busy every step along the way, the expert hunter rider pulled out all the tricks in Sunday’s big finale, taking the win with Conchalon, as well as five of the top eight spots.

Conchalon, owned by Team Rakowsky, had the winning edge from early on, taking the high score in round of 93. Returning for the handy round last, Pope pulled out all the stops and made the perfect plan for the specific horse, bringing home the score they needed, an 89.5 specifically, to win.

“Ivan and I got [Conchalon] last year when I was in Mexico for the Major League,” remarked Pope, who also stays busy in the CSI5* show jumping world nowadays. “I was showing over there and Simon Nizri came to Ivan and said he had a fancy horse who was jumping 1.40-1.45m but was beautiful and typey and he thought could make a really good hunter. When my two horses shipped back from Mexico we threw him on the truck also. We haven’t shown him too much this summer but figured we’d bring him out for the big money class at the end of the season and he really pulled through and jumped some awesome jumps.”

Jacob Pope and Conchalon in their winning presentation. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Piloting five horses returning for the second round, Pope had his hands full, but he expertly crafted each plan according to the horse he was sitting on. 

“I try not to learn the handy before the first round so I don’t get confused, especially bouncing between rings,” he explained. “I talked to a couple colleagues and friends to see what other people did with their handy tracks. I did different tracks and different height options with each horse. I try to keep my training and plans for the horses very horse-specific. In the five horses I did in the handy I don’t think I did the same track twice.”

Pope was extra busy Sunday, with his various entries in the $100,000 3’ Pro Traverse City Hunter Derby and also competing in the $650,000 CSI5* American Gold Cup.

Jacob Pope and Small Love. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It’s for sure my favorite horse show in the country,” Pope said of his spring and summer base. “I’m used to going back and forth from hunters to jumpers but this was a little different. It was my first time showing in the American Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is very prestigious, and the jumps were huge, so I had to hold the hunter ring a minute to mentally prepare and go jump my horse in the Gold Cup. He had a great round and I was thrilled with him. Then I came back here to the hunter mindset and tried to take a deep breath. It ended up working out pretty well.”

As a master of both rings, as well as a former star in the equitation ring as a junior, Pope has learned the art of every discipline, allowing him to easily go back and forth and not overcomplicate things. 

Hear what Jacob Pope had to say about his wins here!

“I started out doing all hunters growing up,” he reflected. “I didn’t even do jumpers until my last junior year. It’s all riding a horse, and finding the track and finding the jumps. It’s deeper than hunters versus jumpers. The years of practice in the hunters and equitation made the transition to the jumper ring a really fluid one. At the end of the day it’s really strong basics.”

While he can’t pick a favorite, he does put extra pressure on himself due to the perfectionism required to excel in the hunter ring.

Hillary Johnson and Moonwalk. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“They’re both very complex sports, so there are a lot of variables that can happen,” he explained. “In the hunters I actually get more nervous because there are so many more mistakes that you can make, but I was really happy to come back over here and put in some good handy rounds.”

Pope also claimed second place with Small Love, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly, while Hillary Johnson and Moonwalk, owned by Copper Fox LLC, claimed third.

Earlier Sunday, Lily Epstein took the top position in another big derby, the $50,000 3’ Non Pro Traverse City Hunter Derby. The 14-year-old piloted Kings Gambit, fondly known as “Checkers,” to scores of 92 and 90.5 for the biggest victory of the young rider’s career.

Lily Epstein and Kings Gambit in their winning presentation. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I definitely wanted to stay on top,” Epstein said of her plan coming back for the handy round as the last to go after taking the high score in round one. “He’s a really good boy and I had to take most of the inside turns. I knew I was capable of doing it. My goal was to do the best I could do. I was at the top so I might as well put my best out there.”

Checkers hasn’t always played the hunter role, but he has stepped in quite nicely. “I did him in the equitation and now we do mostly the hunters,” Epstein, who lives in Coral Gables, FL, shared. “He’s a really good derby horse; I got him at the end of indoors season last year. We have a special bond. I’ve never had a derby win on him so this is special. And it’s in Michigan. I have done a couple derbies in Michigan but I haven’t won any.”

Lily Epstein and Kings Gambit. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

When asked what she thinks makes him such a good hunter, she replied, “He has a good expression and a really nice jump. His ears are floppy and he has a really nice canter.”

A fan of the shows in Traverse City, Epstein returned for her second year in a row and sees many more years to come attending the event. “I came here last year before indoors to prepare and I was here this summer for two weeks,” she explained. “I really like the horse show. It’s really fun. I like the shops, the rings, the VIP. It’s a really nice show.”

Hailey Guidry and Symbolic. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography.

Hailey Guidry placed second with Symbolic, owned by Bella Kay, and also brought home third place with Cornet’s Sunshine, owned by Honor Hill Farm LLC.