Cross-country day at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event is finally here! After two days of dressage action, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous sit at the top of the leaderboard on a score of 24.8, just more than two points ahead of second-place pair Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST. Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 round out the top three, but with just more than 20 points separating the 46-horse field, the leaderboard could be in for some major changes today.
Those 46 combinations will set out on Derek di Grazia’s 6,295-meter course with 11 minutes and 3 seconds to navigate the 28 obstacles, which comprise a total of 45 jumping efforts. This year’s track is running in reverse of the direction it’s run for the last several years. “Each year we’re trying to do something different,” explained di Grazia. “This year obviously we reversed most of the track which sort of lends to not only the jumping coming up in a different order but it also lends to having different combinations than we’ve had before. It will ride differently than the course has in previous years.”
“I think the riders have to have a very positive attitude when they go out and ride the course because they really need to go right from the beginning and ride across the jumps and not be too tentative,” continued di Grazia. “I think that the horses have to be fit here, there is a lot to do and I think they’ve got to be fit at the end of the course because there’s still work to do.”
Di Grazia commented that he doesn’t have one particular part of the course he likes to watch. “I think that they all have a purpose depending on where they are on the course, so to me it makes it very interesting.”
Riders come out of the box and curve to the left over fence 1, “Red, White, and Bluegrass” before heading up a gradual rise to fence 2, the Market Table. The course then curves downhill and to the right over the Double Brush before turning right into the first combination, the Water Park at 4ABC. Riders jump over the upright rails, canter downhill into the pond and over the angled boat in the water before bending left up the hill and out of the water over the second boat.
Competitors will gallop across the ‘chase track and down to the Whiskey Barrel Table at fence 5 before curving back around to the Park Question. The direct route takes riders in over a set of open rails, one stride downhill to a ditch, two strides uphill over an angled cabin before a left-hand turn out over an open corner.
Next comes three big gallop fences – Keepers Brush, Cora’s Crossing, and the Ditch Brush – before riders will arrive at the second water combination on course: the Rolex Grand Slam Challenge. The left-hand rolltop drop in will take riders the direct route, which goes through the water, to the right over a substantial corner, and out on an angle over a double brush.
The Picnic Table at fence 11 is the only fence that lies between the combination of fences 12 and 13AB at Pete’s Hollow. Terrain really comes into play here as riders gallop down into the hollow over the table at 12 before taking the direct route up the mound over a skinny log before bending down and out over a brush.
Fence 14, the Loblolly Pine Rails take riders slightly downhill before curving up and to the left to fence 15AB, the Fallen Trees. These two trees sit on mounds with a dip in between, meaning riders must navigate the terrain in addition to the angled logs. From there riders jump fences 16 and 17, the Cedar Lodge and the Waterview Cabin, on their way to the Land Rover Head of the Lake.
Riders will drop in over a stack of brush-topped logs at 18A and gallop three strides through the water on a turn to the brush corner at 18B. A right-hand turn out of the water brings riders to 19A, a brush-topped table, before they bend to the right back into the water over the skinny brush wedge at 19B. The option at the Head of the Lake gives riders a slightly easier line from the drop to the corner, but riders will add another 10-15 seconds as they circle around to jump the alternative route at 19AB.
At this point, riders are two-thirds of the way around the course, but there’s still plenty of work left to do. Riders will gallop away from the Head of the Lake and have a bit of a gallop stretch to Fence 20, the Trakehner, before coming to the Normandy Bank. Riders bounce up the ditch-bank and over the goose before cantering down the hill to the steeply angled hedges at 21CD.
Continuing down the hill, riders gallop over the Stepped Table at fence 22 before looping back to the Frog Pond. Riders will drop in over the right-hand log, gallop through the pond, and jump the corner before looping back around to the Victory Brush at fence 24.
Only four fences from home, but two combinations left to tackle. Riders have a good pull up the hill to fence 25, the Wattle and Daub Cabin, before going downhill over the Mighty Moguls, two angled hedges set over undulating terrain. Continuing on down the hill and around to the left brings riders to the final combination on course, the Cabins and Boathouses. Riders can choose the left- or right-hand cabin, which sets them up for the right bend to the boathouses, set on an angle over a ditch. The last fence on course, the Lucky Horseshoe at fence 28, lies further down the hill around a left turn and through the finish flags.
You can view a complete photo gallery of the fences on course by clicking here. Click here to check out Equiratings' predictions and pointers for cross-country day at Kentucky. Read on below for thoughts from the riders on today’s course.
Phillip Dutton: “It’s a big imposing course, no one stand-out area, just a lot of questions and pressure on the horses and riders all the way around. I think it’s a good, fair test.”
Michael Jung: “I think this time the course changed a lot to the last years. I think it’s nicer to gallop maybe. My feeling it’s a really nice track, the ground is perfect, also the weather. So, I’m looking forward for the cross-country. Really nice jumps, really nicely built. You have a tough course, many different places with difficult jumps, nice alternative jumps everywhere so you can choose your options, so you can change your idea if you feel the horse is tired or you have a different feeling.”
Boyd Martin: “I think it’s really tough. I think that the first half of the course is quite forward and galloping and looks nice and then I think the second half of the course, starting with the Head of the Lake, gets much more difficult. As we know, the horses tire a bit on the second half of the course, and I think it’s going to be hard to make up time on the course. Usually he gives you a nice long gallop somewhere in the last minute or two and this year he’s kept the combinations [coming] . . . there will be trouble throughout the course which is the sign of a good competition and I think it’s as tough as I’ve seen in the years I’ve been here.”
