There’s a distinct sense of déjà vu walking the CCI4*-S course for The Fork here at Tryon International Equestrian Center, as much of Capt. Mark Phillips’ track resembles his course for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games — sans the much-discussed long uphill pull at the end.
Many of the same tricky combinations are identical or extremely similar to the WEG course: the influential water complex featuring the boat and waterfall up-bank, the double squirrels, and multiple questions with skinnies set on accuracy-demanding downhill approaches.
For Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, who came to grief at the boat in the water at WEG last year and sit third here at The Fork going into cross country, it’s a chance for redemption.
“That water jump rode surprisingly tough, not only for me but for others. I think it’s going to be a bit easier because a lot of it had to do with the buses and the music and the tents and the people who were right up against the jumps,” Boyd said. “Definitely a lot of horses got distracted, and then all of a sudden the jump was in front of them, so that’s not there this year. I think it should ride a bit better, but it’s a world championship fence that caught some of the best in the world out, so it’s a great opportunity for these horses to ride around a true international track.”
Like the WEG course, there are numerous black flag options to give greener combinations more opportunities to execute a clear round. But for pairs who want to catch the optimum time of 6 minutes, 35 seconds, taking the direct routes will be paramount. The undulating terrain also makes the time more difficult to catch on this twisty, winding track — only three pairs managed it in the CCI4*-S last year.
Liz Halliday-Sharp leads after show jumping with Fernhill By Night, better known as “Blackie,” and sits second with Deniro Z, who is preparing for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Blackie is coming off a win at Carolina International two weeks ago, and Liz’s goal is to keep the hot streak alive.
“Blackie goes to every event trying to win — that’s all we do with him now. He’s 16 now and doesn’t run a lot, so we’ll give it my best shot. I think he’s up to it, and feeling the best he’s ever felt in his life,” Liz said.
“For Deniro, my plan is very much focused on Kentucky now. I wouldn’t say I’m going to go out and be very slow, but I’m not going to go out and be like a mad person. Most importantly, I want that rideability and to take jumps out of stride that can come out of stride.”
The footing feels fantastic thanks to steady rain yesterday morning, and we are in for a thrilling day of cross country tomorrow. CCI4*-S cross country starts at 11:40 p.m. There is no live stream, but I will be running live updates here on EN. Scroll down for a fence-by-fence preview of the CCI4*-S course. Go Eventing.