Cross country designer Capt Mark Philips reflects on this year’s course.
This year’s cross country has a very different look as the course heads out past Burghley House to the main arena at the beginning rather than to the Leaf Pit.
The Olympic Horse Shoe will hopefully bring good luck to all starters and Daniel Lambert remains sitting on his Sofa in front of the House. The Picnic Table just past the huge Wellingtonia tree is new and big and the first taste of the 4 star that is “Burghley”.
Then it’s into the main arena for the first combination fence. The Lord Burghley Hurdles are new with the decorative water trays beneath. These are more spooky than technically difficult and riders will find it much harder to get their horses to concentrate as they bend on four strides left then four strides right at this early stage.
It’s then down through the Picnic area for the first of two visits to Discovery Valley sweeping past the end of the ditch riders will need to be riding forward up the steep bank to take the Discovery Bonnet at quite an acute angle before taking a forward four strides to the left of the Planet or a steady four to the right of the Planet. There will be much variety here as some may even choose to bend for five strides. Either way the four-star examination has started.
The Elephant Trap is reversed but approaching downhill off the turn looks much more daunting than when it was a total freebie when ridden in the other direction.
There is then a totally new loop to the Classics Leaf Pit. Riders have the choice of a short or long approach to an impressive table before applying the brakes in front of that evergreen drop down that no rider enjoys. As gravity takes over riders can only hope and point at the tables in the bottom, which are unchanged from last year. Back to Discovery Valley and a very different question.
The first brush Discovery, again has to be angled, but it has a very horse friendly approach and riders have plenty of time to show horses the line. However it is then three strides down to angle over the ditch for another bending three strides up the bank to two angled skinny hedges on a one-stride distance. These are quite missable off this approach so a Trunk at the last one is an alternative for those in trouble.
Once through the Jubilee Plantation and past the four-minute mark riders should really enjoy the next minute over Herbert’s Hollow and the massive Herbert’s Hedge and Oxer . The Land Rover Trout Hatchery though, is once again a real four-star question and the start of the most difficult section of the course.
There’s a tricky downhill approach to the first Cabin where riders will really have to throttle back the speed. It’s then pedal to the metal time through the lower Hatchery to gain enough momentum to jump the second Cabin and the three strides to the Brush Corner in the top Hatchery. All sorts of things can go wrong here so we have three numbers enabling riders to embark on a more circuitous option if they prefer.
The Captain’s Log (is a bit of a rider frightener but should not cause problems but the HSBC Maltings Branch is more problematic. Riders will need a good jump at the first Red House to get a positive jump at an angle across the White Rails in order to put a small bend in four strides to a corner that is at a frighteningly acute angle if riders choose to make a straight approach. I believe we will also see riders opt for a safer five strides or even the alternative here, meanwhile the White Oxer that follows does not get smaller and is just a massive Burghley fence.
The Rolex Combination is brand new. The first part is a Vicarage Vee type question and there is only one line. Riders must not think about the hedge that follows on a bending two strides later until they have all four feet safely across the ditch. There is of course an easier long route.
The Land Rover Dairy Farm is also a significant challenge this year to finish this, the most difficult section of the course. Riders must power up onto the Mound to jump the scary looking Triple Brush on the top before going down the hill around the tree on a bending five stride line to another very missable Triple Brush. Once again there is a time consuming alternative.
Now riders can start to relax and think about the clock as they go up to the Keepers Cottage and the Cottestmore Leap which is just as big but a little softer than last year. It’s then the fastest bit of the course down Winners Avenue and the Pardubice.
All must slow up though for a slightly old fashioned Capability’s Cutting as the rails in must be respected, especially after such a long fast gallop. Coming out the other side of the Cutting is always energy sapping so there are three options, an oxer, slightly slower over some rails, or longer still downhill over another set of rails.
Burghley Station is unchanged and is another Burghley classic that does not get any smaller. The Anniversary Splash is not too frightening as the Log in and the Owl Hole rode well last year. The Greylag Goose would not be everybody’s favourite though so there is a slightly slower option of her Nest that many may take once out of the water.
Again new this year it is then back into the Lake and under the Lion Bridge over the dinghies. On a bending line they are not so difficult but they will very much slow up the race for home. It’s then back in front of the House over the Flower Frame and the Land Rover Finale to the welcome site of ‘home’.
This year’s course is different but it is very much “Burghley.” The winner will be a true champion and thoroughly deserve the £60,000 of Land Rover prize money.