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Boyd Exell has hailed his new team of horses after claiming his eighth FEI World Cup™ Driving title in Bordeaux.
The fabulous Australian outpaced rivals Jerome Voutaz and Koos de Ronde to repeat his victory of a year ago and make it eight championships in 10 seasons. While the Bordeaux crowd went wild for the history-maker, Exell himself paid tribute to his foursome Demi, Clinton Star, Bajnok and newcomer Conversano Poker.
Costa 49 was the only horse that was part of the winning team in Gothenburg a year ago to not also run in Bordeaux, and after a season of trying out replacements such as Neapolitano, Twilight and Cardiuweel Du Premo, Exell opted for Conversano Poker in the final.
“Luckily the horses were just brilliant and dug deep and came through for me,” said Exell. “Winning the title is a relief. It feels like a job finished off, because we had a good start to the season and we were trying new horses."
“Then the last two shows I won the first two rounds and then lost in the drive off in Leipzig and Olympia, so it felt like unfinished business until now.”
It was another superb indoor season for Exell, navigator Emma Olsen and backstepper Hugh Scott-Barrett, who won three of the opening four races. However, after the Australian’s victory in Geneva, Ijsbrand Chardon, Bram Chardon and Voutaz showed that he would not be having it all his own way. While Exell appreciates the wealth of talent coming through, with 25-year-old Bram taking fourth place in Bordeaux, he remains focussed on his own position at the forefront of Driving.
“Does it feel nice that the others are coming through?” he pondered. “I don’t know about that! It’s good for the sport. The public loved it. It was a really good final and Bordeaux gave us a good finish to the season. Now I’m looking forward to the outdoors.”
Exell also paid tribute to the course set up by Jeroen Houterman, believing the two sets of obstacles, nine pairs of cones, a bridge, and a speedbox helped to make for a dramatic final.
“There was no room for error, but that’s what a good final should be,” Exell said.
“The drive off was a little bit as we thought. We thought Bram would be fast and Glenn Geerts would go for it. They lost a little bit of composure at the end of the course. Jerome went up a level, and had no choice but to go for it.
“We planned to use their balls and go a bit steady, but then we hit the last ball on the way out. I thought I’d got through but then eased off and they fell over. In the next round Jerome did well. He put pressure on with a fast time. We had to go fast, and then I had to live on instincts and drive."
“The speedbox was a nice touch for the course because you know that when the speed’s pushing you you’ve got to come into it fast but then you realise you’re not quite in as much control as you should be.”
As another season comes to end, Exell said the passion of the French crowd shows how much the equestrian fans in this part of the world are taking Driving to their hearts.
“It was electric,” he said. “The crowd here is becoming more seasoned. It used to be an excitable public but now it’s an educated public. They are definitely enjoying their Driving.”
Text by Richard Mulligan
Images by Richard Juilliart/FEI, AR Images