Boyd Exell set a new World Championship record in the driving dressage to take the lead at the Four-In-Hand. © FEI/Rinaldo Craen
Boyd Exell interview
And there is a strange twist in the competition, as there are now three tie scores in play - Chester Weber (USA) and Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) who both set a score of 35.97 penalty points yesterday for the silver position. The USA's Tucker Johnson and Dutch driver Theo Timmerman, who both finished dressage with a score of 40.19, are tied in fourth place.
The Netherlands and the United States are also tied, in contention for the team gold.
"I have never seen two ties at a world championship," said Johnson.
The ties will be put to the test Saturday with the driving marathon.
"I think you are going to see really fast driving," said Johnson. "The point for me will be driving fast enough without making a mistake; that will be the real test."
Exell was somewhat handicapped after snapping a bone in his left hand jumping a horse over a cross-country obstacle at home. "I was jumping cross-country for fun, and I fell and broke a bone in my left hand. I was struggling a bit with it yesterday, but the Aussie team got me a good kit and it was all right today. I lost my grip twice, but the leaders covered it up for me," he said.
He is hoping adrenaline will take over in the marathon tomorrow so he doesn't feel the pain.
Tucker Johnson drove his last ever dressage test at the World Equestrian Games since he will retire after this World Championship from the combined driving sport. Johnson's team included a horse Exell loaned him, the left leader, named Black Shadow, which he has been driving for only two weeks. The 46-year-old American is a very successful driver, first in the international pairs class and later on in the international four-in-hand driving sport. In 1991 he won the team gold medal at the World Pairs Driving Championships in Zwettl. In 2002 he contributed to the American team silver medal at the WEG in Jerez de la Frontera, where he came fourth individually. Although he is retiring from competition, Johnson will continue his driving career in Coaching.
With two US drivers in second place and two Dutch drivers in fourth place, the Nations Team standings are also tied, which is quite rare for a World Championship! The Americans and the Dutch will battle it out in tomorrow's marathon.
A 16-kilometre long marathon course is awaiting the 25 competitors on Saturday, including eight beautifully designed obstacles, spread out over the spacious site of the Kentucky Horse Park. US World Championship course designer and President of the FEI Driving Committee Richard Nicoll has built the obstacles to both test the competitors and to make the driving sport as attractive as possible to the spectators: "I have built these obstacles for the drivers, it is up to them to choose which routes they prefer to take", Nicoll said.
"But I also had to keep in mind that two-thirds of the crowd have never seen driving. That is why we have included three water obstacles and most of the obstacles are situated down low in order to create a better view for the spectators."
Nicoll and his crew have made every obstacle as varied as possible by using different materials. Heavy posts are used as well as treated timber, oak rails and locust native wood. Every obstacle is horse friendly with rounded posts. Nicoll worked closely with eventing course designer Mike Etherington-Smith since two marathon obstacles were also part of the eventing cross-country, which took place here last week.
Builder Mike Costello and his crew are responsible for the construction of the obstacles in which portable elements are also included. None of the obstacles are painted which results in a natural look. The only colours are added by the enormous amount of flowers, which have been put in place by 95 volunteers.
"Every obstacle has its own challenge and especially the first obstacle is rather technical. The last two obstacles will be decisive for the competitors. This will really test the fitness of their horses," Nicoll said.
Team standings after dressage:
1. The Netherlands/USA 76.16
3. Australia 85.38
4. Germany 98.44
5. Sweden 103.68
6. Switzerland 109.96
7. Canada 144.26