|Exell driving his Dream Team to victory in Hannover. Photo: FEI/Rinaldo de Craen|
The Double World Cup Champion and recent World Four-in-Hand Champion won the first competition of the season in Hannover, finishing ahead of Hungary’s József Dobrovitz and IJsbrand Chardon from the Netherlands.
The 10th season of the FEI World Cup™ Driving kicked off traditionally during the German Classics show where the drivers and their horses received a warm welcome from the enthusiastic spectators at the near-capacity Hannover Messe Halle.
Starting just two weeks after the conclusion of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, many of the drivers were without their usual carriages, which were still being transported from America.
Dutchman Koos de Ronde was forced to compete with a marathon carriage he last used during the 2008/2009 season. Chardon used a carriage he had never competed with before, while Exell borrowed the carriage of his friend and fellow competitor Robert Wilkinson and Christoph Sandmann used the marathon carriage of his compatriot Christian Plücker.
József Dobrovitz was the first starter, the organiser of the CAIO in Vecsés (HUN) making up for his disappointing performance on the first day, by driving a clear round in a quick time. Dobrovitz had added the experienced black Orlov Trotter Spitfire, previously owned and driven by Michael Freund and Tucker Johnson, to his team of Lipizzaner horses. Dobrovitz completed the course without error to put the pressure on the following six competitors.
IJsbrand Chardon, who bought Dobrovitz’ Lipizzaner team last season, came close to the Hungarian’s fast time but having knocked down two balls did not expect to qualify for the Winning Round.
However, the Dutch competitor was forced to stay in the arena after he passed the finish line when it was discovered that Exell had suffered equipment failure. A bolt had fallen off the leader bars of the Australian driver’s carriage which needed to be replaced. Whilst Exell received help from his fellow competitors Chardon gave an impromptu performance for the near-sell out crowd.
Having fixed his carriage, Exell drove a magnificent round; fast and close to the obstacles, using every centimetre of the ground he beat Dobrovitz’ time by two seconds.
Dutch driver Koos de Ronde was last to go but a first place finish went begging as he knocked down a ball early on. A top three finish still seemed likely as the team gold medallist from the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky continued to drive a quick round. But as he came through the final gate, De Ronde missed the finish line losing valuable seconds as he corrected his team and got them back through the line again.
Chardon went on to drive a clear Winning Round, putting the pressure on Dobrovitz, who knocked two balls down. But the Hungarian narrowly claimed the second spot by just 0.93 seconds.
Exell knew he was well ahead of his rivals but it did not stop him from putting in another fine performance. Even a risky manouvre in the last phase of the course was not enough to endanger his first win of the season. Exell and Germany’s Christoph Sandmann had however competed with wild cards so the two drivers were unable to collect World Cup points from the event.
Boyd Exell (AUS):
“I had forgotten how good my dream team is! With my horses and with Michelle my navigator, we form a great team. This is the same dream team I had in Geneva last April when I won the FEI World Cup™ Final. Being a wild card driver I used Hannover as an opportunity to try things, such as a new harness. I will transport six horses to the next four FEI World Cup events I am competing in, so I can rotate my horses,” explained Exell, who is based in Leicestershire, Great Britain.
Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN):
“The course was quite difficult, but my horses did very well. They are not very experienced yet as a team and I hope that will grow as the season continues. It was wonderful to drive in such a wonderful atmosphere with so many spectators!”
IJsbrand Chardon (NED):
“It was my first competition again with the Lipizzaner horses and I have not been able to train them much after Kentucky. But they are much easier to drive than last season. They are very fit and fresh and I was very pleased with them.”