Cook has come close to the blue a few times this circuit, including a second-place finish to Simpson in Desert Circuit III, but this was his first win on the West Coast since making a clean sweep in the feature Grand Prix at National Sunshine Series I and II last fall. Cook went eighth in the jump-off on Friday, two horses after Simpson and Katie Riddle, and clocked in at 35.150 seconds, more than a full second ahead of Simpson, who finished in 36.713. Navet finished the shortened jump-off course in 38.495 seconds.
The top eight in the fast 18-horse jump-off went double clear, and prizes went to the top 13 winners. In fourth was Tamie Phillips on her Cat Balou in 39.006 seconds, followed close behind by Patricio Pasquel on his Candela in 39.623.
Cook said after his victory that the distance between the first and second efforts was “one of those hope and pray rides.” Taking a strategic angle to the second obstacle in the jump-off “put me in a direct line with the water jump so I just hoped and prayed he [Farrari] would understand we were going left and not to the water. It worked."
“My strategy was simple: Go as fast as I could and take chances and hope it would be fast enough,” Cook stressed, adding, “there were a lot of good riders after me so I knew it would take a special ride. But, that said, I absolutely did not think I would catch Will — man, he was fast! This is the first Grand Prix win for Farrari. It was a great class.”
Simpson took a sportsmanlike approach to his second place finish to Cook, saying, “I thought I gave it a pretty good shot but this guy [Cook] has been on my tail for weeks now — the whole circuit. He’s a great competitor and it was a whole lot of fun being in there with him. He showed a lot of heart; he just plain, ‘went for it,’ as we say. I thought I closed the door on him since I went before he did and had a fast, clear jump-off, but he was not going to give it up. It was his class, clearly; he was not going to be denied. Being second behind that kind of ride is pretty sweet. With the young man beating me, he’d better be on his toes next week.”
Simpson was referring to next week’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by MortgageCall, on Sunday, March 15, where all riders will face tough competition, including Cook, Rich Fellers, John Pearce and last year’s winner, Ashlee Bond. Another Grand Prix takes place Sunday as the jumpers prepare for the Million, and the field of competitors is shaping up to be one of the strongest yet.