The Rolex Cross Country Course Takes Shape (and a lot of work)

This massive fallen tree that course-builder Mick Costello dragged across the Horse Park for the 2010 competition is once again on the track for 2013.

The sun shone briefly Friday morning over the Kentucky Horse Park so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to take Leo out for a quick walk so we could check out the progress being made on the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** cross country course. It truly takes a village, and year round grafting to produce one day of awesomeness. Of course there’s Course Designer Derek Di Grazia, who makes regular visits from California and who is in constant contact with Course Builder Mick Costello.  If there’s anything Mick doesn’t know about the Horse Park, it’s not worth knowing; he’s built the Rolex track since 1998, as well as the driving course for the National Championships that also take place at the Kentucky Horse Park, the 2010 WEG cross-country, and more, and is only very slightly neurotic about the footing which is why it’s always as excellent as humanly possible!

Mick and Yvonne Todd have an impromptu meeting to finalise jump details.

Yvonne has drawn the jumps for the artist’s rendering of the  course in the Rolex programme for some 30 years now, but has also lent a hand as dressage steward and much more.  The drawings need to be submitted by the end of the month for the programme to go to the printers the first week of April, and then a couple of weeks before the event Mick hopes to have the course flagged and ready. In between that time, jumps will be stained, filled with brush, in some cases moved. Flowers come in a couple of days before cross-country from Georgetown, and then need to be covered in case of overnight frost. The actual track has been roped off for some time now and Mick watches the weather carefully so he can plan his vertidraining, rolling and all the work he does on the going accordingly.

The footing is amazing, especially when you consider the time of year and the winter we’ve had.

Then the closer we get to the event, start multiplying exponentially the numbers of absolutely indispensable helpers and volunteers, some who come faithfully every year, giving up holiday time and at considerable expense, who will flock to Lexington as if to the Holy Grail and who also make the magic happen. Thank you to all the jump judges, vets, starters, timers, the control crew, the maintenance guys, the medics and emergency personnel, of course the grooms, riders and supporters, and so many people that I’m doubtless forgetting.  I wanted to post some pictures today so that we can all appreciate how much work, and  what a work in progress the course is, and also because it’s so much fun to anticipate that day just over a month away now!

The first fence – in the same position but brand new this year. Where it all starts – it’s hard not to get goosebumps when you walk the course, walk past such signature landmarks as the start, the Rolex Stadium, the Head of The Lake. The first fence where so many dreams and expectations will either take flight or crash and burn within the space of the next ten minutes, years of work have come to this.

The Tudor House is now the second fence. There aren’t actually many new fences but there’s been quite a lot of changing places.

The brush boxes at 3 and 4.  Then, in a departure from previous years, instead of turning right-handed to the pond, the track goes straight into the infield.

Past the driving hazard, and the old fence 2, the stone walls, is now in the infield.

This will be a brush to a brush coffin but there’s no ditch, just a dip

The no-ditch no brush  brush coffin!

Then you come back and do the first water, the pond.

Coming out of the pond

Going back into the infield to a massive oxer. This is partly why I wanted to post all these pictures today, and then another series in a few weeks time when they’re all dressed and finished – the difference is incredible!

Appreciating the width!

A proper coffin

The hammock is back on the course this year, and then the horses and riders gallop down to the sunken road

Sunken Road, seen from ‘behind’, horses will jump through it towards camera, then gallop on to log at top of post, double of corners, and up hill to quarry/hollow.

This is the jump at the bottom of the hollow, at quite a steep angle, looking up at the jump out.

The jump into the quarry, I’m pretty sure it will be a brush fence.

The two mounds are not being used this year, you can just see them next door to this giant table which Mick fashioned from trees in the Horse Park.  Along with the first and last fence, he tied up all the left over scraps in tidy bundles and gave them to the Campground for firewood.

The Head of the Lake – the same jump in as last year, the duck in the water and then out over this corner which will have brush on it.

Once again the riders cross back into the infield by way of the Normandy Bank and the triple skinny brush, but this year they then head back to the water, and first they must tackle one of these red cabins.

The third and final water.

Where the offset double of angled ‘horse park barns’ used to be, the Walnut Tables have taken their place, and instead…

the Horse Park Barns are now at the Final Combination, the double of ditches that used to be brushes.

The last fence is more or less the same but is actually a new jump.  After last year’s course which had been purposely designed to give the Olympic horses a trial run on a tighter, twistier track, from what you can tell at this early stage it seems to be more flowing and open this year. It’s early days for the entries too, but with William Fox-Pitt already having four horses in, all impressive and one (Cool Mountain) a former winner and WEG silver medalist it’s hard to bet against him; if you made me choose though I’ve liked Emily Beshear and Here’s To You since she did well here last year, and she’s done nothing but improve since then. After a great Blenheim last autumn she’s had a terrific Spring and would be a crowd favourite to go well too.

Emily Beshear and Here’s To You

I’ll be out at the Horse Park often in the next few weeks, and hope to bring you an update once the course is close to being ready. Go the behind the scenes crew, Go the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** and Go Three Day Eventing!


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