Boyd Exell and team during the Dressage phase of Polaris Driving competition. (Sportfot)
The world’s top-ranked driver Boyd Exell has his sights set on another FEI Driving World Championship title, starting in fine fashion by winning the Dressage phase of the Polaris RANGER Driving competition at the WEG on Friday. The Australian left the arena on a score of 31.68 besting his hottest opponents, home favorite Chester Weber and Dutch multi-medalist Ijsbrand Chardon.
The United States team with Misdee Wrigley-Miller (ranked 4th) and James Fairclough (11th) along with Weber are leading the team ranking on 77.10 in front of the Dutch (87.43) and France (101.40).
Exell put in a spectacular test, as his team of matching dark horses perfected simultaneous movement extended trot and stood motionless for the required eight seconds of the halt. Scoring a 10 for presentation, he built on all the experience gathered in winning four world champion titles, two of them back-to-back at previous WEG competitions.
“I have a super experienced team and did only ten minutes of trotting to prepare them then I had them resting in the shade. You don’t want to leave your best driving out of the arena,” said Exell. “They were so powerful in the arena. It felt like turning a V8 into a V10 engine.”
Chester Weber, Silver medalist in France in 2014 behind Exell, had to drive in right after his strongest opponent.
“That is only motivating me. My only concern was that the crowd would be loud, but when it was my turn we had the whisper campaign going on to all US fans to keep quieter. We have built up for this all season. A score of 35 – I could not be more pleased.”
Last driver out was Dutch veteran Ijsbrand Chardon, finishing third in the field of 19 drivers. His rein-back over three meters scored 8.1 – more than both, Exell and Weber, but was only on 8.8 for presentation.
“Ten points behind Boyd – that is a lot. We have to take every risk in Marathon and cones now.”
Driving is a third-generation family affair for the Chardon’s. His wife Paulien and one of his daughters are back steppers for the older Ijsbrand. For the first time in his storied career, Ijsbrand is joined on the strong Dutch team, with his son Bram (25).
“We help each other and then he makes his race and I make mine. Together we aim for the team.”
Marathon competition will open with Phase A at 10:15 a.m. EST on the White Oak Course at TIEC, using the same undulating terrain as the Cross-Country track for the discipline of Eventing held during the first week of WEG. Phase B will begin with the first combination at approximately 10:45 a.m. EST.