Top Quotes from Kentucky Cross Country Day

Top three after cross country: Chris Burton, Michael Jung and Oliver Townend, plus top American, Lynn Symansky. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

After an influential cross country day in Kentucky, we are looking a very different leaderboard than we had yesterday. What do our new top three think about the day? Read on for the top quotes from Michael Jung, Chris Burton, Oliver Townend, Lynn Symansky and course designer Derek di Grazia:

Michael Jung

On his ride today: “I’m very happy about fischerRocana, but first I have to say also that we had a really good course, a really nice course. I liked it. The gallop track changed through the last years. My feeling was much better also for fischerRocana. She was really wonderful to ride. Nice galloping, and she gave me a really good feeling around. I had a really fantastic ride. fisherRocana was really powerful. I had a great feeling from the start. From the first fence up to the other jumps she galloped nice. She was in a very good condition.

On an uncharacteristic bobble in the Head of the Lake: “On Jump 18, the water, I would like to do four strides. I missed this also in the end I just wait on what she’s doing. I try to keep her straight in front of the fence, and she tried to not really jump, but go over. I think in the end this is was you need in a partnership: that the other one is also fighting for you. She was really fighting for me in that situation and that makes me proud that she also never gave up. She had every chance to do a stop or a run out, but she fights for me and that was perfect. We lost a few seconds there. We were good on the time up to there, but then we have to go really fast after that, and it’s nice to feel when the horse really fights for you and gallops fast. It’s also good to feel the horse had such great fun in a tough course like this.

On what tomorrow looks like for him: “We have a lot to do. I have another friend with me, which I have to help. Some things to take care of with the horses, we have to prepare for the vet check, we have to do the vet check. Then I think I will ride my horse a little bit, also maybe we do a few jumps. We have to look that we prepare the horse as good as we can, so that the horses feels very well, and has no muscle pain. In the end we have to try to do our best job, and then we will see how it works.”

Chris Burton

On his ride today: “It’s easy to be happy when you’ve had a great run. The team and I are delighted. I’m with Michi, there wouldn’t be anyone in the field today I think that doesn’t think it was a great day of sport. The course designer, he has a lot of feel, and a great track. Good going and the weather was nice, what a good day for eventing.

“We had such good conditions. I think we all were able to enjoy it. My horse, he’s gotten a bit stiff as he’s gotten older, and it’s taken a lot of work from our team to manage him and get him here, and I was delighted that he came home as well as he did. He’s all heart and he looks through the flags really nicely. I really had a great time out there I have to say.”

On the footing: “The tough thing about our sport is we can’t control the weather conditions, so It’s nice then when you have a place like this. However, cross country aside I have a belief that eventing should be like this. We should be doing dressage on the surface (on arena footing) and show jumping on the surface. I think that should become more of the guideline because I’ve jumped horses in the UK in the rain, and I think, ‘why are we doing this to them? Show jumping in the mud this is silly.’ Of course if we have to run cross country in the mud that’s fine.”

On the course: “It’s a four-star. There’s no question. You had to ride well. There was technical questions everywhere. There was plenty of places to have a mistake, but I don’t believe cross country course should just be tough, and I think he (Derek di Grazia) got the balance exactly right.”

Oliver Townend

On the course: “An unbelievable track I think. Derek is one of the best course designers in the world if not the best at the minute. The ground was fantastic. Course was fantastic, but with a huge amount of feel and empathy for the horses, but still a serious four-star and a proper, proper test.

On his two different rides: “I had two very different rides with my horses. King Joules is notoriously strong, which is possibly why I got the ride. Andrew Nicholson rode him before, and Mary King before that. Andrew obviously had his injury, and he was sadly the first one to get turfed out. There’s not question that he’s got a huge amount of talent and an huge amount of gallop. Ability is definitely no problem, but trying to even slow him down sometimes is quite a problem. I got basically run off with for 11 minutes on the first one, but he was exceptionally honest and put himself between the flags. Basically I spent my whole round saying, ‘whoa, whoa’ and steering.

“The second ride completely different. First time at this level and couldn’t be any happier with him. Not quite so confident, not quite so used to the crowds, holding his breath a little bit. Basically been run away on the first one and squeezing all the way with the second one, but he grew in confidence as he went and I think that is a very good sign from a course design point of view that you felt sticky, and you thought to yourself, ‘my god. He doesn’t feel like he’s going great at the minute.’ He was going about had his ears pricked all the way, and as the round progressed, his confidence grew and he started to get better and better as he went. Never didn’t prick his ears, so I thought that was a good sign. He’s had very little preparation due to the horrifically crap spring that we’ve had in England, so I couldn’t be happier with both horses.”

