© PSV J. Morel
A THIRD TITLE FOR BOYD EXELL!
The Longines Equita Lyon, Concours Hippique International was hosting this stage of the FEI Driving World CupTM presented by the Laiterie de Montaigu for the fourth time. The class took place in an incredible atmosphere with an enthusiastic audience that supported all the nations competing in the event with the same passion. In the arena, the drivers had to show great composure, while combining speed, control and precision. The Australian Boyd Exell certainly possesses all these qualities in abundance; indeed, he is a six-time world champion, nine-time FEI World Cup winner and current world number one. And today, he won the class in Lyon yet again with a masterful performance in a time of 140.82 seconds with his quartet of bay horses: Bajnok, Maestoso Jupiter, Mad Max and Barny. This was the third consecutive victory in Lyon for the champion. Having already won the first round on Saturday, the Australian didn't give his rivals a chance, despite being under pressure after the extremely fast tempo imposed by the Dutch driver Ijsbrand Chardon, who posted a particularly fast reference time (145.79). "I didn't try to win: I just tried to drive a clean, fast round. Ijsbrand had a very good run and set the tone, so, I had to do a clear round and drive fast. Whatever, the audience loved it. Organising driving and show-jumping classes one after the other on the programme is always a good mix. Of course, they are two completely different disciplines on paper, but they fit well together in a competition," said an emotional Boyd Exell after his victory.
The Dutch driver Ijsbrand Chardon, one of the most experienced drivers on the circuit, was completely ready for a full-on challenge. With his team of three grey horses and a pinto, the reigning world team champion, who is currently fifth in the world rankings, did his best to put pressure on his rivals. Although his time was not enough in the end, his skill and performance earned him a second-place finish. Indeed, Ijsbrand Chardon was delighted with his performance. Not only was he extremely pleased with his horses, his team and the result, but also with the atmosphere around the arena and at the show. "When everything goes so well and you feel the support of the audience like today, it's just fabulous! I didn't want to leave the arena!" he said with a smile.
His compatriot Koos de Ronde, the world number two, took third place in 150.08 seconds. It was a positive performance for the driver, who presented a team with two new horses: "I am delighted that I completed the course without any penalties, especially as I was competing with a new team, with two horses that were taking part in their first FEI World Cup. Boyd and Ijsbrand were a bit faster on the straights, but this first indoor show is a good start for me."
The only French driver to start the class was Benjamin Aillaud (a member of the French national team), who finished seventh. However, the driver did not come to Lyon looking for a result, but rather to test his new team of horses in the arena: "I am driving a new team of Lusitanians. It is a new chapter in my career, and a first for them. We wanted to assess their strengths and their level. I think we can really start to have a target in terms of results at the end of the indoor season. In the meantime, I am using all the different stages to build and gain experience. The big difference with the horses I used to drive is that these horses are based at home, which makes it easier to monitor and look after them properly. They used to do a lot of shows involving free routines, without riders. As a result, they have travelled all over the world. What interested me was to assess their behaviour with a carriage and on the courses, because it is a very specific exercise. And today, I had the feeling that they had been doing it all their lives. They need to gain a bit of strength physically, but they have all the speed and heart required." Like the other competitors, the French rider said he was delighted with how the stage was organised, the scheduling and the enthusiasm of the audience.
1. Boyd Exell (AUS): 140.82
2. Ijsbrand Chardon (NED): 145.79
3. Koos de Ronde (NED): 150.08