Australia’s Boyd Exell drove the day’s third-fastest marathon to maintain the lead he took in the first phase of Driving World Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Second-placed Ijsbrand Chardon has put the Dutch team in front (273.77), while third-placed Tucker Johnson is leading the U.S. team’s charge for second place (300.92). Sweden is third (311.24).
“Normally on most marathons you’ll have one little something somewhere, but today seemed almost perfect. Even going safe we were still fast, “ said Exell, 38. “I wanted to go fast enough to put pressure on Chardon, but not make mistakes. The horses were machines out there, they just really did it on their own.”
Exell, along with teammate Gavin Robson, has put Australia in the team medal hunt too. They’re in fourth, with 311.99 penalties, just behind Sweden. Australia has never won a team medal at the Driving World Championships.
Chardon, a former multiple-time world champion and one of the sport’s fastest marathon drivers, was only 5.89 points behind Exell after dressage. Today he drove the fastest total time in the eight obstacles of the 25 drivers, scoring 4.17 penalties fewer than Exell. The gap between them is now only 2.72 points.
“Today my goal was to go fast, and tonight I will sleep very well and prepare to have no faults and put the pressure on Boyd tomorrow,” said Chardon, 49.
Johnson’s total puts him 14.82 points behind Chardon, but the next three drivers are only slightly more than 4 points behind him. He said he’d like very much to win an individual medal in his final World Championship before he retires from international competition. He won the team silver medal in 1992 and the team gold medal in pairs driving in 1991.
“I’m gong to go clean tomorrow. That’s my goal,” he insisted.
Johnson, 46, concluded his marathon by saluting the cheering spectators with a raised fist after exiting the last obstacle. “It was a bittersweet moment for me, and I wanted to thank the crowd. I felt a little sadness that it was over and happiness for my performance. Given all the circumstances, I think my last marathon may be my best,” he said.
He added that teammates Chester Weber and Jimmy Fairclough had suffered bad luck before he started, both of them getting penalties for putting grooms down in an obstacle. Those penalties, combined with the speed of Chardon and teammate Theo Timmerman today, broke the tie between the Netherlands and the United States for first place after dressage.
Driving concludes tomorrow (Sunday) with the obstacles phase in the driving arena, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
About the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Games are held every four years and this will be the first occurrence in the United States. Tickets to the 2010 Games are still available and can be purchased at www.alltechfeigames.com/tickets, at www.ticketmaster.com, through the Ticketmaster hotline at 1-800-745-3000, or at your local Ticketmaster outlet.
The Games are being broadcast on NBC Sports, which marks the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $167 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International, Inc., Meydan, Kentucky Ale, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. For more information on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games please visit, www.alltechfeigames.com.