Australia’s Boyd Exell is well on his way to secure his fifth FEI World Cup Driving champion title in a row.
Exell was the only competitor to drive a double clear in the first competition of the exciting final which got under way in Bordeaux, France, on Friday night. Koos de Ronde (NED) finished second, ahead of Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) third and IJsbrand Chardon (NED) fourth.
The enthusiastic spectators of the Jumping International de Bordeaux enjoyed a very exciting competition. The rule, according to which 50% of the score differential converted into seconds are carried forward to the competition on Saturday, ensured that all seven drivers competing in the final, had to give it their best from the start, which resulted in an excellent show.
While some drivers put on top class performances, others were not as successful as they would have liked.
Hungary’s Jozsef Dobrovitz, who was third to go, set the time to beat and was very pleased with his result despite one knockdown, for which he blamed himself. Tomas Eriksson (SWE) had a disappointing performance, leaving the arena with 20 penalty seconds for knockdowns, which will make it very hard for him to be among the Top Three in the Final.
Mechelen and Leipzig winner Koos de Ronde drove a fast and fluent round around the course, designed by FEI O-course designer Gabor Fintha (HUN), who has taken over this challenging task from Falk Böhnisch (GER) who retired earlier this season. One of De Ronde’s leader horses knocked one ball down in the marathon obstacle, but this did not prevent the Dutchman from taking over the lead from Dobrovitz. Exell’s other rival IJsbrand Chardon was unable to reach the necessary speed with his team of Lipizzaner horses and finished fourth.
Last starter Boyd Exell, who has just come back from a well-deserved holiday in his home country, gave a brilliant demonstration of what indoor driving is all about. Exell had left his fast top horse Bill in the stables and used the 21-year-old Orlov trotter Grakle (Spitfire) instead. The reigning FEI World Cup Driving and world champion drove his team of experienced horses in a fast, fluent and clever way throughout the course, keeping his time to a minimum by shaving the course at some points. Although this was risky, he managed to stay clear and set the fastest time of the evening.
Wild card driver Thibault Coudry (FRA) faced the hardest challenge. The 32-year old not only had the disadvantage of starting first, but he also had to put a wheeler horse in the lead of his team after one of his fast and experienced leader horses was injured and did not pass the horse inspection. Coudry, who is a regular wild card competitor in Bordeaux, drove his team as best he could and finished in a well-deserved fifth place. The horses of the third Dutch driver Theo Timmerman were too fresh and he was unable to drive them the way he had planned. He came in sixth, ahead of Tomas Eriksson.
By winning the first round, Boyd Exell will be the last starter in the final. Runner-up Koos de Ronde will have to make up a little over three seconds to catch up Exell, while Jozsef Dobrovitz is 6,02 seconds behind the leader, closely followed by IJsbrand Chardon (6,47 seconds difference to Exell).
Although Exell has a good advantage, he knows he can’t take anything for granted as his rivals are very focused and mean serious business.
Results of the first competition CAI-W Final Bordeaux:
Rank-Driver-NF-time-pen-penalty seconds behind the winner
1. Boyd Exell (AUS) 122,95 (0) 0
2. Koos de Ronde (NED) 129,18 (5) 3,12
3. József Dobrovitz (HUN) (5) 6,02
4. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 135,88 (5) 6,47
5. Thibault Coudry (FRA) 141,82 (5) 9,44
6. Theo Timmerman (NED) 147,03 (10) 12,04
7. Tomas Eriksson (SWE) 152,88 (20) 14,97