We are at the end of the road for course walks in 2017. The final walk will take us around the $150,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier and the course designer will be Guilherme Jorge (BRA).

Gui was the course designer for the 2016 Olympic Games and is no stranger on any circuit in the world today. The venue is indoors and the ring would be considered one of the best medium sized indoor arenas on the east coast of North America.

The city of Toronto is a favourite of many of the leading riders at this time of the year. There is decent prize money and a fair schedule of events for six days and enough classes to warrant more than one horse. The Royal York Hotel is not a minor factor in encouraging the riders to compete here.

The starting field tonight will host 21 competitors and all will compete. This is a very strong starting field and will host the #1 and #2 leading riders in the world at the start of this event. Based on the starting field and having received the specifications for the course this will be a very strong course. There will be 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts. The time allowed will be set at 78 seconds and will not be changed. There will be NO shaved cups in the course. The course will show 1 liverpool oxer, a wall, a triple bar, a triple combination and 1 double combination. There will be 1 short pole vertical. We will not see a plank jump and there will be no water jump (world cup). The absence of the 18mm yellow cups is unfortunate but once again there were No shaved in the course tonight.

There is a very good crowd on hand for the class (not as good as opening Saturday) and they were treated to a very good event. The Royal Winter Fair has been and still the best of its kind on the Eastern seaboard. We should now be ready to walk the $150,000 Longines World Cup qualifier.

#1 vertical 1.50m or 5ft and a short turn away from the in-gate saw one rider end his evening very early as this was the only fence that he had down.

#2 oxer 1.47/1.50m or 4.11/5ft comes from #1 on the right rein and with no given distance. This jump was not faulted on the evening.

#3 oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft comes on the full turn left and was faulted and kissed mother earth on one occasion.

#4a vertical comes from #3 on the left rein and on a distance of 22.5m or 73.9ft and never got the chance to kiss mother earth.

#4b oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #4a on a distance of 7.9m or 25.9ft and fell from grace one time.

#5 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the right rein directly away from the in-gate and tumbled to the floor one time.

#6 triple bar 1.55/1.90m or 5.1/6.3ft comes on the continuing right rein with no given distance and was not faulted on the evening.

#7 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes in a straight line from #6 with a distance of 17.8m or 58.3ft and fell to the floor two times.

#8 oxer 1.55/1.10m or 5.1/3.6ft comes on the full turn back on the left rein and sought relief from the top cups one time.

#9 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the right rein with no given distance and remained intact for the first round.

#10 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes in a straight line from #9 with a distance of 15.2m or 49.9ft. Located at the in-gate and on a flat 3 strides there were no problems at this location.

#11a oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes on the full turn on the right rein and posed a problem for two riders and we also had one rider with two refusals and therefor elimination at this obstacle.

#11b vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft with a distance of 11m or 36ft from #11a and was the most faulted fence on the evening with five failures to remain in the top cups.

#11c oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #11b with a distance of 7.9m or 25.9ft and was pushed to the floor two times.

#12 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #11c on the left rein with no given distance and ended the evening for two entries.

#13 oxer 1.53/1.60m or 5.1/5.3ft come on the left turn and being the final fence in the first round also ended the evening for 4 riders. Two of the four riders faulting here were also clear to the final fence.

The final tally of the first round saw six clear rounds advance to the jump off with seven rides of four faults, five with eight and one nine faults and one with twelve. There was one rider eliminated (two refusals) and there were no falls and no vw’s.
Gui has given the spectators at the Royal this year great sport and the riders excellent courses. It is difficult to design outdoors all year and then come indoors and achieve consistent results unless you are at the top of your game. Gui is at the top of his game. It was refreshing to see many of the jumps consist of more fillers and less of the accepted pole and plank construction. For the first time this year in our walks we saw the number of faults on the course come equally at the verticals and the oxers with 11 verticals coming into play and 12 oxers being faulted. This shows tremendous balance throughout the course with an even distribution of the difficulty. The time allowed was not an issue and did not need to be. With good use of the height and width the course did not have a strong technical factor and it did not need it as the results did show. In a group of riders this good with these great horses and a strong course if the best in the world at this time is your eventual winner then you know that your job was extremely well done. Great job Guilherme and I know that we will see you in Florida soon.

This brings to a close the 2017 walks and it has been great fun bringing them to you in this format. I will be walking courses with you in 2018 and I am always looking for better ways to bring them to you. If you have any suggestions to make this more informative and to include more information that you would like to see please let me know. I know that I will see some of you on the WEF circuit and so for now have a merry Christmas.
I am Dave Ballard.