22 May 2022
Test event Pratoni 2022: Cones bring changes at the topA challenging but flowing cones course on day three of the World Championship Driving Test Event in Pratoni del Vivaro ensured that final placings went down to the wire. With a selection of boxes, slaloms and narrow pairs of cones to test the drivers, it was a course which required accuracy and balance, and there was only one double clear from the 28 starters.
Beginning with the national and single classes, who ran over a reduced course, it soon became evident that to finish inside the time and keep the balls from rolling was a tough challenge. Giorgia Brillantino, one of two drivers in the U25 horse singles, was the one to take the accolade of producing the only double clear of the day, which secured her win.
Of the 12 drivers who finished inside the time, one was eventual horse fours winner Anthony Horde, who drove a brilliant and flowing round. Maintaining a forward pace throughout, his momentum meant that he had nearly 10 seconds in hand from the 193 sec limit. Having only knocked no. 8 for a ball to tumble, he put the pressure on overnight leader Jόzsef Dobrovitz Jr.
The final competitor to enter the arena, Jόzsef’s right leader took a dislike to the wooden horse models with their bristles on top, and became distracted. Jόzsef did well to contain his horse’s exuberance but could not keep the balance throughout, so knocked two cones and went over the 193 sec allowance by 6.84 sec to add 12.84 to his score, which put him behind Anthony who with only 3 to add, finished on 158.5 and was crowned winner of the horse fours.
Jόzsef Dobrovitz Snr. held his third position, producing a round which like his son, knocked two cones and added time penalties. János Papp had an expensive round in terms of penalties but stayed in fifth as unfortunately, after only four cones, Luca Cassottana had to retire because his right leader bar broke off. One of the most fluid displays came from dressage winner Benjamin Aillaud who, on an eliminated score after his tip-up on the marathon, was able to enjoy himself without the pressure of chasing a place. Knocking one ball and finishing inside the time, he ended the phase on only 3 penalties, showing what skilled rein handling and teamwork with a horse four is all about.
József Dibak wins
With so little between the top two in the horse pairs, it was a nail-biting showdown between two of Italy’s finest drivers. Austria’s Sylvia Peters gave onlookers an enjoyable round to watch having knocked three but with no time penalties to add, rose up a place to end in fourth. Lying in third after the marathon, Misdee Wrigley Miller did enough to secure her position and was delighted with the performance of her two horses, who, until the last minute, were due to be her team leaders. Luckily, the carriage she brought down from The Netherlands had adjustable axles, so she was able to narrow the wheel width to the correct distance for horse pairs.
“It was a great, flowing course to drive, but if you lost your line, then that’s when you hit the cones, and I lost my line going into number 6”, she said.
The penultimate pair driver to enter the arena was Jozsef Dibak, lying in second after the first two phases. As soon as his lythe black horses passed through the start gates, they worked in harmony and found their rhythm. With two balls down giving his six penalties to add, and a finely judged time of 177.07 sec (the allowance being 180 sec) he put himself firmly into contention to win the class. Knowing how well Jozsef had driven, Giorgio Proietti, who had been so attacking on the marathon, perhaps felt the pressure and his handsome greys didn’t settle so easily and looked to become strong, which meant he hit five cones and went over time by 10.05 secs. With only 0.17 points separating them ahead of the cones, it was Jozsef who took a decisive win in the pairs on a total score of 150.8.
All involved in the event, from the hosts to the overseas delegates to the drivers, were fortunate to have this opportunity to embark on a trial run over the ground at Pratoni. For those who will be returning for the FEI World Driving Championships for Four-in-Hands in September, they gained valuable experience testing Josef Middendorf’s new obstacles and seeing the lay of the land.
On a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon, as the top placed competitors entered the stunning arena, event director Giuseppe Della Chiesa was delighted with how the two weeks of Test Events had gone at Pratoni. “The idea is that the Test Event is a place to improve and learn. We don’t normally organise many driving competitions, so for us the Driving is similar to Eventing in some ways, but in other ways very different. It’s been good to have the advice from our foreign friends such as the technical delegate and all the people who have come to help us. We now have a better idea of what we are looking for ahead of September and I am confident that we will have a successful World Championship.”
Photo: Massimo Argenziano