Updated Nov. 28 with comments from course designer Mike Etherington-Smith.
Event riders will have a new fall CCI*** to look forward to in 2018, as the Ocala Jockey Club International has been approved by the Fédération Equestre Internationale to host one on the third weekend of November in Reddick, Fla.
The Ocala Jockey Club, owned by Erik and Pavla Nygaard, had a successful second year of competition, seeing an increase from 2016’s 114 starters across the CCI*, CCI** and CIC*** divisions to 178 this year, with riders from 10 countries competing.
Shelley Page of Equestrian Events LLC came on board in January as organizer, and she built upon what previous organizer Richard Trayford, of Equiventures LLC, and event director Alec Lochore created.
“It was a great event to begin with, and I think we just took it to the next level,” Page said.
Ocala did bid for a fall four-star, but the U.S. Equestrian Federation ultimately put forward the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Md., to the FEI.
Ocala was given permission to run a CCI*** two days before this year’s competition, so Page said a lot is up in the air for next year.
“We’re trying to figure out whether we run the CIC*** still, do we remove it? Just some good hard thinking to do to see what’s best for the sport,” she said. “I think after all of the bits and pieces of this event wrap up in the next week to 10 days then we’re just going to have to sit down and have a good pow wow to have that conversation.”
Mike Etherington-Smith will continue to serve as cross-country course designer for the three-star. Clayton Fredericks designed this year’s CCI** and CCI* tracks.
Etherington-Smith is thrilled to be back at the helm, and said his goal is to produce a genuine three-star course.
“It is a fabulous venue in all regards and a terrific place to design a course of any level, and we shall all have great fun putting the course together,” he said. “It has rolling terrain, mature parkland footing, and beautiful trees and affords outstanding viewing to spectators, and I am very excited by the prospect of designing the CCI there.
“Obviously the course will be longer but the same principles apply in that I want it to be a good experience for the horses and athletes that they will all benefit from,” he continued. “There will of course be some different fences, we shall take the course in to other areas of the park but still ensure that it remains spectator and user friendly with plenty of good viewing and some vantage points from which it will be possible to see lots of fences without having to move too far.”
“Alec [who served as technical delegate this year] and I talked during the event about possibly creating a different loop of cross-country that would have it not run through the main arena, so we could run show jumping at the same time that the cross-country goes,” said Page. “That would allow us to run more horses. The daylight changed a couple of weeks before, and it made it a little bit of a trick to get everybody run.
“We feel very honored that the [USEF] Eventing Technical Committee and the Competitions Committee have entrusted us with adding this level, and we’re very excited about planning it and having it next year,” she added.