A proper challenge: that’s what the event riders are saying about USA designer Derek di Grazia’s Olympic cross-country course which will be ridden tomorrow.

“It’s a proper challenge, and I don’t mean just with the height of the fences. The layout of the course, the flow — it’s going to be a challenge to get the time,” said Australia’s Andrew Hoy, who lies equal 13th overnight with his team in sixth. “But I’m sitting on one of the greatest cross-country horses in the world and we’ve got a wonderful relationship.

“I believe it’s achievable, but only time will tell.”

Britain’s best-placed rider after dressage, Oliver Townend (second individually) added that the track — a shortened course compared to previous Olympics — is “very intense”.

“You’re always on the climb or camber or in the water, or in a combination,” he said. “The questions are extremely fair; it’s very horse friendly and if you took each fence individually there wouldn’t be too many problems.

“But when you add the heat, the terrain, the Olympic pressure and then speed on top of that, it’s going to be causing a lot of trouble and it’s going to be very difficult to get the time.”

The USA’s Boyd Martin, lying 20th individually, echoed Oliver’s thoughts about the optimum time.

“Cross-country tomorrow is so difficult, it’s so hard to get the time but I think we [Team USA] are in with a chance if we can deliver three good rounds with three good seasoned horses that are older and experienced,” he said. “We’ve nothing to lose by going out there and giving it a crack.”

New Zealand’s Tim Price, lying fifth, added that “it feels like a proper three-phase test to us this time. Mainly because of what Derek has done it’s going to be a good competition for us all.”

‘You need a lot of luck’

Germany’s Michael Jung added that his team has the added benefit of such a good draw (second last to go).

“We have a very good start position. Our first rider is number 14, so before she [Julia Krajewski] goes some nice information will have come through which we can use,” explained Michael.

“You need a lot of luck with the weather and other things you can’t control, but definitely it’s good if you to start towards the end.”

Michael added that his horse, Chipmunk FRH, is “a very powerful horse, but very nice to ride cross-country”.

“This helps a lot — you don’t need too much preparation before the fence,” he continued.

“The time is very tough tomorrow so you need good communication with your horse. In the end they have to listen, and you need to be focused and to concentrate.”

As German anchorman, Michael will be the penultimate rider out of the startbox on Sunday morning in Japan. 

Britain holds the team lead, with Germany just 2.1 penalties behind and New Zealand in bronze.

Individually, Michael Jung leads, ahead of Britain’s Oliver Townend and China’s Alex Hua Tian.

A total of 61 riders are expected to start altogether, with the cross-country kicking off at 7.45am JST (11.45pm Saturday night in the UK).

Main photo: Australia’s Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos. Credit: FEI/Christophe Taniére

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