Title defender Boyd Exell wrote history at the weekend in the dramatic FEI World Cup Driving Final in Bordeaux, France, overcoming a hand injury to take the title for a record sixth time.
Exell was at a disadvantage during competition over the weekend as he nearly lost one of his fingers after a concrete block smashed his left hand last week.
But the Australian held firm to win his sixth title, one more than the previous record holder Germany’s Michael Freund.
After the three-man Winning Round, Christoph Sandmann (GER) finished second, ahead of Exell’s biggest opponent, IJsbrand Chardon (NED).
Chardon entered the arena last to go with his special indoor team. He held an advantage of about three seconds over Exell and flew through the course, determined to win the coveted title which has eluded him since 2006. But unfortunately his carriage lost balance in the left turn and Chardon had to make a correction. This caused his right leader horse to come out and spectacularly jump over the start/finish element. As Chardon had come too close to the next marathon type obstacle, he could no longer correct the situation and went through the wrong gate. He had no other choice except to retire.
“I was very fast and I believe I was even five seconds ahead of Exell when fate struck again. I feel terrible that this has happened, I really wanted to win,” Chardon said. “But this is the game and I accept it.”
Boyd Exell drove two wonderful clear rounds in full concentration. Exell was especially pleased with his right wheeler horse, the 25-year-old Carrington Park Ajax affectionately called Junior, who has now been retired from the sport. Junior has been part of Exell’s team at every FEI World Cup Driving competition. He thanked the exceptional gelding by escorting him out of the arena, walking beside him while his navigator Michelle drove the team.
“Once we got in our zone, it felt like the old winning wheel again,” Exell said. “Because of my injured hand, I had to sharpen the bit settings and I could not play with them as much as I would have liked to. Poker, who is only seven, was a true member of our team today but the highlight for me really was the retirement of Junior. I am so thrilled for him and so happy he finished his career with a win.”
Christoph Sandmann was pleased with his second place. The multiple German champion and organiser of a CAI3* at his home in Lähden did not take any risks in the first round and went full speed in the Winning Round, knowing he had nothing to lose since the difference between him and the two leading drivers was too big. His clever tactics resulted in a wonderful third place for the experienced driver, who had not competed in Bordeaux since the series’ first season in 2002.
Fredrik Persson (SWE) finished in fourth place, ahead of Koos de Ronde (NED), wildcard driver Sébastien Mourier (FRA), and Georg von Stein (GER).
- Boyd Exell (AUS) 239,41
- Christoph Sandmann (GER) 273,29
- IJsbrand Chardon (NED) ret
- Fredrik Persson (SWE) 155,11
- Koos de Ronde (NED) 161,63
- Sebastien Mourier (FRA) 172,48
- Georg von Stein (GER) 184,62