Most spectators at Thunderbird Show Park figured Kyle King (USA) had the win secured in Sunday afternoon’s $50,000 Paladin Risk Solutions CSI2* Grand Prix. 

But there was one more rider to go.

As she was stepping into the ring for her jump-off, Brooke Morin (USA) got solid advice from King, her trainer, after he took the lead. Those were famous last words, as she beat his time and claimed the win for herself.

“He said what he did was good—just to ride it like he did,” Morin, 19, said. “I tried, but once I landed in that [line and saw] seven [strides], I thought, ‘I don’t want to slow down!’”

Her instincts were right, as she sped to a double-clear effort in 49.62 seconds aboard NKH Carrido, just a quarter of a second quicker than King’s time with Sig Chiari. Jeffrey Fields (USA) and Sherlina Ale were the next quickest pair to take home third.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Morin reflected after realizing she had won her first Grand Prix. “I can’t even describe it. This is my dream and it’s finally coming true.

“I was going to be happy either way,” she continued. “Kyle was going to win if I didn’t! I actually said that to him going into the ring.”

Morin and NKH Carrido (Carrico x Escudo II), or “Cory” in the barn, have had a breakout summer. They’re two years into their partnership and it’s proving to be a good one. In August, they claimed their first FEI win at tbird, and a second-place finish in Friday’s CSI2* class put them in prime position to stay confident yet hungry for a win.

“He has the best stride ever,” Morin said of the 12-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding. “It can be huge, and it can be small. He’s so adjustable. It’s just the best feeling. He loves [that pace]. He can also kind of be a lazy boy, but he gets excited [in the jump-off]. He was just so game. He knew what I was asking. He knew what he was supposed to do.”

The balance Morin has found with training in King’s program has served her well. The young Californian commutes to tbird, down the street from King’s farm, to compete every few weeks and her efforts are paying off in results.

“It’s pretty great,” she said of her arrangement with her trainer and team. “Kyle does an amazing job when I’m not here. Thankfully, I’m able to ride at home a little, so I’m not totally rusty when I get back.”

Morin was anything but rusty on Sunday.

Feature image: Kyle King and Brooke Morin. ©tbird/Quinn Saunders