10/10 riders surveyed agree: Derek Di Grazia‘s championship cross country courses are no joke … as usual. After two decades of designing the course here at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International Three-Day, this year is his last as Fair Hill bids adieu to the long-standing four-star in order to make way for the new five-star next fall (which will be designed by Ian Stark). But don’t worry, he’s not out of a job — Derek will stay busy designing for the Kentucky Three-Day event and the Tokyo Olympics next year, to name a few.
The CCI4*-L track runs the the same direction as last year, but many of the combinations have been shuffled in order to give the course a different feel. Riders will have plenty of work to do right out of the start box as the first combination and first water complex comes early on course with Fence 5AB, the Frog Pond.
The second combination comes up quickly at Fence 7, where riders will need to be able to bring their horses back after an uphill gallop to Fence 6, the Snake, so that they can successfully navigate the downhill-sloping A-B-C elements of the Shady Grove.
Riders should be able to find a nice gallop to Fence 8, the Potting Shed, before making a decision about which option to take at Fence 9AB, the Stone Cottages. Riders who opt for the direct route will need to have their lines planned well in advance in order to have a good shot at the B element, a big right-handed open corner.
There are good gallop stretches between fences 9, 10, 11AB — the Chesapeake Water — and 12. The combination at Fence 13 may be the biggest change in course design from previous years. The A-B-C-D combination will require a positive ride into the coffin complex so that horses can maintain their power over the ditch and up the slop to the C element brush, before exiting the complex via the D element, a left-handed brush corner.
Fences 14 and 15 are “let up” fences, if you’re the kind of rider who consider massive houses and oxers to be breathers. Competitors will loop back over Fence 16AB, the Persimmon Turn, before heading down over Fence 17 to the William duPont, Jr. Main Arena where they will tackle Fence 18AB, The Dutta Double.
Horses will then gallop past the vendor area and Kids’ Corner and may potentially be able to make up some time between fences 19 and 22. While competitors are near the end of the course at this point, they’re far from home-free as there is plenty left to do with the last few fences coming up quickly and less than a minute and half left on their watches if they want to make time.
Fences 23 and 24 are both A-B combinations that require riders to keep their potentially tired horses organized and accurate if they want to cross the finish flags fault-free after jumping the fences 25 and 26, the last obstacles on course. Special thanks to Holly Covey for the fantastic course photos!
Cross country begins tomorrow morning with the CCI3*-L division first our on course at 9:00am. You can view the CCI3*-L course here. The CCI4*-L will head out course after lunch. Click here for ride times for both divisions. Both divisions will be live streamed thanks to US Equestrian!