I just completed what was easily the most inefficient course walk of my career so far. I apparently need to take a class in map reading as I got turned around and had to double back many times to get the photos I needed. I definitely gave myself the all inclusive self-guided tour of Galway Downs! And while I’m currently cursing my physical fitness, I must say that I’m even more excited to watch cross country on Saturday.
Ian Stark is your course designer this weekend and once again he’s done a phenomenal job of putting the three-star riders to the test. While the terrain may not be as undulating as other venues, best not to be caught with your guard down as the questions are very technical and there is a lot to look at throughout the course.
The course is essentially set up to go around the grounds and also through the infield of the track here at Galway. Riders will start and finish in the infield and even take a trip up to the trade fair on their way around the course.
Ian starts off with three rhythm fences — a lovely decorated ramp, a brush oxer and a hay feeder all in the infield — before beginning to ask the hard questions. There is plenty of room to make up a bit of time here and there, but the track does twist and turn quite a bit even in open space.
I’m particularly interested to see how the final water, the CWD Splash with the famous Shamu jump, rides. This year, there is the interesting addition of rubber bricks on the upward approach to the B element — and evidently there will be water running down these rubber bricks come Saturday. Naturally, I am not a three-star rider so I can’t say how everyone else is feeling about this question, but it’s a journalist frightener for sure!
Overall there are three water questions and plenty of related distances and accuracy questions to keep the competitors on their toes. As Rachel McDonough said on her Facebook after walking: “Touche, Galway. Touche.”
We’re getting ready to see the FEI horses trot up for the Ground Jury, and I’ll be live tweeting for the CCI3* which is the last group to jog. Stay tuned for the full jog report and, in the meantime, here is the full gallery of the CCI3* cross country. I apologize for not showing the B element of 15, the PRO Tour Moat — I must have been delirious from my lack of ability to read a map.