31 December 2023

Mechelen: Another World Cup win for Boyd Exell

The closing event of Jumping Mechelen was a World Cup competition for Four-in-Hand driving horses that had everything in it. In an exciting drive-off, Boyd Exell took the win. He competed against Bram Chardon and Michael Brauchle. Although the German seemed to be the favorite for victory after a sublime first round, things did not go well for him in the drive-off. Bram Chardon was fastest in the drive off, but had a ball fall in the first marathon obstacle.

Prior to the drive-off, the enthusiastic public was treated to a wonderful first round. Test driver Julien Vanhoenacker was allowed to kick off the event with his team of Welsh ponies. As a tribute to his strong competition season, including the marathon victory at the World Championships in Oirschot, Equestrian Flanders offered him the opportunity to drive the World Cup course. There was great enthusiasm when he crossed the finish line clear in 139.10.

Dries Degrieck
Photo: Wil Smeets

Mistakes and setbacks

Dries Degrieck started as the first participant. With a lot of luck at the first gate, he stayed clear and clocked a great time of 135.91. He seemed to be heading for a place in the drive-off, but ultimately finished 4th. Then there was a ‘false start’ for Glenn Geerts. He had just started at full speed when the bell sounded and he had to stop. He left the arena. It turned out that someone in the audience had become unwell and it was only after an ambulance arrived that the competition was resumed some time later. Even though Glenn could not earn World Cup points because of a wild card, he wanted to shine in front of his own audience. When he started for the second time, he still managed to squeeze out a reasonable time, but – unlike yesterday – 3 balls rolled. Koos de Ronde also had a wildcard. He was super fast, but drove around gate 1 on the way to the A gate of the second marathon obstacle. He stayed out of the drive-off and took home the 5th place. Jérôme Voutaz participated in the drive-off a day earlier, but immediately saw a ball fall at gate 1. Then he almost shot through the wrong gate in the second marathon obstacle, had to go backwards and had no chance for the final.

Michael Brauchle
Photo: Wil Smeets

Super fast Brauchle

Bram Chardon outpaced the previous combinations by being the first to finish under 130 seconds, but still had to add 4 penalty seconds for hitting a ball on the bridge. Michael Brauchle went one better. He took a lot of risks, flew through the course at top speed and crossed the finish line clear in 128.56. With this, he put a lot of pressure on Boyd Exell. The World Champion kept his cool, made no mistakes and qualified second for the drive-off.

Boyd Exell
Photo: Wil Smeets

Boyd Exell's class

It seemed like it could go either way in the drive-off. Given his super-fast first lap, Michael Brauchle seemed to be in the right shape to beat the World Champion. Bram Chardon’s time was also faster than Boyd’s in the first round. The Dutchman had to start first. In the first marathon obstacle things did not go smoothly and a ball fell. Bram’s time was the fastest of all, but due to the 4 penalty seconds he finished 2nd. Boyd Exell again drove clear, stayed close to the wood and clocked a fast time of 126.57. Michael Brauchle had to make the decision. Once again he started very quickly. But in the first marathon obstacle he had a hiccup at the C gate and the leaders no longer worked so well together. That glitch took a lot of time and the rhythm was gone. The German did everything he could to drive to the finish as quickly as possible, therefore took extra risks in the last stretch and then also had a ball fall. He came in third. Boyd Exell had to work hard to stay ahead of the competition, but once again proved his class and was honored as the winner.

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Photo: Wil Smeets

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