10.08.10

The Leaders Are All Tied Up In Driving World Championships at 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Posted in 2010 Games, Combined Driving, Disciplines, Results, World Equestrian Games at 7:49 pm by Press Release

Lexington, KY — Ties almost never happen in four-in-hand driving, but they’re the rule of the day at the Driving World Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The United States and the Netherlands are tied for first in the race for the team medals, at 76.16 penalties, with their top two drivers tied for second and fourth.

The only clear leader is Boyd Exell of Australia, who drove his team to a five-point lead in dressage, scoring 30.08 penalties, the best dressage score ever recorded in a World Championship. Chester Weber of the USA and Ijsbrand Chardon of the Netherlands are tied for second (35.97), and Tucker Johnson of the USA and Theo Timmerman of the Netherlands are tied for fourth (40.19).

“I think I’ve seen maybe two ties in 20 years, so to have the teams and the four of us tied is amazing,” said Johnson.

The third members of their teams—Jimmy Fairclough for the USA and Koos de Ronde for the Netherlands—are in ninth and 10th places, separated by only .25 penalties.

Exell drove his team of mixed warmbloods to the record score, even though he injured his hand last week. “I was jumping cross-country for fun, and I fell and broke a bone in my left hand. I was struggling a bit with it yesterday, but the Aussie team got me a good kit and it was all right today. I lost my grip twice, but the leaders covered it up for me,” he said.

Despite his hand, Exell enjoyed his test. “I had to stop myself from smiling in there,” he said. “They were doing it all on their own, the circles, the corners—everything. My grooms helped by telling me to warm up for 20 minutes less.”

Johnson’s team included a horse Exell loaned him, the left leader, named Black Shadow. “I call him Boyd when I’m mad at him,” said Johnson with a smile. Johnson, 46, said today that these World Championships would be his final competition.

Exell, 38, said he had no second thoughts about loaning the horse to Johnson. “Tucker has been a great advocate of the sport for 30 years, and he’s never asked for anything in return,” said Exell. “I saw him struggling a bit with horsepower at Aachen [Germany], and I made the offer. I said I’d split the prize money with him if he won.”

The two drivers agreed on their expectations for tomorrow’s marathon, in which the 25 drivers will journey around almost the entire Kentucky Horse Park. Richard Nicoll of the United State has designed the eight obstacles they’ll negotiate.

“It’s a more open course than we have been used to, but that still brings problems, because we can go faster and make more mistakes,” said Exell.

Said Johnson, “I think you’re going to seeing some really fast driving because it’s so open. It will be a test for me because I’ll be driving fast enough to make a lot of mistakes.”