Reigning FEI World Cup and world champion Boyd Exell won the third leg of the FEI World Cup Driving in Stockholm, Sweden on Sunday night, leaving home driver Fredrik Persson and young Belgian Glenn Geerts behind.
The new Friends Arena in Stockholm was packed with enthusiastic equestrian fans. It was the first time that the Sweden International Horse Show, previously known as the Stockholm International Horse Show, took place in this multifunctional arena located just outside of Sweden’s capital city.
International course designer Dan Henriksson had built a challenging course in the arena which is much bigger compared to Globen, where the show was formerly held. This resulted in a longer course featuring three marathon type obstacles, the regular cones and a bridge where fireworks went off as the drivers crossed it.
Exell’s leader horses were not used to the day off between the first competition and the World Cup competition and were very fresh in the arena. The Australian was second to last to start and he knew that his big opponent Tomas Eriksson (SWE), who would be the last driver in the arena, would go for it, so Exell went at full speed. The result was two knockdowns but a very fast time. Eriksson made some mistakes as well and did not qualify for the Winning Round. This took the pressure off Exell, who decided to change his routes. He set the fastest times of the evening in the Winning Round and won with a respectable 17-second advantage over Persson.
Exell has been helping Persson with his marathon driving skills since the summer and the training paid off indoors as well. The Swede drove his team of older horses – the youngest being 17 – smooth and fast through the course and was very pleased with their performance. He was looking forward the next competition at London Olympia with the same team. “It is good that we have more than two weeks to rest because the old boys need a good life between the competitions!” he said.
Young Glenn Geerts did not expect at all to make it to the Winning Round as he was convinced that Tomas Eriksson would score a good result. The Belgian had to quickly reset himself in the warm-up arena to prepare for the Winning Round, which he drove well. After Stuttgart Geerts changed the setup in his four-in-hand by swapping a wheel and lead horse. He trained with this new setup for three days between Stuttgart and Stockholm and had already noticed the difference in Friday’s first competition.
Swedish international four-in-hand driver Tomas Eriksson competed for the last time on home ground in Stockholm, after announcing his intention to retire earlier this year. Stockholm was a fitting venue for his last FEI competition, and the double world champion, 17-time Swedish champion and winner of many key international driving events had received the wildcard from the organising committee. Eriksson won the first competition but because of a mistake in the World Cup round he finished in fourth place.
“I went too fast and at this level you cannot afford any mistakes. I am happy about my decision to retire from competition,” the Swedish driver said. “Being in the arena made it easier to say goodbye. I will for sure miss the competitions and I will of course keep following the driving sport.”
Eriksson was honoured in the arena after the prize giving ceremony.
Both Werner Ulrich (SUI) and Theo Timmerman (NED) drove their first FEI World Cup Driving competition of the season in Stockholm. Ulrich finished in fifth place, while 2014 individual bronze medallist Timmerman had some problems with his new team of Lipizzan horses and finished sixth.
- Boyd Exell (AUS) 291,62
- Fredrik Persson (SWE) 308,66
- Glenn Geerts (BEL) 312,49
- Tomas Eriksson (SWE) 172,89
- Werner Ulrich (SUI) 184,84
- Theo Timmerman (NED) 209,70
FEI World Cup Driving, standings after 3 of 7 events:
- Boyd EXELL (AUS) – 20
- IJsbrand CHARDON (NED) – 14
- Koos DE RONDE (NED) – 10
- Jozsef DOBROVITZ (HUN) – 8
- Christoph SANDMANN (GER) – 7
- Glenn GEERTS (BEL) – 7
- Fredrik PERSSON (SWE) – 7
- Georg VON STEIN (GER) – 3
- Werner ULRICH (SUI) – 3
- Theo TIMMERMAN (NED) – 2