Here are five things you need to know about Derek di Grazia’s track…
1. The feel of the undulations and the route of the track is reminiscent of the London Olympics. It’s a twisty course, which doubles back on itself multiple times. There are no big hills, but there are multiple small ups and downs and horses will be on a camber or a turn for a significant proportion of the time.
2. Derek has been clever with the numbering of the fences. There are four combinations (fence 8abcd, fence 9abc, fence 14abcd, fence 20abcd) where he has arranged it so that if a rider jumps in on the direct line but something goes wrong, they are limited in how much they can change their mind and go long without collecting a penalty.
For example, at the Lone Tree Moguls, the direct route is an oxer (14ab) and then a corner (14cd). The long route is a brush-topped box (14a), a corner (14bc) and a skinny box (14d). If something goes wrong for you over the oxer (14ab), you still have to tackle the direct corner out (14cd) – you can’t divert to the alternative corner, because doing so would involve jumping element b twice, and that’s not allowed.
3. The Tokyo Olympics cross-country course is beautiful. British course-builder David Evans and his team have done a spectacular job on the presentation of the fences. David’s signature carvings are much in evidence, too (see the Dragon at fence 17 below). The fences have a Tokyo theme, with names including the Chopsticks at fence three, the Mount Fuji Drop at fence 16abc and the Bullet Trains at fence 22ab.
4. As you’d expect at an Olympics, where the riders in the field have a wide variety of experience, there are plenty of long routes. Many of them offer a wider line through the combination, perhaps with an extra jumping effort, rather than circling round in an extremely time-consuming way. This is a positive for the horses as it will avoid their rhythm being broken.
From the point of view of the competition, much will depend on how tight the time is – if it proves a tough target, riders in the top teams will need to save every second and so the pressure will be on to take the long routes. If the time proves more lenient, even those who want to be competitive may be able to take the odd alternative if they want to play it safe.
5. It turns out it’s not called Sea Forest for no reason. Much of the track is indeed through trees and the sound of the cicadas is almost overwhelming at times walking the course.
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.