Tamra Smith: “It’s pretty technical, the Head of the Lake I think is going to be quite influential. We have a brush combination towards the end of the course I think that might catch out some tired horses. So hopefully mine’s not tired!”
Lynn Symansky: “We’ve got a lot of work out there. I went to Burghley and thought that course was all right-handed questions and now I come here and it seems like it’s the same thing. I think the course looks great. I think Derek’s done a really nice job, the going is going to be fantastic . . . To me it doesn’t seem overly huge, maybe that’s because I did two big four-stars with the horse last year, but it’s technical and it makes you work all the way to the very end.”
Kim Severson: “I think it’s tricky. It’s sneaky, it’s hard. I like the fact that a lot of the questions, although they’re hard, they’re not huge and that’s kind of nice. I think it’s like any four-star, you have to keep riding until the end. I think the footing is pretty great so we’re lucky with that and I like the course this year. I felt last year that you were kind of always going uphill some way, I think we hit every hill on the property, whereas this year I feel like it kind of goes not so much going up the hills, I think it’s a bit nicer this year.”
Marilyn Little: “It looks fair, it looks well-presented. Of course, Derek does an incredible job. I’m really excited to get out there and jump it with her. She’s a wonderful cross-country horse and we’ve been building up to this moment so I hope it goes as well as it can. I know she can do it and I think I’m going to have a blast out there.”
Alexandra Knowles: "I am very excited. There is a lot of open gallop and a lot of big fences and I just have to remind myself that he wants to do it just as badly as I want to. It should be a great time."
Mackenna Shea: "I think it is big. I thought after I walked Burghley I would be like, 'Okay,' but no changes. It never changes, it is still a four-star. I think the track looks really good, Derek did a great job. I thought it was a little bit different than it has been in the past – a little bit more technical, maybe. The jumps are big, and it is going to be a lot of work out there. The footing is great so we got really lucky there."
Lillian Heard: "It is probably a tougher Kentucky for [LCC Barnaby] than it has been in the past. There are a lot of tight turns and combinations and he is a really bold horse and the tight turns are hard, but I have been working a lot on that this year, so I am hoping that we are going to have it under control. For [Share Option] my only job is to sit back, but over this course that is a hard job, so I hope I can do it . . . It’s not going to be about [the dressage], it’s going to be about [the cross-country.]”
Lauren Kieffer: "I think it is a Derek course. Every year we go and say this is the hardest he has done, but that is just what Derek does. He never builds the same course twice and he tests the rider’s training over and over again. The great thing about his courses are if you make a mistake it doesn’t punish the horses – they just get to run out and you kick yourself and go home. You don’t end up ruining their confidence or anything."
Oliver Townend: "Fantastic. Cleverly designed. I think your man over here, Derek is it? He is exceptional at his job. It is a very clever course. You have to think all the way. There are a few little twists and turns and jinks that you have to be ready for. I think that a lot of people could learn a lot from this man."
Christopher Burton: "I found Derek di Grazia, who I don’t know very well, and I congratulated him. I have been telling my Australian friends in the UK and the federation back home that this is the best event in the world, no question. The course is beautiful."
Colleen Rutledge: “It’s a good course. It’s definitely a four-star. It’s going to make you not only be able to ride at speed but ride at speed with precision and be able to cope with terrain and that is what Derek’s a master at: using the terrain to ask the questions, not just the fences. This won’t be a dressage show.”
Elisa Wallace: “I definitely think it’s a course that suits my horse. He’s an amazing cross-country horse so that tends to help me on the second day. It’s a very Derek di Grazia [course], he puts the questions out there, the horses can read them but you really have to ride smart and it’s definitely going to have to be a partnership out there and so fingers crossed, but I truly believe in my horse so I think it’s going to be a good day.”
Savannah Fulton: “I’m excited. It’s a little bit different coming here my second time, but it looks good. It’s beautiful, every jump could be in a picture. It looks fun, it looks like there’s definitely plenty to do and it doesn’t let up at all. It’s not over ‘til it’s over, but I’m really excited.”
Buck Davidson and Park Trader will be today’s trailblazers heading out of the box at 11:00 a.m.
The USEA Event College is in Session
The USEA Event College was created by the USEA and the Professional Horseman’s Council to generate awareness of the sport of eventing. The Event College aims to educate spectators, interested parties and the general public on the goals and function of each phase (dressage, cross-country and show jumping) and the complexity and value of the sport. The Event College also aims to educate young riders, adult amateurs, and all those interested in the sport on horsemanship and different skill sets needed to be involved with eventing. High-profile eventing experts will act as “professors” and host casual, interactive dialogue with “students” of the Event College. Anyone interested in the sport of eventing can be a student, and “tuition” is free!
Miss any of the videos? Catch up with them here:
Lynn Symansky on Fitness Routines for a CCI4* Horse
Caroline Martin Discusses Bits
Elinor MacPhail O'Neal on Fighting Nerves at a CCI4*
Tamra Smith Previews the Head of the Lake
EquiRatings Predictions for Cross-Country Day
Phillip Dutton Explains How to Make the Optimum Time on Cross-Country
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