Just a week after his first FEI World Cup victory of the season in Stockholm, Boyd Exell scored at the fourth leg of the FEI World Cup Driving 2011/2012 in Budapest, Hungary yesterday.
The Australian stayed ahead of home driver and favorite Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) and Stuttgart-winner Koos de Ronde (NED).
It was by no means a certainty that Exell would win again, however. One of his experienced leader horses, the 17-year-old gelding Spitfire, did not pass the first horse inspection due to a minor injury in his foot and Exell was forced to put his spare wheeler horse Clinton Star in the lead of his four-in-hand. Exell put Clinton Star to the test in the warm-up competition and the prizegiving ceremony on the first day, when he finished second behind Koos de Ronde.
Exell's gamble paid off and Clinton Star got even faster in the FEI World Cup Driving competition and contributed to the Australian's second victory of the season. Following wins in 2008 and 2009, this was Exell's third win in Budapest. Local hero Jozsef Dobrovitz, from the nearby village of Vecsés, was cheered on by his enthusiastic home crowd in the Laszlo Papp Arena and drove his team of Lipizzaner horses to a well-deserved second place.
Exell said afterwards that Spitfire was fine. "The heat in his foot has gone and he is completely sound again. Always when you have a setback, it makes you dig deep and look at your options again. We learnt this weekend that Clinton Star, who is an outdoor horse who has never done any indoor shows and has never been in the lead before, is also a good leader. In the warm-up arena I could feel that he knew what was coming. I hoped to do a good round to pressure Koos and thanks to my consistent team of people, it all worked out today."
Hungarian O-course designer Gabor Fintha had laid out a challenging course with technical and fast lines. The bridge with the fireworks completed the spectacular course. Dobrovitz knocked one ball down in the winning round but his total time was still faster than Koos de Ronde allowing him to hold on to second place.
Koos de Ronde knocked an element down with his whip in the first round. After he had hit a second element and was forced to take a longer route to the finish, the winner of the warm-up round knew that his chances of victory were gone. But de Ronde refocused himself for the winning round, which he drove fast and without any mistakes.
Hungary's top favourite World Champion driver Zoltán Lázár had a double function in Budapest. Lázár not only organized the Budapest Horse Show together with his World Champion brother Vilmos, he also competed in the FEI World Cup Driving competition. Lázár knocked three balls down with his team of Lipizzaner horses and finished fourth, ahead of the winner in Budapest 2010, Werner Ulrich (SUI). Ulrich made a big mistake in the last part of the course and knocked three balls, dropping him to sixth place.
Wild card driver Jozsef Dobrovitz jr., the 19-year-old son of Jozsef Dobrovitz, got some special assistance on his carriage this weekend from Bram Chardon, the 18-year-old reigning World Pony four-in-hand Champion and son of IJsbrand Chardon. Bram and Jozsef have been good friends for many years and help each other when they can. But Dobrovitz junior had some communication problems with his leader horse and finished sixth, driving his team of outdoor horses at a World Cup event for the first time. Second wild card driver Jozsef Scheik came seventh.
Boyd Exell won of the fourth World Cup Driving qualifier in Budapest. © Rinaldo de Craen/FEI