After a supremely confident performance at the 36th Stuttgart Masters, Boyd Exell (AUS) is undoubtedly on some of the best form of his career and the question is, can he be beaten this season?
At the third outing over three consecutive weekends of the FEI Driving World Cup™ 2022-23 series, it was ‘Super Saturday’ at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Halle and leading from the front on both days, Boyd ended the third leg drive-off with 4 penalties to add. But his electrifying, galloping horses covered the ground so efficiently that he had a clear margin timewise, finishing on 143.77 seconds and a total of 147.77.
Having felt that his team were working at about 80% last season, Boyd says they are now nearer 95%, with the addition of the new leader ‘Maestoso Jupiter’ who is totally in sync with his partner on the left, Bajnok, the 19 year old stalwart of the indoor team. Whereas other drivers might have to push their horses forward, his has to hold his keen and fast team who are as one, improving with each round as they too learn the routes.
The closest challenger to Boyd’s supremacy was the Swiss Jérôme Voutaz, who built on his first outing of the series in Lyon (FRA). Coming closest to Boyd’s time during Friday’s finale, he was 10 seconds behind in Saturday’s drive-off, with 8 penalties to add, ending on 161.76.
Back on form after a sticky performance by his standards in Maastrich (NED) was the consistent Glenn Geerts (BEL), who finished third on both days. With a costly 12 penalties to add, he was just behind Jérôme on 163.08, although his time had been 2.68 seconds faster.
The ‘nearly man’ of the competition was the home nation’s Wild Card, marathon specialist Michael Brauchle. Like Glenn, his horses were much more in tune with him this week and with 4 to add to his time of 156.64 after day two’s first round, there was only 1.47 between them, but it was enough to put the Belgian into the drive-off and consign Michael to a frustrating fourth.
The USA’s supremo Chester Weber, back on the indoor circuit this season with an eye-catching team of grey Lipizzaners, wasn’t on point on day one so was the first to go on Saturday when he took a more measured approach and produced a clear in 163.69. Following him was Benjamin Aillaud (FRA), who like Boyd has been at the first three legs of the series, and with 8 to add in a slower time than Chester, ended sixth on 177.00.
Also making his third appearance of the series was course designer Jeroen Houterman (NED), who had more space in the Stuttgart arena to lay out the 13-obstacle course. Adding to the exhilaration – and post-round clean-up operation – was a watersplash on one of the corners which flicked sticky sand onto the people and carriages. All the horses boldly dived into it twice on each round and it added to the wow factor for the crowd.
"It was a course for speed and fluency with options for different lines for the drivers, all designed for the good of the horses. I was happy with how it drove – nice and flowing, and a fast course. Always on the second day it looks better when the horses and drivers know where to go and they can take 4 to 5 seconds off their times. As for Boyd, he is driving a team of very good horses and he made an amazing 90° turn into the A gate which was unbelievable" Jeroen Houterman, Course Designer said.
The next leg of the FEI Driving World Cup™ 2022-23 series in Stockholm (SWE) is at the end of November. Having taken a break after two excellent results, Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) makes a welcome return, alongside Glenn, Michael, Dries Degrieck (BEL) and host nation Wild Card, Fredrik Persson (SWE).
But Boyd will also be in Sweden, hungry for another win to maintain his 100% record. This weekend he’s cemented his position at the top of the series ranking and must surely be the favourite for an unprecedented 10th World Cup title. But Bram Chardon has yet to launch his campaign to defend his title, and when he does, an already fantastic series will get even more exciting.
By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies.