Las Vegas, NV - The $50,000 Fisker Automotive World Cup Grand Prix was the pinnacle of the Las Vegas National beginning with a fiery opening ceremony act. Welcoming the local crowds, fans and competitors was a one-of-a-kind fire infused performance that set the stage for some hot competition. Thirty-five rounds of international talent prepared to take on German course designer, Olaf Petersen Jr.'s World Cup Qualifying test. From an early stage it looked as if the young stars were taking control of the class.
Petersen (GER) set a track that was not intimidating as riders perused the course, however it proved to be more difficult than many had anticipated. "After the course walk, majority of the riders told me it was an easy course," Petersen added, "I built a technical track and I think they noticed that once they rode it." A tough time allowed caught up with the first five rounds, however even after an adjustment, time was still one of the many challenges. The sixteen effort track featured three verticals set at 1.60M and a very wide triple bar spread. Many riders found themselves questioning their game plan as they approached the oxer-vertical-oxer combination. After clearing the oxer, the middle element came up quickly, causing four faults for a large group of contenders.
Only five of the thirty-five horse and rider duos were able to the master the track and move on to the jump-off. Coming off his win in the $30,000 EQU Lifestyle Speed Classic on Friday night, the young and fearless Karl Cook (USA) took to the track on his first of two mounts, ASB Conquistador, to post the first clear round. Just two rounds later, veterans Helen McNaught (GBR) and her seventeen-year-old Caballo were able to produce a clear round. Thursday night's $32,000 Markel Insurance Jumper Classic twenty-year-old victor, Sear Coutler (USA), guided her winning mount to a blazing fault free round. Fifteen rounds and several four faulters later, nineteen-year-old Lucy Davis (USA) and her rambunctious gelding, Nemo 119 joined the second round group with a clean effort. The final of the five to qualify for the jump-off was twenty one-year-old Karl Cook on his second mount, Jonkheer Z.
Petersen designed a long, flowing jump-off that demanded riders to cut corners, angle jumps, and gallop between obstacles. Cook returned on his first mount, ASB Conquistador. With an unfortunate rail, Cook charged to the final oxer, stopping the clock in a speedy 44.46 seconds. McNaught (GBR) and her trusty Caballo attempted to top the leaderboard, but with a similar unlucky rail down and not quite as speedy, McNaught would have to settle for a four fault score in 45.93, good enough for third place.
Coulter attempted to cover the ground between jumps with Graciella 50's speed, however ended up with two rails down in 46.14 seconds and a fourth place overall. Despite Nemo 119's usual parade of bucking and kicking, once the clock started Davis and her talented mount were all business. Well on her way to a winning round, Davis attempted a tough angle at an oxer. The risk didn't pay off when Nemo 119 refused. The pair ended up with 13 faults, settling for 5th respectively.
Cook came into the final round knowing that all he needed to do for the win was post a fault free effort. With a few rubs and nerve wracking approaches, Cook was able to guide Jonhkeer Z to the only double clear round of the night, securing the top two spots on the leaderboard. "I'm lucky I guess," Cook smiled, "I have a great trainer, a great program and great horses. I'll admit that I also thought the course walked easy, but it rode much harder. Overall, after last night and tonight, I couldn't be happier." Within a two day span Cook earned four top placings aboard four remarkable horses owned by Signe Ostby.
Leading up to the Grand Prix was the $10,000 Royal Champion Classic. A class with a unique format, the top ten scoring teams from the first round return for a second round with a clean slate to compete for the win. Eduardo Menezes (BRA) came back in the jump-off with two mounts, Quintol Mercedes Benz and Audi's Reflection, taking the top spot as well as 4th place.
The evening concluded with a raffle drawing where over 30 fabulous prizes were up for grabs. Spectators, exhibitors and fans lined up around the corner of the main entrance for a chance to meet the evening's competitors as well as course designer Olaf Petersen Jr., reigning World Cup Champion and Olympian Rich Fellers, and the newly knighted U.S Show Jumping coach, Robert Ridland.
To see full result from the $50,000 Fisker Automotive World Cup Grand Prix click here.