Of the 30 horse-and-rider combinations representing nine countries in Sunday’s culminating $410,000 Hampton Classic 5* Grand Prix and nine pairs to make the jump-off, only five went double-clear over Alan Wade’s (IRL) 17-effort, 1.60m course. Last to go in both rounds was American Karl Cook, who returned with his Grand Prix Qualifier mount, Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, to stop the clock in 36.710 seconds and secure his second victory at the Hampton Classic.

The Hampton Classic, August 28-September 4, is one of the world’s most prestigious horse shows, offering more than $1 million in prize money during a full schedule featuring competitors at every level from young children in leadline to Olympic, World, and World Cup Champions. The Classic also has competitions for riders with disabilities.

This was Cook’s first time at the Hampton Classic and first Five Star grand prix win. “It’s great to be here,” he said. “I’m so glad I came here. I’m grateful to my mom, who owns the horse, and it’s just great that we’ve worked so hard with that mare, had our highs and lows, and still had everything come together.

“If you see her, she’s hot, a bit wacky, a little small, and has an inverted-type jump,” he added of Signe Ostby’s 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare. “But the only reason she can do this is because she wants it. She tries so hard for it.”

Defending champion Daniel Bluman (ISR) rode immediately before Cook in the jump-off, and his fast-paced time of 36.930 seconds with Blue Star Investments’ 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Gemma W gave them the potential to win for their second consecutive year. That added pressure didn’t faze Cook and Kalinka when they entered to tackle the course.

“I watched Karl’s ride, and he’s a deserving winner,” Bluman said. “He rode great all week and had a lot of success, and I already knew when I crossed the timers that he would beat my time. It was just a matter of if the rails stayed up or didn’t. I tried to get the crowd going to interfere with his focus, but I know Karl. He’s a winner, and I did absolutely everything I could. I’m very happy for him.”

Both riders had Katie Dinan’s (USA) time of 38.320 seconds for their target. In the end, Dinan and Grant Road Partners LLC’s 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Brego R’N B walked away with third-place honors. (The lone Canadian in the class, Mario Deslauriers, placed 9th riding Uris de la Roque.)

“In the prize-giving with a group like this, you just feel really good about the sport,” Dinan said. “We’ve all grown up on a similar circuit, even though Karl is West Coast-based, and we all have a lot of respect for each other.

“I don’t think I would have ridden my round any differently,” she added. “That’s why I’m not kicking myself too hard. I really laid down the jump-off exactly like I planned. I came out thinking I had seven incredible horse/rider combinations behind me, and I needed a lot of luck to stay in first. My horse has a huge stride; I did all the leave-outs and made all the turns I could. He gave me everything. Having these speed demons going second-to-last and last broke my heart, but I’m still thrilled to be on the podium and just very happy with my weekend.”

This win landed Cook on top of the $30,000 LONGINES Rider Challenge with a total of 330 points. Fellow American Aaron Vale finished second with 300 points, while Bluman jumped to third with 280 points. For his additional victory, Cook won the $30,000 purse and a new LONGINES watch.

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