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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Australian carriage driver just can't be beaten

ABOVE: Boyd Exell and his four-in-hand team during the marathon in Italy. Picture: LIBBY LAW

DESPITE the best attempts of his international rivals, Australian carriage driver Boyd Exell kept a cool head during a soaking final cones round to win a decisive sixth individual FEI Driving four-in-hand World Championship in Italy.

It leaves his unbroken reign intact after his first gold 12 years ago in Lexington, US.

Exell wasn't going to let his grip on the crown slip in Pratoni, putting in stellar performances across all three phases of the competition and leading from the start. With dressage always Exell's strongest phase, he secured a score of 34.13, challenging the rest of the field to chase him down.

"I love driving, the score is only the icing on the cake," Exell said of his early lead.

The marathon phase saw Exell extend his lead even further, moving into the final day of competition six penalties ahead of his closest competitor.

On the final day of competition Exell drove a measured final round, which saw him claim victory on a final score of 156.09.

"I have the pressure of having fantastic horses and you mustn't let them down. That's one of the hardest things – they are 15 years old now and so experienced. The team of people around me, all the helpers, it's about not letting them down, too," he said.

Fellow Australian Tor Van Den Berge also competed at the championship event, making his FEI World Championships four-in-hand debut. His dressage and marathon phases were super, but a misunderstanding of a judge’s bell meant his young team was eliminated. No doubt a learning experience that won’t be repeated.

Tor was brave when he attended the press conference after. He expressed his deep disappointment at letting the team down, although he was reassured that his followers were totally supportive. His left-hand leader got fired up during the round and while the team was brilliant up to that obstacle, the young horse drifted to the side and caused a refusal. With the obstacle rebuilt and officials stepping back, Tor drove on through the obstacle before the restart bell rang and was eliminated. The team is still young and of top class, they will develop.

Boyd’s team is 15 years old. So there is plenty of time for the Van Den Berge chestnuts yet.

ABOVE: Boyd Exell and his team all smiles after the win. Picture: LIBBY LAW

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