Riders are describing the Rio Olympics cross-country course as “a proper championship track”.
British travelling reserve Tina Cook said: “It’s the most difficult course I’ve seen at a Games for a while — harder than Hong Kong or London — with the terrain, the questions asked and the size of the fences.”
The Olympics is run at four-star level, although in a slightly modified format to a regular four-star, but traditionally the track is often not really up to that standard. But that isn’t the case this time, with the course-designer, France’s Pierre Michelet, providing a true test.
Canada’s Jessica Phoenix, who will be the pathfinder, said: “It’s not four-star in height, but it’s definitely a four-star in technicality. It’ll suit A Little Romance — she’s like a little sports car.”
Australia’s Sam Griffiths commented: “The course is really tough, with questions the whole way round from the start to the last. The terrain makes it difficult and you’re going to have to be on your A game to go well.”
Riders have picked out fence six, a double of right-handed corners, as likely to be particularly influential.
The optimum time (10min 15sec) will also play a part — if it’s tight, which is likely, riders are more likely to be forced into mistakes.
“I think it’s a strong course, but very safe as run-offs and time-faults will be the order of the day [rather than falls],” said New Zealand’s Tim Price. “Pierre has used the terrain well and it’ll be difficult to be clear and in the time.”
Britain’s Gemma Tattersall said: “It’s a serious track that wouldn’t look out of place at Badminton or Burghley. It’s very hilly. We’ll all have to have our serious brave pants on.”
The weather may also affect the results — it is forecast to be 24ºC on cross-country day, although today temperatures are around 29ºC.
“We will see horses coming home hot, but they are super fit and there are plenty of places to cool them, so I don’t expect to see any problems because of the heat,” said Tim Price.