Boyd Exell (AUS) has entered the history books by winning the FEI World Cup™ Driving Final for the fourth consecutive time. Dutch drivers IJsbrand Chardon (NED) and Koos de Ronde (NED) fought like lions but were unable to beat Exell, who was simply unbeatable.
Class of His Own
Last starter Boyd Exell felt the pressure on his shoulders despite his 8-second head start on Chardon after the first competition on Friday evening. Boyd however proved to be in a class of his own again, cheered on by the many enthusiastic spectators. The triple FEI World Cup™ Driving Champion put down an amazingly fast and clear round with his solid team of horses and widened the gap further on Chardon and De Ronde, who were in second and third place.
Seven Times FEI World Cup™ Driving Champion Horse
Boyd tried out some new horses and new team structures at the start of the season and at Budapest he was even forced to use a wheeler horse as the lead. Boyd has won all four competitions this season where he could win World Cup points. At his last competition in Mechelen (BEL), Boyd used his super horse Bill again for the first time as the lead. The 23-year old gelding makes a true difference to Boyd’s team, allowing him to go even faster. German four-in-hand drivers Christoph Sandmann and Michael Freund previously owned Bill. Freund won the FEI World Cup™ Driving title three times with Bill and with Boyd winning the World Cup title four times with the gelding, Bill is a seven-time World Cup winner!
A ‘10’ for the Course
German course designer Falk Böhnisch had designed a perfect course for the Final, with speed and technical elements and enough options for different routes. After the first night, Böhnisch had slightly changed some angles to improve the course even more. Böhnisch got a lot of credit from the drivers for this and for daring to make the changes. Böhnisch had taken out several gates in the winning round, which resulted in an excellent show for the world’s top three indoor drivers. Exell stayed focussed until the very last moment and finished the job without any mistakes. As soon as he passed the last gate he knew the FEI World Cup™ Driving 2011/2012 was his once more and Boyd shared his happiness with the Bordeaux public.
Runner up IJsbrand Chardon fought for his second place by putting down two perfectly clear rounds with his experienced team of Lipizzaner horses. Chardon finished third on the first night and knew it would be very hard to beat Boyd, but tried everything he could to put pressure on his biggest opponent. By driving a very clear and fast first round, Chardon also put the pressure on Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) who was in second position. Dobrovitz was driving the same team of horses as on the first night, including his new star Horus Alom leading his team. Dobrovitz however knocked two balls down and lost his chances to a top-three placing. Dobrovitz finished in fifth place, two seconds behind Tomas Eriksson (SWE).
Koos de Ronde unexpectedly had to use his spare leader horse Night in the wheel position after his horse Mario was injured on the first night. De Ronde drove a steady and clear round laying the foundation for his third place. Both Tomas Eriksson and Jozsef Dobrovitz tried to beat De Ronde’s score but were unable to do so. This made Koos de Ronde move up to a place in the Winning Round which he had not expected. The 2010 gold team medallist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky knew that he had nothing to lose since the gap between him and Chardon was over 13 seconds. De Ronde had the disadvantage of being the first starter in the Winning Round and lost some seconds when he missed a gate in one of the two marathon-type obstacles but was very pleased afterwards with his podium place in Bordeaux.
Wild card driver Thibault Coudry (FRA)was the winner of the FEI World Cup™ Driving in Bordeaux in 2009 and even though he was the crowd’s favourite, the 31-year-old driver finished in seventh place, just one second behind Zoltan Lazar from Hungary who had not been lucky in Bordeaux.
New Final Formula
The new formula for the Final was well received by most of the drivers. The FEI World Cup™ Driving Final in Bordeaux turned into an incredible competition over two days. The spectators were on the edge of their seats until the very last second because even though Boyd was in the lead, just one knock down could have made a huge difference to the winning result.
Boyd Exell (AUS): “My tactics were to first monitor what the other drivers did. I went steady until the fourth gate and I picked it up after that. In the Winning Round my team got faster on me and I had to decide whether to fight them or steer them. I decided to let them run but I did not want to make any careless mistakes so I held them back in the very last part of the course. I am very thrilled about my performance, which I owe very much to my team of horses and the team of people who have been with me all season.”
IJsbrand Chardon (NED): “I lost the competition already on the first night. It was impossible to make up for my 8.48 second deficit on Boyd. The best driver has won, Boyd was just better than me. I drove safely today in the Winning Round as I knew I was too far behind on Boyd. But I am pleased with my horses, I have done everything I could and we trained very hard to achieve this.”
Koos de Ronde (NED): “It was only the third time for Night as a wheeler horse. He felt good during the warm up and I knew that if he had made the difficult turn in the first obstacle I could go for it. It felt really good during the course and I was able to speed. It's given me a real boost to win a podium place. This was my original goal when I came here but I had lost hope yesterday evening when I found out Mario was injured.”
Results FEI World Cup™ Driving Final Bordeaux 4 February 2012:
Boyd Exell (AUS) 206.73
IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 225.05
Koos de Ronde (NED) 266.62
Tomas Eriksson (SWE) 136.35
Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) 138.62
Zoltan Lazar (HUN) 165.65
Photo Caption: Boyd Exell (AUS) has written history at Bordeaux by winning the FEI World Cup™ Driving title for the fourth consecutive time. ©Rinaldo de Craen/FEI