Apr 26, 2019

Rider Thoughts on the Cross-Country Course to Come

By Kate Lokey - USEA Staff
USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo

Derek di Grazia has now served as the cross-country course designer for eight years at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. This is the first year the competition is being run as a CCI5*-L, one of only six annual five-star three-day events in the world, and the only one in the Americas. Di Grazia has created a much different course in 2019 than in past years, although the course still starts and finishes in the same areas as previously set. He built a course that still encourages bold, forward galloping fences at the beginning, but incorporated more technical questions throughout. Some of the competitors from the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event weighed in on their thoughts and predictions for the course below.

Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp: “Derek is a brilliant course designer. He always brings something different and always builds a good bold, forward riding track. It’ll be interesting to ride Deniro here. His last five-star was Luhmuhlen which was twisty through the trees and this is a big open galloping track. I guess we’ll know a lot more at the end of the day on Saturday. I think it’s a fair course and there are a lot of questions but I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

Buck Davidson: “It’s a course that lulls you in at the beginning to think it’s just a big open galloping track, but then it’s very technical at the end. Having a very fit horse is going to be key. Liz [Halliday-Sharp] and I go early and it’ll be interesting to find out just how tired they get. Hopefully, I have the right one going first.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Felix Vogg: “It looks like a nice course. Derek is a brilliant designer and he knows what he does. I think for my horse, it’ll be quite challenging that it’s so up and down. It is more fitness work than someone thinks. A fit horse has it better. Every five-star is challenging, but I think here especially you need a fit horse. It’s a beautiful course and I’m excited to ride it."

Caroline Martin: “I think it’s a great course. This terrain is unlike anywhere else in the world. Danger Mouse hasn’t seen anything quite like this. Islandwood [Captain Jack] has a lot of Thoroughbred so it’ll suit him. There’s a lot of bold questions, which I like, and they have brush on them so you can keep attacking the course, but there are a couple of places where you have a big stride and he wants you to shorten quite quickly to a skinny or something else, so I think it’ll catch a lot of people. I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as some people are thinking at first glance – I think it’s way trickier, but I’m first out, so we’ll see."

Dominic Schramm: “I think it looks great. Obviously, it’s bloody hard. I’ve got a bigger horse, I think now if the ground is a little more holding, the fitness and time is going to be a harder thing. But, it’s an incredible course. I think Derek is as good of a course designer as we could hope for. I’m excited to get out there. I think this water is going to be tough, and I think a tired horse at the end up at the bank is going to be tough, but ultimately I think if you ride it well and you have a fit horse, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a successful go.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Leslie Law: “It’s obviously a five-star track, and I think it’s a very good track. It’s very fair. There are obviously some really good technical lines we’re going to have to be really good on and be able to jump. I think for my horse coming into his first five-star, it’s a very fair track. Maybe experience may cut us out, but I hope not. I think he’ll go away from here from the cross-country a better horse for the future."

Phillip Dutton: “It’s not as big as we’ve had before, but it’s a little bit more technical and has more rideability exercises, so it’s going to be a good test for everyone.”

Lauren Kieffer: “I think it’s a beautiful course. We trust Derek as riders – I think he’s the best course designer in the world. I think it’s definitely a different feel than it usually has. It’s usually big, bold and straight and he’s definitely got us turning here and there and everything else, so it’s a different feel than he usually has, so it’ll be interesting.”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Tim Price: "I think it’s intense. Derek, he’s got things to slow you down all the way home, so the time is going to be difficult – it usually is, but even more so this year. And the technicality is right up as well. There’s skinnies everywhere, you’ve got to stay on your job, as does your horse all the way home, so yeah I’m looking forward to it."

Oliver Townend: “It always amazes me how much the [cross-country] course does change here from year to year. I’m a huge fan of Derek di Grazia’s courses. I think he’s absolutely exceptional at what he does. He has a real knack for knowing what works distance wise in the combinations and also what a horse can see in terms of the lines. This course is as tough as I’ve seen here, and you could have a very easy blip without doing too much wrong. It’s a true five-star test and definitely not a dressage competition. It’s a proper job from start to finish.”

Tomorrow, 41 pairs will tackle Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course, and the first rider will leave the start box at 10:30 a.m.

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