The crowd knew they were in for a fast jump-off when Kent Farrington (USA) and Karl Cook (USA) were the only two jumping. Fast is exactly what they got.

The only two to navigate Alan Wade’s (IRL) track clear in the $450,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix, the two Americans went head to head in front of the crowd to battle it out and contend for top honors. Farrington put in all he had with Orafina, who stayed incredibly careful all evening – and all week – to jump double-clear in a jump-off time of 35.27 seconds.

Karl Cook (USA) and Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet. Photo by ESI Photography

All eyes then fell on Cook, who, with Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, knew exactly what he had to do. He executed his plan and put his faith in Signe Otsby’s mare, crossing the timers in 34.84 seconds and making the win his own.

“We’ve had a long journey together,” Cook reflected on his partnership with Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, who is 12 years old this year. “To think we started this year off here in January doing our first three-star grand prix together and ending the year this way, and to have the consistency we’ve had, for me it speaks volumes to her. She’s special.”

Karl Cook (USA) topped the podium in the $450,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI5* Grand Prix. Photo by ESI Photography

His horse wasn’t the only one Cook thanked for the success of the evening, and the whole season, landing him in the runner-up position for the individual title of the Major League Show Jumping Season. He expressed gratitude for the entire team behind him, including trainer Eric Navet (FRA).

“We started working together in 2012 and I really knew nothing when he started working with me,” Cook said of training with Navet. “Over the past ten years he’s put in a lot of hard work because I’m not the easiest to work with. Everything I think about horses has come from him; it’s all through who he is as a horseman that has brought me here.”

Cook has performed exceptionally during this final week of the MLSJ tour, but he doesn’t perceive the pressure the way others do. “People always see it as pressure, but it’s not,” he continued. “When you go last you know what you have to do. At that moment, I’m not riding against Kent or whoever, I just know exactly what I need to do. So I just do it, instead of thinking about those outside constructs.”

Kent Farrington (USA) and Orafina. Photo by ESI Photography

Farrington walked away with second place, but he also earned the individual title for the Major League tour as the top-performing grand prix athlete.

“You do this sport for a long time and you know you can always be beat,” Farrington said of how he felt after his jump-off round, awaiting to see what Cook would do. “In a two-horse jump off there’s always a bit of strategy going first. You have to go fast enough to put the pressure on somebody else, but they have to beat you, and that’s what Karl did today. He had an incredible round, he rode great, and he pulled off the win.”

Tiffany Foster (CAN) and Hamilton. Photo by ESI Photography

Tiffany Foster (CAN) ended up third on a clear effort with two time faults. “It was awesome, because if I’d been in that jump-off and seen those two I would have just not gone and been third anyway,” she joked. “I was thrilled with this finish. I was so impressed with the Major League and the facility here is incredible; they’ve done an amazing job. The two weeks were really enjoyable and I felt like all my horses kept getting better with the schedule.”

Desert Holiday II concludes Sunday with the $50,000 Go Rentals Grand Prix and the $30,000 Vogel 1.40m Open Classic.

Final Results: $450,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix

1. KALINKA VAN’T ZORGVLIET: 2010 BWP mare by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Flipper d’Elle
KARL COOK (USA), Signe Otsby: 0/0/34.84

2. ORAFINA: 2012 KWPN mare by For Fashion x Canturo
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington LLC: 0/0/35.27

3. HAMILTON: 2011 HOLST gelding by Quadros 3 x Acolord
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), The Hamilton Group: 2/82.33

4. LEGACY: 2010 ZANG mare by Chippendale Z x Bon Ami
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Ariel Grange: 4/75.75

5. VOLNAY DU BOISDEVILLE: 2009 SF stallion by Winningmood x Jalisco B
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Teddy Vlock: 4/75.80

6. ARISO: 2011 SWB gelding by Casall x Contender
JORDAN COYLE (IRL), Elan Farm: 4/76.48

7. DONATELLO 141: 2011 WESTF gelding by Diarado x Lamoreux
ASHLEE BOND (ISR), Ashlee Bond Showjumping, L.P.: 4/78.44

8. TRUMAN: 2009 SF gelding by Mylord Carthago x Kolibri
AMY MILLAR (CAN), Millar Brooke Farm Ltd. & Overland: 4/79.03

9. BACOT: 2011 SF gelding by Lavillon x Corrado
ARTURO PARADA VALLEJO (MEX), Heloise Roquette: 4/80.50

10. VINTAGE: 2011 HOLST gelding by Verdi TN
JUAN ORTIZ (VEN), Blue Trim LLC: 5/85.68

11. PIA CONTRA: 2011 OS mare by Conthargos x Chacco-Blue
NICOLAS PIZARRO (MEX), Alberto Lavalle: 6/82.65

12. GAKHIR: 2011 KWPN gelding by Spartacus TN x Labor’s VDL Indorado
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 8/78.32

Bay Mares Win the Day in the Desert

Erynn Ballard (CAN) feels like she’s had an off year, but she capped it off with a major win in the desert to feel back on top of the world.

In the $74,200 CSI5* Winning Round Saturday, the Canadian World Championship competitor topped an extremely competitive field with Ilan Ferder’s Narcotique V/H Dingenshof.

Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Narcotique V/H Dingenshof. Photo by ESI Photography

“I’ve been inconsistent in my results this year; I’ve been the queen of 4 faults,” Ballard said. “Somebody told me recently that the difference between clear and 4 faults is millimeters. Today was really my day and everything went right. They had to chase me at the end and I finally had luck on my side.”

Ballard got the ride on Narcotique V/H Dingenshof earlier this year for owner Ilan Ferder. “She’s perfect,” she continued. “For me there’s nothing better than a bay mare, and she is really my type. She’s a bit forward, careful, sporty, so when we tried her in Europe this summer I knew I was getting a weapon in this level and the next level; she’s already proven in five-star grand prixs. She’s my heart.”

Ballard made the remaining two riders, Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Ashlee Bond (ISR), chase her, and both had the very last rail come down as a result.

“That’s the nice part about not having to ride last,” she said. “I had two very fast riders behind me and Darragh [Kenny] ahead of me and he set the bar so I of course had to try to be faster than him. Ashley and Daniel really had to run to chase me and it paid off today.”

Kenny (IRL) ended up in second place with Chic Chic, owned by Vlock Show Stables LLC, while Mark Kinsella (IRL) and Ben Asselin’s Quality H took third.

Even the very top professionals doubt themselves and strive to improve with every ride. For Ballard, she walked away with not only a win but a lesson learned as well, even having done everything she’s done in the sport.

“Sometimes jump-offs like this are my weakest because I like to relly square up my turns,” she continued. “Ilan said I had to slice the combination and I said, ‘I don’t want to.’ But sometimes following instructions pays off because it could have gone two ways: I slice it and get it right, or I slice it and get it wrong, but at least I was learning something. I proved to myself that something like that is possible and that’s a big win. It’s a big win to win the class and also to improve yourself at this level.”

Ballard is sitting on mostly up-and-coming horses, along with Gakhir, her more experienced mount with which she jumped the World Championships. She’s using the year to focus not only on bringing up her future string, but to also improve upon herself.

“Because I haven’t had my best year, I’m really focusing on better riding, consistent riding, confident riding, going in the ring feeling like I can improve on my last round. Nothing is better for confidence than a win. There’s no better way to go into 2023,” she concluded.

Jordan Coyle (IRL) and Costa Diam. Photo by ESI Photography

Ireland’s anthem played once again at the close of the $40,000 El Cristiano CSI2* Grand Prix as Jordan Coyle (IRL) took top honors with Costa Diam, another bay mare, once again. The pair has been on a roll at the CSI2* level, and Saturday morning was no exception to their excellence.

“She hasn’t had a jump down in two weeks,” he said of Elan Farm’s 10-year-old Selle Francais mare. “She won today, she won the qualifier, and I went too slow last week in the Grand Prix and was third. She’s been good.”

When Coyle got the ride on Costa Diam, she hadn’t recorded a win yet, but he saw the potential in her. “When I got her I thought if I could make her believe she was a winner – and she is ultra careful – she’d go on to win at a bigger level. And I’m sure she will,” he said.

When asked what he likes about DIHP, Coyle responded, “Everything actually. I really liked that grass field. For sure the horses jump better on it. Every year I come back – this is my third year now – there are always improvements, which is nice to see.”

Kyle King (USA) took another second-place finish aboard SIG Chiari, owned by SIG International, with Laura Hite (USA) in third aboard Calypso V/D Zuuthoeve.

Final Results: $74,200 CabanaCoast CSI5* Winning Round

1. NARCOTIQUE V/H DINGENSHOF: 2013 BWP mare by Harley VDL x Chacco Blue
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 0/0/39.75

2. CHIC CHIC: 2011 WESTF stallion by Comme Il Faut x Contendro
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Vlock Show Stables LLC: 0/0/40.71

3. QUALITY H: 2011 HANN gelding by FRH Quaid x Stakkato
MARK KINSELLA (IRL), Ben Asselin: 0/0/41.44

4. COPYCAT: 2013 WESTF gelding by Comme Il Faut x Wogenbrecher
LORCAN GALLAGHER (IRL), Lost Lake Farm LLC: 0/0/48.19

5. IVORY TCS: 2013 KWPN mare by Falaise De Muze x Ukato
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Daniel Coyle and Ariel Grange: 0/4/39.09

6. GARFIELD: 2011 KWPN gelding by Chellthago Z x Numero Uno
ASHLEE BOND (ISR), Stal Horn B.V.: 0/4/38.28

7. CAT NINJA: 2008 KWPN mare by VDL Zirocco Blue x Corland
JACQUELINE STEFFENS (CAN), Eye Candy Jumpers: 0/4/41.75

8. CHAKKALOU PS: 2014 OS stallion by Diablo Blanco x Stakkatol
PATRICIO PASQUEL (MEX), Gestüt, Lewitz: 0/4/42.08

9. EKARLUS BH: 2009 KWPN gelding by Namelus R x Orame
MAVIS SPENCER (USA), Rocking D Ranch: 0/4/43.50

10. CARACAS: 2009 HOLST gelding by Cachas x Cosimo
EUGENIO GARZA PEREZ (MEX), Nerijus Sipaila: 0/RT

11. VICK DU CROISY: 2009 SF mare by Mylord Carthago x Vondeen
LUIS GONCALVES (POR), Sigma Stables LLC: 4/65.54

12. NADALE VAN DORPERHEIDE: 2013 BWP gelding by Zilverstar T x Winningmood
CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Ilan Ferder: 4/67.15