Hello from Galway Downs! It was a beautiful morning to walk Ian Stark’s CCI3* course, which is every bit as big and bold as you’d hope it would for the finale of our eventing season here in the U.S. In the past at this venue, Ian has been limited to only using the area around the flood plains for the course, leaving it without much terrain.
But being able to incorporate the berm around the racetrack and getting creative with utilizing a variety of different types of terrain — like sending riders up a hill, over a keyhole and through the trade fair — has significantly upped the ante on this track. It’s signature Stark with California flair.
“The extra terrain can make riders think about how their horses will cope and when they will have to prepare for each fence: Prepare too early and waste time; prepare too late and things become risky and dangerous,” Ian said in his comments on the course. “So the terrain can put the onus onto the riders to make the proper decisions.”
The course starts out with two straight forward galloping fences helping riders settle into the rhythm. But then the first major question comes at fence 3, which is earlier in the course than in years past, with horses and riders going under the commentators’ tower through a downhill turning combination.
Another new question this year comes at the moat, where riders will go over a big ditch and brush at fence 14 before tackling an open corner combination at 15. That combination walks in an exact four strides, and riders will need to commit to an aggressive line to make it work, as the door is wide open to the right at the corner at 15b.
One of the biggest changes on this year’s course comes at the final water complex, which riders will actually go through twice, once for fence 18, a bounce into the water, and again for fence 22. “So we now have four water combinations on the course — I do hope the riders have brought a change of clothing,” Ian said.
The first horse inspection is underway now, and we’ll be back later today with a full report, photos and the lineup for Dubarry’s Best Dressed. Remember we’re posting on West Coast time, so be sure to check back late each day if you’re on the East Coast so you don’t miss any of our coverage.