Nov 16, 2018

A Year of Firsts - Preview the Cross-Country Course at the 2018 Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff
The giant trees draped with spanish moss make a perfect backdrop to the cross-country course. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

When the first CCI3* horse and rider leave the start box on cross-country on Saturday they won’t just be riding on the inaugural CCI3* track at the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event – they will also be taking on Clayton Fredericks’ first three-star course.

For the last two years Fredericks designed the CCI* and CCI2* cross-country courses, but Mike Etherington-Smith was in charge of the CIC3*. However, this year Fredericks took over the reins of the CIC3* and also created the new CCI3* track.

There are hills in Florida! Fredericks took advantage of the rolling hills in designing the course. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Fredericks has had an accomplished riding career representing Australia on multiple medal winning teams and competing at four-stars around the world. “I have been very lucky with my eventing career to span the globe,” explained Fredericks. “I started in Australia and then moved to the UK – had 20 years there and now for five years I have been in the U.S. I have been to many events all over the world – a little bit even in Asia, South Africa, and everything in between. I have taken all that experience as a rider and starting to turn it into courses that I think should produce the horses well.”

The CCI3* course spans 5,816 meters with 40 jumping efforts and an optimum time of 10 minutes and 13 seconds. The CCI3* is nearly 2,000 meters longer than the CIC3* course so Fredericks had to open up new lanes to get the distance. The majority of the length comes from a loop from fences five to 10. However, finding space wasn’t a problem at all.

Fredericks set the fences to blend with the natural property. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.


“The property is absolutely gorgeous,” said Fredericks. “It has super topography. Every time I look around there is another little place that I think ‘gee a little combination there would work great.’ From a course designer’s perspective there is no real challenge. The challenge of course is where to put the fences, but not because there is no place to put the fences, but because there are so many.”

When Fredericks’ designs a new course he starts by trying to get a feel for the place and with the Jockey Club’s land he saw a great opportunity for an open, galloping course. “I want it to be a very natural course and I want it to be a very galloping, bold course. It also has tests – not tricky though – I don’t like any tricky, traps. I don’t ever try to be too smart as a course designer. Just natural curves, easy lines, and if riders don’t ride well and they make a mistake it is their fault. I want horses to always come out of the course in a positive way.”

The infamous double corners are back! USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

One major element that Fredericks kept from last year’s CIC3* course and included on this year’s CCI3* course is the double of corners which caused quite a few problems on course in 2017. Sixteen of last year’s 33 starters had a runout or stop at the corners, which Fredericks says “is basically the same test and the same striding.” The one difference is that Fredericks removed a potted plant that was in the line last year, but he says that he is interested to see what riders learned from it.

So what will Fredericks be doing on Saturday when the horses are out on course? Learning. “You never stop learning in this sport – whether you are a rider, a trainer, a course designer, or even an official – you never stop learning,” said Fredericks. “I will be watching and learning what works and hopefully there is really nothing that doesn’t work.”

While Fredericks designed an old-fashioned gallop track, he used the newest safety technology wherever possible. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The ideal cross-country day for the designer would be accomplishing his goal of a fluid course with horses jumping in a nice shape and a good rhythm. Fredericks tries to help everything he can as a course designer, but he says, “It is really ultimately up to the riders to approach every fence in the right pace and on the right line. After that it should be up to the horse to jump clear.”

“I hope it all goes well,” concluded Fredericks. “I am probably more nervous about sitting and watching than I am riding myself, but fingers crossed it rides like I hope it will and everyone has a great time.”

After the withdrawal of Mai Baum by Tamra Smith, 11 horses will be tackling Fredericks’ first three-star cross-country course on Saturday at 12:45. The entire cross-country day will be live streamed on EQTVNetwork or you can follow the live scores here.

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