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Boyd Exell of Australia has taken yet another qualifying leg of FEI World Cup Driving competition, winning against a field of six in Stockholm, Sweden.
The defending World Cup champion, and multiple World Cup winner, Exell, competed last in the three-team drive off for a time of 149.71 with 5 penalty seconds. Teams in this qualifying event started the drive off fresh with zero accumulated time, and Exell was able to move up from his second-place finish in the first round of Day 2 driving, where he had a stellar clear run--the first of any team over the weekend--for a time of 148.45 seconds.
The Stockholm course for this event was tricky and varied, employing the usual cones and marathon obstacles, along with a bridge and a tight speed box built of dressage boards.
The first-place finisher for round one was home favourite and Swedish wildcard entry Fredrick Persson with a time of 152.30 after a beautiful clear run on this highly technical course. Persson was nudged into second place by Exell after the drive off, gaining 15 seconds of penalty time for a total of 164.15 seconds.
Belgium’s Edouard Simonet finished third overall in the event. Simonet managed to grab third in round one as well, and even with two down for 10 penalty seconds, was able to fly across the bridge for a total time of 162.80 seconds.
With more pressure on in the next round, Simonet ran into trouble in the speed box, where his right lead horse knocked an outside rail, and he accrued a total of 15 penalty seconds for his total time of 165.18 seconds.
Weber, an American, is new to the World Cup circuit, even though he has qualified multiple times and has 14 times been the US National Champion.
Weber, who prefers a speedier course to one with such tight technical elements, used his backstepper to good advantage for a time of 170.86 seconds and only 5 penalty seconds, as he risked a bit of extra speed at 13, but lost a ball.
Rounding out the field was Glenn Geerts of Belgium, who had a smooth ride through the speed box, but overshot the marathon obstacles and lost time bringing his horses up in time for the left turn at the end of the arena prior to the finish. His raw time of 164.70 was penalised by 15 seconds for a total of 179.70 seconds and sixth place.
If the level of competition and closeness of times in Stockholm is any indication, the FEI World Cup Driving final in Bordeaux, France, is certain to be an exhilarating event.
Written by Patricia Salem
Images by Roland Thunholm