All bets on Boyd taking 10th FEI Driving World Cup™ title

Media updates
01 February 2023 Author: Sarah Dance

After a spellbinding 2022-2023 Series, the first with a full quota of eight events since the 2019-2020 season, all eyes are on the current FEI Four-in-Hand World Champion Boyd Exell (AUS) to take an unprecedented 10th title in Bordeaux (FRA) this weekend.

From the first event in Lyon (FRA) in late October, Boyd has dominated and although the margins between him and his fellow competitors have varied, he has ended the qualifying rounds on a maximum tally of 30 points and tops the rankings.  Despite one slip up at the last 8th leg in Leipzig (GER) where he finished competition one in third place behind Bram Chardon (NED) and Glenn Geerts (BEL), when it really counted and places meant ranking points, Boyd was untouchable.  

Crediting his supremacy to his fantastic horses, Banjok, Jupiter, Mad Max and Barney, Boyd says that not only are they working better as a team than last season, but all he needs to do is steer and let them get on with the job in the arena.  He is also steadfastly supported by Emma Olsson, his navigator and competition groom on the top step, and long term friend Hugh Scott-Barrett on the bottom step.  Together, their alchemy makes them the team to beat with a record of six wins from six second round drive-offs in Lyon, Maastricht (NED), Stuttgart (GER), Stockholm (SWE), London (GBR) and Leipzig.

Joining the final in second place in the rankings is defending champion Bram Chardon, who held his nerve to win in April 2022.  Another who has enjoyed a storming season, he launched his campaign at the halfway point by winning the 5th leg Geneva (SUI), a feat he matched in Mechelen (BEL) just after Christmas.  He was second in London to Boyd who was a Wild Card so Bram took the valuable 10 points.  The most recent leg in Leipzig was a pre-final showdown between these two titans of the four-in-hand realm, and although Bram won round one, Boyd won round two.  Both are acutely aware of the strengths of the other’s horses, and both know that they have each other to beat as Bram tries to take his third World Cup title and stop Boyd reaching double figures.

Keeping it in the family is Bram’s father, the iconic Ijsbrand Chardon, who arrives in Bordeaux ranked third.  His season also started at the opening leg in Lyon, when he applied the pressure to Boyd and came second, as he did in Maastricht, Stockholm and Leipzig.  Having missed the most recent final, he has clearly enjoyed being back on his customary fast and accurate form, playing to appreciative audience in the big venues, demonstrating that he has no intention of slowing down.  With daughters Edith and Lianne as both his and Bram’s navigators, these strong family ties have helped them achieve a great set of results.

Ten years ago, Koos de Ronde (NED) was crowned World Cup champion, something he would deeply like to achieve again.  As one of the most consistent competitors in the series, on each occasion he made competition two’s drive-off, and each time he came third.  Another who started his season early in Lyon, he drove again in Maastricht, then London, Mechelen and Leipzig.  Koos’ wife Marie is his navigator and they work so well together, especially when the pressure is on.

The next place goes to Switzerland’s Jérôme Voutaz, who is a serious contender for a podium place.  Finishing second in Stuttgart and Mechelen, he was previously a runner up in the 2017 final in Gothenburg and the 2018 final in Bordeaux. A mainstay of the Series, his team of Swiss bay horses are compact and powerful, and like the Lipizzaners favoured by many of the drivers for the World Cup, are well suited to the bursts of speed plus agility needed to negotiate an indoor course.

The sixth qualification slot goes to next generation Belgian driver Dries Degrieck, who was a member of the bronze medal winning team in Pratoni (ITA) at the World Championships.  Making it to his second final, he is another who can be fast against the clock.  Dries just missed out on a drive-off place in April’s final, finishing fourth, and is another driver who could upset the natural order and find himself in the top three.

The host nation can nominate one of their own for a Wild Card entry and in Bordeaux, the allocation goes to Benjamin Aillaud (FRA), who has been a regular competitor this season with a new team of Lusitanos.  He too was at the first event in Lyon and although finished the Series outside the qualification rankings, makes his fourth appearance at a final.

Designing the course will be Hungarian Gabor Fintha, and the President of the Ground Jury is experienced French judge Anne-Marie Turbé who assumed the same role in Geneva and Pratoni.  

The Driving final is held over two days as part of the four day equestrian extravaganza, ‘Jumping International Bordeaux’.  Competition one is late on Saturday night (11.30 pm) and competition two on Sunday afternoon (4.45 pm – local times).  For the final, the accumulative scoring system differs from the qualifying legs as 50% of the difference between the drivers and the leading score is carried over to the next round.  In the second phase, the top three drivers go forward into the drive-off, and their scores from the previous round will count towards the overall total, unlike in the legs where they start each time from zero. 

With legions of fans that famously get behind the drivers during their rounds, at a chic show that attracts big crowds, this promises to be a vintage final and a fitting end to what has been an exciting Series.  Tune into FEI TV for all the live action.

For further information - FEI Driving World Cup™ - Season 2022-2023 | FEI