FEI Driving World Cup 2023/2024
Boyd Exell (AUS) and Bram Chardon (NED) went head to head at Jumping Indoor Maastricht (NED) this weekend in what proved to be a spot of high-adrenaline equestrian sporting action. And until the final moments, it looked like Bram – after three fast, clear rounds – was going to dominate, but a rare lapse from him in obstacle five helped seal Boyd’s win.
Using two different horses from his winning combination in Lyon (FRA) last week, Boyd (feature image) seemed to be coming from behind in Maastricht. A ball at the bridge in his first round and slower times than Bram in both rounds meant that he finished in second place.
As both Boyd and Bram were the wild card entries, they were in the early order on Friday night, with Bram first out and laying an untouchable challenge with his well-judged, clear round in 160.22. Glenn Geert (BEL) joined them in the drive-off, but the night belonged to Bram with his win in 141.02 ahead of Boyd’s 143.08.
With the drivers going in reverse order on day two, Bram was last out on Saturday night and replicated his speed and accuracy to finish in front again. Boyd had knocked the cone number nine in the middle of the arena to add four to his time, and Glenn couldn’t replicate his great first night so instead it was Michael Brauchle (GER) who took the third slot in the drive-off.
For his final round of the event, Michael’s horses found another gear and he flew over the course in a time of 161.37 seconds with one ball to add, totaling 165.37. Boyd was next out as second placed driver, and as usually happens when the pressure is on, took his team’s performance to another level and went clear in a remarkable 152.54.
All looked very promising for Bram with his bouncing, grey Hungarian horses until the detour in the first marathon obstacle meant an extra loop to make gate ‘C’, which threw him off his gameplan and he ended on 178.01, slipping to third. Although he remained clear, he couldn’t recover his form and make up the seconds on such a tight course in a compact arena where there were few advantages to be found either in speed or cutting corners.
Making a welcome return to the indoor circuit after missing last year’s series to have her baby, Mareike Harm (GER) was fourth on Friday and then dropped two places on Saturday. Her teammate Georg von Stein, who has returned to the series as a qualified driver after several years, was some way off and was seventh on both nights.
As in Lyon, Jeroen Houterman was the course designer and different questions were asked in Maastricht due to the smaller dimensions of the venue. There was a bridge in the middle of the 13-obstacle course, with the cones placed near to the marathon obstacles to ensure that lines had to stay tight.
In terms of the early ranking points, Michael was the highest placed qualifying driver so took the maximum ten points and now sits in joint first place with Boyd after the two legs. Glenn has gained points over both weekends and is third, and Koos joins Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) on seven and ties in fourth place. Of the ten eligible drivers, only Bram has not won points yet and he will be aiming to add his name to the finals rankings on the fourth leg in Stockholm (SWE) in early December.
Next weekend the third leg will be at the Stuttgart German Masters when Boyd, Mareike and Koos are joined by Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) and Jérôme Voutaz (SUI) in the qualifying slots
Written by Louise Parkes
Feature image: Boyd Exell (AUS) winner of the FEI Driving World Cup 2023/24 – Maastricht (NED)Copyright © FEI/Leanjo de Koster