Chardon was second to go in the morning and put down a wonderful performance which was awarded by the international Ground Jury with a score of 35.97 penalty points to go into first place. With the Swedish warmblood geldings Isovlas Tango and Isovlas Paganini in the lead of his team and the Dutch warmblood horses Zidane and Whooper in the wheel, Chardon produced a near faultless dressage test.
"It was a disadvantage that I had to start so early," Chardon said. "Normally the judges give better points later in the day and on the second day. I was determined to drive a good test to put the pressure on Chester Weber. I had a very good feeling and I am very pleased with my score. The extensions could have been a bit more powerful and one of my leader horses dribbled briefly in the walk, but I am very pleased!"
Chardon has been Dutch National Champion 21 times and has won medals in four World Equestrian Games, including Team and Individual Gold.
"I have good horses. As part of their training we ride them three times a week, this gives them their light feel and responsiveness which is so important," Chardon said. "We are very happy with our test and are looking forward to the marathon competition. The course is very technical and long, with long gallops. I am looking forward to a good fight on Saturday."
At the end of the afternoon, the USA's top favourite and silver medal winner in Beesd 2008, Chester Weber, scored exactly the same mark as Chardon. Weber drove a nice test, but the rein back was not faultless, which probably cost the eight-times US four-in-hand champion precious penalty points. Weber drove his mixed team of Dutch and Belgian warmblood geldings and a Polish bred horse with which he set a world record score at the CAI-A in Riesenbeck in 2008.
"The movements went fantastic, my horses really woke up in the stadium," Weber said. "I was disappointed with my rein back, but the extensions went very well. It is wonderful to drive in this stadium with so many spectators.
"My horses are fit and in top form and I am looking forward to the marathon. My marathon trainer is Dutch driver and fellow competitor at the WEG Koos de Ronde. He is probably one of the best marathon drivers in the world."
Weber has won eight consecutive US. National Championships and has a Team Silver Medal from the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Weber mentioned that he may have contributed a little bit to the success of Chardon since he drives the talented KWPN gelding Whooper in his team. Whooper's sire is Sir Sinclair, who is owned by Chester's second cousin who owns the Iron Spring Farm.
Dutch all-round driver Theo Timmerman, who celebrated his 46th birthday yesterday, drove his best test of the season with his team of Holsteiner, Hannoverian and KWPN geldings, to move into third place. His score of 40.19 belies the youth of his team, as the oldest horse is merely nine, and his two wheel horses have only been working together this year. Timmerman also credited his strong dressage performance to his KWPN horse Valentino, who is owned by USA's North Carolina based Seth and Patsy Wooten.
Timmerman said he thought it was the best test he had driven all season. "And they can even do better! This team has not been together very long. Two horses were in my team at the World championships in Beesd 2008 and the other two were added afterwards. It takes time to get them to this high level and I expect even more of them in two years' time. The rein back could have been more fluent and my left leader horse cantered for a moment, but I do forgive him for this," Timmerman said.
The remaining 12 competitors, including favourites Boyd Exell (AUS) and Tucker Johnson (USA), will drive their dressage tests tomorrow. The marathon, with eight beautifully laid out obstacles designed by World Championship course designer Richard Nicoll from the USA, will take place on Saturday, 9 October. The final obstacle driving competition is scheduled for Sunday, 10 October.