Lexington, Kentucky, USA – November 04, 2021 – Show jumping competition made its debut at the 2021 National Horse Show (NHS) on Thursday, November 4. Welcoming some of the world’s top show jumping athletes and their mounts, the CSI 4* designated competition featured a star-studded lineup of 37 horse-and-rider pairs representing nine nations, including the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Great Britain, Brazil, Russia, Switzerland and Israel, for the $72,900 International Welcome Stake CSI 4*. Of the powerful partnerships, it was the United States’ Karl Cook and Caillou 24 who kicked off jumper competition at the 138th National Horse Show in winning fashion, leading the victory gallop at the conclusion of the class.
Portugal’s Bernardo Costa Cabral crafted the 13-obstacle course fit for the CSI 4* status. Cabral’s winding path led athletes and their horses on a tour of the Alltech Arena. A triple combination at the far end of the arena was the source of many rails tipping to the ground, leaving a number of pairs out of contention for the tie-breaking jump-off, and a final oxer jumping away from the in-gate tested horses’ focus and perseverance over the 1.50m to 1.55m fence-height course. Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Jack Van’t Kattenheye were the pathfinders of the first-round course, producing the first clear effort.
Two trips later, McLain Ward (USA) would force a jump-off after turning in a clear round aboard his 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games mount, Contagious. Eight others would add their names to the jump-off roster, including Margie Engle (USA), Aaron Vale (USA), Santiago Lambre (BRA), Kent Farrington (USA), Cook (USA), Alessandra Volpi (USA), Jordan Coyle (IRL) and Shane Sweetnam (IRL).
Returning first for the shortened 8-effort jump-off course was Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Jack Van’t Kattenheye. A series of long, flowing lines left the option for athletes to gallop their mounts in order to decrease the number of strides between fences in hopes of shaving seconds off the clock. Ballard navigated a swift track with Jack Van’t Kattenheye, but rolled two rails in the process, leaving the door wide open but setting the pace at 33.85 seconds.
Immediately following, McLain Ward (USA) and Contagious put the pressure on remaining competitors, riding a clear track in 32.96 seconds. Next to try their hand at the shortened course, Margie Engle (USA) and Dicas produced a clear round, but fell short of Ward’s leading time in 35.62 seconds. Vale would also put forth a valiant effort, but even his fault-free, swift ride aboard Elusive was not enough to edge out Ward, settling on a time of 33.27 seconds.
An unfortunate 4 faults for Santiago Lambre (BRA) would leave him out of contention with Easy Girl, but Kent Farrington (USA) and Austria 2 would prove to be too tidy for Ward, tripping the timers in 31.78 seconds without acquiring any faults to take over the lead.
Farrington’s lead would be short lived however, as Karl Cook (USA) and Caillou 24 made their way into the arena. Always a strong competitor, Cook and Caillou 24 blazed their way to a new leading time of 31.47 seconds to capture the lead.
Alessandra Volpi (USA) would also produce a clear effort, but would not be quick enough to catch Cook. Last to compete, Jordan Coyle (IRL) and Ariso would lower the height of two fences, leaving Cook and Signe Ostby’s 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Caillou 24, to wear the blue ribbon for the victory gallop.
Taking second place would ultimately be Kent Farrington (USA) and Take The High Road LLC’s Austria 2, a 13-year-old Holsteiner mare, and McLain Ward (USA) would round out the top three with Beechwood Stables LLC’s 12-year-old Deutches Sportferd gelding, Contagious.
Winner’s Circle – Karl Cook (USA)
On having a successful year:
“My year started off really not the best. I had a little bit of a rocky start with some soundness issues that were out of the blue and we couldn’t foresee, which was kind of annoying. Once we got out of that rut, I had to make up for lost time. the horses have been great and I am so grateful to have the horses that I have, they make it so much fun to be out there.”
On winning at the National Horse Show:
“The National Horse show is such an iconic show, and it was something that I watched growing up. Everyone says ‘I want to be in that ring one day.’ It is cool to be in the ring at all,l but it is way cooler to win and to win against the people that I did. It hits differently than if I had been the only one clear. It is a humbling experience because it feels like you are on the right track of a goal that I have worked so hard for since I was a little kid.”
On the first round course, designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR):
“I think he set a very fair course. It was technical and since it was an indoor course, we were bouncing off of the walls a little bit. It was also delicate and I think that he was fair. It was not crazy big and the time was not super tight. That is nice for the first day, to not go crazy on the time allowed. I do think that he set a fair course for everyone that was good for the people that made the jump-off and for the people that maybe did not have the best round. It was safe and a really good blend for all competitors.”
On adjusting to compete in an indoor venue:
“You have to make the adjustments for where you are at. The two horses that I brought here are very experienced and so that transition is not hard because I have had them for a while and I know them. They are quite mature competitors and they know the game and they know what’s going on. It is a different experience when you go straight into an indoor like that, after competing outside all summer.”
Final Results – $72,900 International Welcome Stake CSI 4*-W
1) Karl Cook (USA) & Caillou 24 – 0 / 0 – 31.47
2) Kent Farrington (USA) & Austria 2 – 0 / 0 – 31.78
3) McLain Ward (USA) & Contagious – 0 / 0 – 32.96
Source: Press Release from National Horse Show
Photos: © Phelps Sports / Georgie Hammond