Sheer Exell-ence

Three days of flawless and thrilling rounds culminated in a fourth FEI Driving World Cup Leg, presented by Eurofip International, Olympia victory for maestro Boyd Exell. The crowd in the Grand Hall was exceptionally enthusiastic, encouraging all the competing drivers to put on a spectacular performance.

“One of the most incredible things was the crowd,” said Boyd. “They are really loud and they are really with us.”

Having been treated to two days of fast and furious competition, the Grand Hall played host to an outstanding final showdown between some of the world’s top drivers and their teams.

Dutch course designer Jeroen Houterman’s course included twisting but flowing obstacles and cones requiring accurate curving to remain faultless. However, there was plenty of places for gallops as well.

“The plan was to keep everything as simple as possible. For most of the course they could go at 90 – 100 percent [speed],” said Jeroen. “But, when you go too fast, that’s when there is the risk of having a ball.”

That was certainly the case in round one, where over half the field picked up additional time penalties. Three teams hit one of the first two sets of cones.

Under the rules of this competition, only the top three from round one go forward to contest round two. They do this in reverse order of merit.

The Netherlands’ Isjbrand Chardon was first to go. Having driven one of the steadier, but clean, first rounds, he was determined to better his time and an inauspicious start to the show.

His speed certainly improved, knocking almost six seconds off his initial run’s time. However, this came at the expense of two early balls, leaving the door ajar.

“My first two days at the show were pretty bad,” said Ijsbrand, a multiple championship winner. “My mare Candy was in season at the Budapest show two weeks ago, and still wasn’t great here. I was training at 6am this morning, but it just didn’t work out the way I wanted.”

Following was fellow countryman Koos de Ronde, whose speed in round one gained him access to the drive-off despite having hit cone number two. He opted for a slightly safer approach this time and it paid off, putting him into the lead at this stage.

“Some of the cones were a little tricky and I was mad with myself [in the first round]”, he said. “But, I was more focussed in the second round.”

If the pressure is on multiple medallist Boyd to maintain his rank as the world’s best driver, he certainly didn’t show it here. However, Koos’ round wasn’t so steady that Boyd could relax.

“There was less than a cone between Koos’ time and my time in the first round,” said Boyd, who is based in Valkenswaard in The Netherlands. “So I aimed to go for the same again.”

It worked beautifully and secured the win.

Although this class carried points towards qualification for the FEI Driving World Cup final, Boyd was competing at Olympia on a Wild Card, so maximum points were passed down to Koos.

Britain’s Daniel Naprous finished sixth having had a second place at Olympia earlier in the week. He has recently recorded string results in competitions in Europe and, as a stunt rider and horse master for several TV and film productions, has a busy schedule.

“It is rather busy,” he said. “But it helps having a really great team.”