2009 Fair Hill CCI Cross-Country Preview

For live results from the 2009 Fair Hill Internation CCI2* and CCI3*, click here. Scroll down for the CCI3*.
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Photocred: Special thanks to Retreadeventer, and sorry we didn’t get the photocred sooner.
Saturday is moving day.  Riders in the front of the pack are trying to stay aggressive, riders in the back are telling themselves that Fair Hill starts tomorrow, and pretty much everyone is at least a little scared.  The two people I don’t think feel much fear before XC are Boyd and Phillip, and perhaps Bruce Davidson, but I don’t know him very well.  From talking to some of the riders, tomorrow is going be a very very tough challenge; they described the 3-star course as “extremely long” and say “it doesn’t let up.”  To make things even more interesting, the weather stinks.  So far the footing seems to be holding up.  One rider told me “the ground is really good.  Its only slick in some downhill parts but it wont be too bad if the rain stays like it was today.”  The weather will help the horses stay cool, but if the ground gets sticky horses are going to end up getting very tired.  Look for technical elements late on the course to be a real challenge as tired riders try to rebalance tired horses.  
I remember reading one of Jimmy Wofford’s books, in which he said that he never minded waking up to poor weather on a Cross-Country Saturday.  He said that he was comforted in knowing that his competitors would be worried about the weather, while he would only be thinking about putting forth his best effort.  We all can remember Bruce Davidson’s extraordinary ride around Rolex in 2002 on Little Tricky when the rain was absolutely insane.  The weather became terrible and then it got worse.  I think that 12 out of the last 13 riders scratched, and I have no idea why I was still there, but Bruce tore around that course like it was nothing.  Bad conditions give experienced riders even more of an advantage, so I anticipate that some top names will shoot to the top throughout Saturday.  
Some interesting story lines to follow throughout the CCI3* Cross-Country: 
-How will Karen O’Connor rebound from Burghley and the time off from being injured?  The smart money bets on Karen’s experience.
-How will Nicki Henley handle coming back from a two-year layoff?  Mara Dean withdrew him from the Pan Ams in 2007 and the horse sat out the next two years due to injury.  Having known the feeling of bringing a horse back from he brink of retirement, I know that Mara can feel how fortunate we are for each and every ride on these animals and no one is more motivated to go out and give their horse a great ride.
-Which young star will step up and make a real name for themselves?  Its anyone’s guess.
**For a map of the Cross-Country course with pictures, click here.  The three-star is blue, click on the jumps to see the picture.  Only the CCI3* jumps have pictures.  Eric Bull and crew have done a great job building the jumps, as always.
Click here for XC ride times.
Thank you for reading the XC Preview post, keep checking back for updates and hopefully a live blog starting around noon tomorrow.

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