Fresh from winning his sixth Four-in-Hand World Championship a month ago, Australia’s Boyd Exell set out to take a 10th FEI Driving World Cup™ title by emphatically leading from the front to win the first leg, with former champions Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) second and Koos de Ronde (NED) third.
With French events bookending the 2022-23 series, the tally has started in deciding who goes to February’s final in Bordeaux. Gaining a wild card entry – which means his result won’t go into the qualification points pot – Boyd unequivocally showed why he is so hard to beat.
It was an early start on Saturday morning for Competition One. With five confirmed entries (whose points count towards the series ranking) and two wild cards, it was Benjamin Aillaud who opened, followed by Boyd, then Ijsbrand, Jérôme Voutaz (SUI), Dries Degrieck (BEL), Koos and Chester Weber (USA). Still fine tuning their performances, all knocked balls but the order for the second round was set.
All seven came out again and the times from round one rolled on as the clocks started and they tacked a slightly reduced version of Jeroen Houterman’s (NED) 13-obstacle course.
Retaining his superb form from Pratoni, Ijsbrand put in a blazing run to be the first to go clear. But the harder Boyd is pushed, the better he performs, and with his trusted team of Emma Olsson – currently nominated for the Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award in this year’s FEI Awards – and long term supporter Hugh Scott-Barrett behind him, he not only drove clear, but smashed the time, shaving 4.41 seconds off Ijsbrand to finish first on day one.
Competition Two on Sunday morning saw the slate wiped clean and all started on zero again, but Saturday’s standings gave the running order. Unlike the previous day, only the top three came back for what was the fourth run over the course for them, with the ‘F’ gates removed from the marathon-type obstacles numbers 5 and 9.
Dries improved his performance to get into the mix with a fast time of 148.05 but with a ball down and 4 seconds to add, he went behind Koos who was clear on 150.38, followed by a delighted Ijsbrand, clear on 149.08. Although he knocked an early ball, Boyd’s 143.97 was fast enough to give him a cushion and he retained the top spot.
In the finale, Koos drove accurately, with nothing to add, to finish on his time of 150.08. Ijsbrand found even tighter lines for a clear in 145.79, which meant Boyd had to raise his game – which he did. Finding another stratospheric gear, his streamlined horses worked as one and kept their momentum throughout, to end on 140.82.
Stating how delighted he was with his horses Boyd said, “I was thrilled to get the invitation as a wild card. We’ve got three competitions in a row and although the horses are fit, it’s the competitions that get them competition fit.”
Full Results here.