Oliver Townend commented: “It’s designed by, in my opinion, one of the best designers in the world. He’s got a tremendous amount of feel because he’s ridden around so many [five-stars] himself, but he isn’t frightened to make it big and it’s definitely big. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s horse friendly.”
US rider Liz Halliday-Sharp commented that the track is “kind of old school in places”.
She said: “It’s really ditchy and up and down the mounds, like the coffin [Bodgie’s Hill & Dale at fence 15abc] is sort of your old school get in there and be gritty coffin and the Maryland Timber Rails going up the hill, that’s the sort of thing we saw back in the old days. He’s embraced some of that and that is a little bit Ian’s course-design, I think, which I don’t mind. I think it’s kind of interesting and it’s definitely a different feel from the other five-stars I’ve done.
“It’s a real five-star and is very challenging at the end. I think he’s asking a lot of tired horses. So staying on the ball all the way to the end is going to be really important.”
Will Coleman echoed Liz’s thoughts on the end of the Maryland 5 Star cross-country course, saying: “You’re answering questions pretty much all the way up to 10 minutes 45 seconds through an 11 minute 30 second course. The going should be good, which I think will be really helpful.
“I think he’s stepped the jumping up from last year. There’s more jumping to be done and what he’s put out there is big and testing.”
Maryland 5 Star cross-country course: new layout
Their compatriot Phillip Dutton, a seven-time Olympian, said that he likes the new start and finish location from the horse’s point of view.
“I think the first section is quite fast – there’s not a lot to slow you up,” he said. “I can see people getting up on time there and then it’ll be a case of seeing how much horse they got left at the end.”
New Zealand’s Tim Price agreed: “I like the layout a lot better this time with where he’s got the start and the finish and how that impacts the energy requirements around the course.
“I think it’s maybe a bit bigger in places than last year and also last year, the time was quite easy, a little bit too easy. And I don’t think that’s the case this year, it’s wheeled a lot tighter.
“So that’s going to put more emphasis on the guys that have travelled over from Europe. You want to make the most of your trip, so you know you want to be quick and that puts a different element on everything on the course – everything that’s big becomes bigger, the hills become steeper and the technicality coming home on a tired horse becomes more extreme. So it’s a tough course this year, I think.”
Recent world silver medallist Tamie Smith said: “It looks like you’d better be able to see a distance from a long way away. There are lots of straight lines and galloping, so not a lot to back them off before the combinations. On horses where the fences don’t back them up, the riders are going to have quite a bit of work to do.”
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