On tomorrow’s show jumping: “It’s one of the biggest three-day events in the world, and it’s like trying to jump her around show jumps after you’ve taken a horse round the Grand National. Good jumpers can have fences down, and bad jumpers can screw up clears. Obviously, I think all three of us will be trying to jump a clear round tomorrow, but we shall see.”

Lynn Symansky

On her ride today: “I don’t have many complaints on my horse today. We went out — he takes a little bit to get into the groove of a course, especially with the crowd, so I would say probably his hairiest moment was the corner at the coffin at 6. After that, honestly, I couldn’t say that a lot going around a track like this, but it was pretty boring it was like clockwork, and I think that’s a tribute to knowing the horse so well and having a great partnership with him. He tried his heart out and I think he was very efficient, and at the end I was really able to slow up because I had my minutes. I thought it was a great track. It rode according to plan, and I was really happy with the way he came home. This was his ninth four-star and he’s a little bit older — he’s 15 this year — so I think it’s actually a little bit easier on him, just knowing the horse so well and not having to ride quite as hard as you do a few years earlier in the partnership.”

On this being the 10th anniversary of an American victory: “I honestly haven’t really looked at the scoreboard because my phone doesn’t work! I think I’m just going to go out and do the job I would do on any sort of day. I think we’ve been battling for years and years to try and defend our home turf. I think these boys all have a very good chance of taking the throne once again. I think as much as we don’t like losing on our home turf, we really welcome the international contingent. It’s really nice to have more competition over here.

On tomorrow’s show jumping: “We’ll just take care of him tonight to give him a good go tomorrow. I’m actually more nervous about surviving the jog than the actual show jumping. Not because he’s lame, just because he’s a little difficult.”

Derek di Grazia

On the 11 double clears: “I think that the ground ending up being quite fast today. You couldn’t get any better conditions I think if we would’ve had a little bit of rain it would’ve been different, but you never know. We had a very good field of riders today. It might not of been a huge number, as far as there may not have been 60 or 70 of them, but I think the ones we had are very good riders. They all took a crack at it, and we ended up with 10 within the time, but I think they had to work at it to get there.”

On how he thinks the course rode: “I’m very happy about how the course rode. I think the faults were spread out across the course. All the combinations I felt rode really well, and at the same time the combinations, you didn’t have to do them all the same way, and certainly that was shown out there today. People did things differently and it could still work out for them. I was happy with how the course ended up riding overall. Again, we didn’t have any horse falls, which is really a great thing. And we didn’t have any injured riders, which is a great thing. To me that is a positive.

On his course design philosophy: “The big thing for me is one: to develop a good flow of the track. That’s the first thing I do when i come to design the track year after year is getting that flow, and then really trying to ask different exercises, and making the riders have to use the things they’ve learned and what they’ve trained their horses to do to, and be able to make sure they can do what they do in their dressage test by going forward, they have to bring them back and having to be straight. It’s all those things we learn as we bring these horses through the levels, and I think that’s what you try to incorporate into the course. And at the same time, you are always thinking that you want to be a fair course to the horses because I don’t ever like to see a horse get hurt on course.”

On reversing the track this year: “I think having the Head of the Lake a little past seven minutes, I still think that the horses were fresh enough at that point. I think really when they get past the Normandy Bank is when you start to see horses start to get tired, so I think that in some ways it’s an advantage to the riders because the Head of the Lake is quite a big thing when you come there. Not only with the crowds, but there’s always a lot to do, and I think that being well into the course at that point, I think the horses and the riders actually should be into a good rhythm and should actually ride almost better at that point than being at four minutes where we’ve had it in the past.”

On his upcoming Olympic course in Tokyo 2020: “It’s interesting because the Tokyo course to me is pretty much mostly done in that we might make little changes, but the whole concept of the course, the track of the course and all that is done, so we’re really in the final development of that course. To me again, I like each site, whether it’s here or any of the other ones I do, they’re all different, so you basically design for the site because the terrain is different and there are quite a few different characteristics, so maybe you have to design according to what that facility gives you. That’s what I try to do because you’d hate to go one place and have it be exactly the same as the other. You want to try to make a difference in each place.  

“Certainly if there’s jumps that were somewhat presented like what we have in Tokyo, then if you didn’t like how it was then certainly you can make the adjustments. I think that goes for whatever you’re doing from course to course, anywhere you’re designing. The same if you go to watch a course that’s not your own, maybe someone else’s that you’re watching how the jumps ride put in a certain way. You can say, ‘I like that, I don’t it.’ I think we’re always learning about course design every day.”

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