Beginning Saturday morning at 10:30 AM, this year’s field of 41 riders will be tackling Derek di Grazia’s five-star cross-country course at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Mars Equestrian. Check out the photo gallery above for highlights of the course, and read on to see what some of the competitors think about this year’s challenge.
Oliver Townend (GBR): “It’s proper, proper five-star. I’m a huge fan of Derek di Grazia’s courses. He’s an exceptional, exceptional course designer—one of the very best in the world. I always enjoy coming here to see what challenges he sets and for sure it’s a five star. It’s one of the toughest in the world. It’s huge. It’s technical. It’s narrow. You could have a good round with 40 penalties and the horse not know he’s done much wrong.”
Piggy French (GBR): “It’s big. It’s a long way and it’s a big. It’s a great course. I think the course designer is a brilliant one. Everything there is definitely jumpable and clear to the horses if the lines and the approaches are good, so it’s just a great rider course. The terrain … you’re always a little bit up and down on a turn. We’ve got to be very clear in our minds what fence comes up next [and] where to be at the string. I think the time will be tight as well, as there being enough serious questions. It stays big and quite tough all the way to the end which is another thing—you don’t get three-quarters of the way around and give him a pat, right come on, we’re a few seconds behind we can make it right to get home. It stays quite serious until the end.”
Boyd Martin: “To be honest, it doesn’t walk as savage as last year, but I actually think it’s equally as difficult. He’s set a lot of the difficult jumps in the second half of the course where the horses will get a bit tired and also the riders start thinking about the time a lot. You’ve got to be quick early and then also read your horse and a few of those complicated combinations at the end you’ve got to figure out how much to balance them up and still go fast.”
Phillip Dutton: “It’s not as big as we’ve had before but there’s a little bit more technical and rideability exercises. I think it’s going to be a good test for everyone.”
Felix Vogg (SUI): “Like everyone knows, I’ve never ridden here. It looks like a nice course–Derek is a brilliant designer. I think for my horse it’s going to be quite challenging because it’s going all the time up and down. It’s more fitness work than someone might think. Every five-star is challenging, but especially here you need a fit horse. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp: “I always love Derek’s courses and I think he’s a brilliant course designer. He always brings something different and I think he’s done that again this year. He sort of tries to keep you guessing a little bit. He always tries to build a good bold, forward-riding track that rewards that and I like that about his course design. It’ll be interesting to ride Deniro here because his last five-star was at Luhmuhlen [Germany] and it’s a very, very different course. Luhmuhlen was very twisty through the trees and this is a much more big, open, galloping track, that I hope will reward a big, bold-jumping horse, which is what he is. I guess we’ll know a lot more at the end of the day on Saturday! But I think it’s a fair course and there’s a lot of questions and a lot to do out there, but I’m looking forward to getting out there with Deniro.
When asked if she was planning to go for the time, she said, “Of course I will! We’re going to give it everything we have. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Tim Price (NZL): “I think it’s intense. Derek has things to slow you down all the way home so the time is going to be difficult. It usually is, but I think even more so this year. Technicality is right up. There’s skinnies everywhere. You’ve got to stay on your job, as does your horse all the way home.”
“[Xavier Faer’s] a fantastic cross-country horse. Probably one the best I’ve ridden. He’s got great gas in the tank usually coming home and that’s something I think you’re going to need around here.”
Buck Davidson: “For me, it’s deceivingly hilly here. From the start box all the way up to the Quarry is a long pull. And then you get a minute to come down the hill to the Lake and then you have to go back up the hill. It’s a course that sort of lulls you into thinking at the beginning that it’s just a big, open galloping track and then it gets very, very technical at the end. So, being smooth and as Felix said, having a very fit horse is going to be key. It’ll be interesting, since Liz and I go early, just to find out how tired they get because you need some energy because there’s a lot of jumping at the end this year. Almost more than at the beginning. I guess we’ll be the ones that let everybody know. Hopefully, I have the right one going first.”
Will Faudree: “It’s big. It’s a five-star. There’s a lot to do. I’m going to go walk it again this afternoon, so hopefully it’ll look a bit smaller today than it did yesterday. But we’ll give it a go. [Pfun] jumped around here two years ago. He’s a good cross-country horse and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. We’ll go out and have fun.”
Hazel Shannon (AUS): “I’ve had one walk. It’s tough. I think it’s a different sort of course than what Mike Etherington-Smith’s built at Adelaide. Some of the combinations Mike has built, when you’re walking them, it almost feels like, this isn’t going to be possible … but they always are possible and really tough. Whereas these, I can see how everything can be ridden but there’s just so many questions and it just never lets up at you until the end. If you take your mind off the jump for a moment, you’re going to end up with 20s everywhere.”
Joe Meyer (NZL): “It seems skinnier than I remember it. There’s a lot of accuracy questions and things. I may take an option, I’m not quite sure. I’ll need to go and have another look at it again. But yeah, there’s a couple of questions that are quite hard. He’s a nicer horse to ride because he’s a lot braver than the last horse I rode around here, Clip Clop. It makes a big difference.
“The course starts off nice this year. There’s a couple of big, scary pole oxers early on, but it’s not like, I think it was last year when we went up a bank to a horrible tall vertical and it was a real test. This time it gets them more rolling and going better at the start. You can get a rhythm and get going.”
Mara Depuy: “It looks doable. I know I can jump every jump out there, it’s just putting it all together. Having a horse at this level for the first time you never know how they’re going to feel at the end of it.
“[Congo Brazzaville C is] a very bold, galloping horse and a very careful jumper so just for me, the adjustability but also not wasting too much time with that.”
Will Coleman: “I think it’s a good test. I think it’s a little bit like last year. Last year was a bit bigger, a bit bolder but this is requires a bit more tact and some of the combinations are going to be—everything’s going to come up quite fast and there’s a lot of technical riding out there. I think it will be difficult. It’s hard to be bold and technical at the same time.
“[Tight Lines] is such an aggressive horse that some of the technical things I think will be quite challenging for us because he’s almost trying too hard sometimes—being a little bit too bold, too gung-ho and sometimes I feel like we’re not always on the same page. My biggest thing will be just trying to get him to relax out there and let me ride him. If he lets me ride him, we’ll be fine but if he’s anxious or nervous or tense, it’s much more difficult to execute some of these turns especially on the terrain.”
Sara Gumbiner: I’m really happy I’m riding my horse, [Polaris]. He’s an incredible cross-country horse. It does look very different than last year. It’s a little bit more technical, it’s a little bit more turny. So it’s going to take a little more of a different type of horse to have success out there. I think that Larry can handle it. I think it’s going to be hard, but we’re going to go out there and give it our best shot. “
Chris Talley: “It looks big and like there’s enough to do out there. [Unmarked Bills] is such a great cross-country horse. I’m so excited to be sitting on him going into Saturday.”
Leslie Law: “It’s obviously a five-star track. I think it’s a very good track. I think it’s very fair. There are obviously some really, really good technical lines that we’re going to have to be really good on to be able to jump. I think for my horse coming into his first five-star it’s a very fair track. Maybe experience might catch us out—we hope not, but I think he’ll go away from this as a better horse for the future.”
Hawley Bennett-Awad: “I think it’s awesome. I think the first half is really big and gallopy and then it’s a little tricky at the end. You’re going to have to have a fit horse. Derek used a lot of the hills at the end and it feels longer than other years. With all the training questions, you got to have a horse that listens, you can’t just go flat out early and hope it works out.”
Hear Jim Wofford’s thoughts in the video below.