We caught up with a few of the top riders at this weekend's Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event to get their take on Derek di Grazia's challenging cross-country course.
This year's course is almost 4 miles--6,294 meters to be exact. The riders will gallop at least 11 minutes and three seconds. That’s the optimum time, though most people will take longer than that. That’s an average speed of about 16 and some miles per hour. There are 28 numbers and 45 jumping efforts. Many of the jumps are almost maximum in dimension (3-foot-11 in height and a spread of 6-foot-7)
Jim Wofford - Legendary Eventing Coach & Olympian
“These are not just big jumps, these are condominiums.”
The fence 4 complex is the first real problem on the course for several reasons. This is the first time in the course that the horse will have to jump multiple efforts in a row. Secondly, it’s the first time the horse will confront the crowd—tomorrow this will be a sea of humans. It’s hard to explain, but the horse feels a palpable hum off that many people and some horses are affected by that. Next, the rails are open here. They can see through into the water. Some horses are a little bit suspicious of jumping into the water. Finally, this is almost maximum height.
Check out Jim's video for more thoughts on the cross-country course!
Marilyn Little - leading with RF Scandalous (24.8)
It looks fair, it looks well-presented. I’m really excited to get out there with [RF Scandalous]. I think she’s a wonderful cross-country horse. I hope it goes as well as it can—I know she can do it.
Michael Jung (GER) - 2nd place with fischerRocana FST (27.1)
It's a new track here, but it looks like it has a nice gallop. The ground is perfect. I'm looking forward to it.
Christopher Burton (AUS) - 3rd place with Nobilis 18 (27.9)
I found Derek di Grazia, who I didn’t know very well, and I congratulated him. I’ve been telling all my friends back home in Australia and the UK that this is the best event in the world, no question. This course is just beautiful.
Lauren Kieffer - tied for 6th with Vermiculus (31.2) & tied for 28th with Landmark's Monte Carlo (37.2)
I think it’s a Derek course. Every year we say it’s the hardest one he’s done, but that’s just what Derek does. He never builds the same course twice and he tests the riders’ training over and over again. But the great thing about his courses is if you make a mistake it doesn’t punish the horses’ – they just get to run out. You don’t end up ruining their confidence.
Boyd Martin - tied for 6th with Tsetserleg (31.2) & tied for 32nd with Steady Eddie (38.3)
This turf will be the best turf these horses have ever seen. The footing on the cross country is unbelievable. They’ll be floating around!
The hardest thing about a course like this is it’s just relentless. Big fence after big fence, combination after combination. You can’t ever let up with it, so it’s going to be a huge test. At this level, anything can go wrong at any moment.
Lynn Symansky - tied for 8th with Donner (31.3)
I wasn’t here last year, I was prepping for Badminton overseas, but after watching it on film and talking to a few people it seems slightly beefier with a few more questions. To me, it doesn’t seem overly huge, but maybe that’s because I did two big four-stars overseas last year with this horse. But it’s technical and it makes you work all the way to the very end. I’m not going out there thinking we have it in the bag at all – there’s a ton of work to do and every single time you go out there you ride like you’ve never really done it before.
Colleen Rutledge - 10th with Covert Rights (31.7)
It’s definitely a four-star. You’re going to be able to have to ride at speed with precision and cope with the terrain. And that is what Derek is a master at. He uses the terrain to ask the questions, not just the fences. This won’t be a dressage show.
Lillian Heard - 26th on Share Option (36.4) & 30th on LCC Barnaby (37.6)
It’s probably a tougher cross-country course for [LCC Barnaby] than it has been in the past. There’s a lot of tight turns in combinations – and those tight turns are hard. But I’ve been working really hard on that this year. With [Share Option] as long as I can sit back, I’m good!
Mackenna Shea - tied for 13th with Landioso (32.5)
It’s big. I thought after [completing] Burghley it wouldn’t seem that way, but no. It never changes—it’s still a four-star. I think it’s really different than it has been in the past—very technical. The jumps are big and mentally it’s a lot of work out there.
Allie Knowles - tied for 28th with Sound Prospect (37.2)
I’m very excited! There’s a lot of open gallop and a lot of big fences. And I just have to remind myself [Sound Prospect] wants to do it as badly as I do.
Oliver Townend (GBR) - 5th with Cooley Master Class (28.7) & tied for 8th with MHS King Joules (31.3)
It’s fantastic. Cleverly designed. Your man over here, Derek, is exceptional at his job. It’s a very clever course, you’ve got to think all the way and there are a few little twists and turns you have to be ready for. I think a lot of people can learn a lot from this man.
Buck Davidson - 12th with Carlevo (32.2), 18th with Copper Beech (34.4) & 20th with Park Trader (35.0).
Tomorrow’s going to be a very big day for all three of my horses. But I’m thankful to have the horses that I have, and we’ll see how we get on.
Elisa Wallace - 24th with Simply Priceless (35.7)
I definitely think it’s a course that suits my horse—he’s an amazing cross-country horse, and that tends to help me on the second day. Derek di Grazia puts the questions out there and you have to ride smart. You definitely have to have a good partnership [with your horse] out there, so fingers crossed. But I truly believe in my horse, so I think it’s going to be a good day.
Will Coleman - tied for 32nd with Tight Lines (38.3)
I think it’s a challenge. I think it’s a true four-star, for sure. [Designer Derek di Grazia] puts a few new little wrinkles in it every year. You never really know what you’re going to get until you get here. I think it’s a great course—it’s a thinking course.
Tim Bourke (IRE) - 35th with Luckaun Quality (40.2)
I’d rather be on [Luckaun Quality] than a lot of others. He’s a freak on cross-country. We’ll go out of the start box (I won’t necessarily watch all that much) and we’ll just take it one step at a time and get around the course. I think it’s quite tough. I think it’s going to be harder to steer. It lulls you in at the start with a couple of big gallopy fences for the first two minutes. All of a sudden, it’s just bang-bang-bang with a couple of really hard combinations. I think that will take its toll on people.