Australia's Exell in third World Cup round win

December 7, 2009

By Lulu Kyriacou

Featuring the fourth leg of the FEI Rolex Driving World Cup, the third running of the Budapest Show lacked nothing in excitement in that contest and also the supporting jumping programme.

As usual the Hungarians had made every effort and their organisation and perfect arena surface puts a lot of supposedly more prestigious shows to shame.

Australia's Boyd Exell speeds to victory in the World Cup round at Budapest Show at the weekend. © Lulu Kyriacou
For the uninitiated, World Cup driving involves only the 10 best in the world. The high precision needed to steer four galloping horses through obstacles with only an inch or two of clearance requires great skill and experience, so the outdoor season is used to rank the drivers and decide who is entitled to fight for a place in the 2010 Geneva Final.

A two-round warm-up class to decide the running order was won by the in-form Australian Boyd Exell, hotly pursued by Koos de Ronde and Josef Dobrovitz. But as they started on zero scores for the qualifier proper this only gained them a small advantage of seeing some of their rivals attempt the course first. But when third to go Werner Ulrich produced a smooth fast clear in 121.04, the pressure on the leaders possibly outweighed that advantage. Nevertheless the top three of Exell, de Ronde and Dobrovitz remained that way for the run off.

Exell's win in the World Cup round is his third so far this season in the league, amd he appears certain of a starting place for the final in Geneva in April.

The driving mad Hungarian crowd certainly were vocal in their encouragement to Dobrovitz and his team of mostly Hungarian bred horses and he set off like lightning, but a complete misunderstanding at the first hazard demolished it and ended his chances of a home win.

"That is exactly what can happen," said Exell later, "you have to concentrate for three minutes and though some tactics are involved (my navigator Michelle watches all the rounds before we go) and we might make a small change of plan after watching another, it is down to the way I drive not to let anyone down.

"I tried to stay very tight to the obstacles, at one point my navigator Michelle even warned me I was getting too close! I really had to force myself to concentrate during the World Cup competition. When I know the course, I have no adrenalin and I make mistakes like I did in Stockholm last week. I was very happy to be able to use Junior (Carrington Park Ajax) again in the wheel after I was unable to use him in Stockholm because he was not fit. It was like putting an old pair of gloves on! Exell said.

Koos de Ronde knocked the cone at gate three but otherwise was very smooth and fluent with his well established team but Exell knew as he began he could probably afford one mistake and still win. He made that mistake at the second last gate and it did not prevent him winning his third out of the four legs so far.

"It really starts to irritate me that I always end up second behind Exell," said de Ronde. "But I am pleased with my result; coming second all the time also means that I perform at the same level. The only thing I can do to beat Boyd is to drive as fast as possible and to stay within one ball. I will get two more chances to beat him though; in Mechelen, where he competes with a wild card, and in the final in Geneva!" "Realistically I was only likely to get second place today but I will keep practising and hope I get in front of Boyd eventually," he said.

De Ronde does ridden work and individual driving with his horses and explained that "a team is only a unit comprised of well trained individuals and half the job is to match them up so the strengths of one help the weaknesses of another."

Exell also had the advantage of being able to stay in Hungary at the yard of his sponsor, Tamas Vincze, whose support has enabled him to keep his team together and on the road in the current tough financial climate.

Speaking of which, fourth placed Werner Ulrich expressed some doubt whether the Swiss would be able to field a driving team for WEG as their Federation has yet to raise the required finances, but de Ronde confirmed the Dutch have found a sponsor to transport three teams and hopes to be among them.

"Unfortunately," said co-organiser and driver Zoltan Lazar, "WEG is not contributing to the cost of transporting horses so we will have to see what happens but obviously Hungary is planning to compete if at all possible."

The Hungarians were also proud to announce that their course designer Gabor Fintha has been awarded 'O' status as a designer which means he can officiate at the highest levels.

Czech driver Jiri Nesvacil made his World Cup debut in the competition. He is the first from his country to qualifiy for the league. The 51-year-old professional driver drove his impressive team of Kladruber geldings and stallions into sixth place.

Grand Prix winner Joerne Sprehe and Giardina. © Lulu Kyriacou
• Sadly a foolish FEI decision to increase demands for prize money meant that the jumping classes were classified at only 2* level but the World Cup jumping qualifier was still worth a hefty €10,000 to the winner, and 34 starters from 13 nations arrived to fight for the prize.

Rob Jansen's course produced 12 clear rounds from which Switzerland's Werner Muff riding Quax 22 emerged victorious. His jump-off time of 40.29 was enough to get him ahead of Germany's Jurgen Mayer (Roncador 2) who is a regular visitor to the show and the Ukraine's Cassio Rivetti (Uberjagen V'Ant Woutland). Hungary's Sandor Jenei (Loredo) was fourth.

In the Grand Prix Germany's Joerne Sprehe beat five others in the jump off on Giardina to wrest the trophy out of Hungarian hands for the first time in its three-year history.

But Balazs Horvath was first to go in the timed round for the home side and though Eternally is not the fastest he did enough to force most of the rest into errors and finished second. Poland's Lukasz Jonczyk was third with his Las Vegas World Cup Final mount, Tarron.