Rolex Riders Comment on Derek di Grazia’s Cross Country Course

William Fox-Pitt gives Liz Halliday-Sharp some pointers. Photo by Sally Spickard. William Fox-Pitt gives Liz Halliday-Sharp some pointers. Photo by Sally Spickard.

With the questionable weather forecast for tomorrow looming and a formidable track set by course designer Derek di Grazia, there is plenty of buzz around the grounds today about how tomorrow’s cross country will pan out.

Weather aside, the track poses several big questions to riders — the general opinion remains that they are all fair courses, but that this will surely not be a dressage competition.

We took the opportunity to get some comments on a few of the bigger questions of course from some Rolex riders who are either competing this weekend or who have competed here in the past.

William Fox-Pitt gave us some insight on his plans for the course this afternoon after his dressage ride, walking with Liz Halliday-Sharp and giving her pointers along the way. William stopped at fence 4ABC, which is the first combination on course. It’s a new question this year, and it is quite imposing from the ground.

The perennial crowd favorite question, the Rolex Head of the Lake, has been changed around this year, and the biggest challenge of this edition is the very, very skinny chevron at fence 14 that awaits riders coming through the water.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jen McFall demonstrate how narrow the chevron is. You can barely see it on either side of them! Photo by Sally Spickard.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jen McFall demonstrate how narrow the chevron is. You can barely see it on either side of them! Photo by Sally Spickard.

We caught up with Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jen McFall at the Head of the Lake, where they provided commentary on the water complex as well as how seriously the riders should be taking the chevron:

Hawley made an interesting comment on the skinny chevron, saying that if it were her she would ride it at a bit more of an angle to give the horse more of a front to read. In speaking with other riders, it seems this may be a plan for many as they think on how to approach this question. The option at the Head of the Lake is very time consuming, so we don’t anticipate seeing many people opt for that route.

The Head of the Lake is most certainly not the only question that riders should be sitting up and taking notes on — of course, this is Rolex, so an “easy” question is not what you’ll find here.

Riding for Ireland, Tim Bourke is back for his second go at Rolex with Luckaun Quality. Tim and his wife, Marley Stone, recently moved into a farm of their own in Virginia and are busy building a training business. Tim is a longtime student of Sharon White’s, and he’s thrilled to be striking out on his own with his business.

Tim kindly took a few minutes to chat at the Water Park, which is set to be towards the end of the course this year as opposed to in the beginning like last year.

This question caught a lot of riders out at the C element last year, and while it’s been repositioned the related distances will still require accuracy, which will be even more challenging at this stage of the course.

Many thanks to William, Hawley, Jen and Tim for providing their commentary on the course this year. With cross country starting and ending earlier than usual tomorrow, it’s going to be a very exciting and interesting day. Stay tuned for much more from Rolex!

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