With a new date and new divisions, the MARS Great Meadow International also welcomed David O’Connor as the new cross country course designer in 2019. He takes the reins from Mike Etherington-Smith, who served the venue in its first four years.
The track remains similar to past years, with the start and finish only slightly relocated on the steeplechase side of the property. There are 23 numbered fences with 33 jumping efforts sprinkled across the Northern Virginia countryside, well known for its rolling terrain which can make the time more challenging for competitors. Historically, around 10-12% of riders complete inside the time, so we’ll be closely watching our pathfinders to see how David’s track compares.
Previous courses here have seen a clear jumping rate trending around 70%, but last year saw that number drop significantly, with only 40% getting around without jumping penalties. Almost half the field fell victim to the brush corners inside the ring, which are featured again on this course. Just outside the Fleming arena, the MARS brush corners (11AB) are now flagged to allow a direct, more challenging line, or a longer, more curved alternate route.
Cross country for the CCI4*-S division begins Sunday at noon. You can watch it all via EQSportsNet’s live stream. Scroll on to follow our fence-by-fence preview: