Exiting marathon day at race course

It was a spectacular day at La Prairie Racecourse for the marathon phase of Driving at the World Equestrian Games.  German Christoph Sandmann turned quickest for a score of 89.30 points after his team mate Georg von Stein (90.28) had explored the route for him. Defending titlist Boyd Exell finished third, securing the overall lead again with a combined total of 125.83. Dressage leader Chester Weber had a slow round, now sitting in second position on 128.60 points, less than one ball behind Exell going into the cones on Sunday.

Exiting marathon day at race course
© PSV Photos

The Germans had opted for risky lines at obstacles 4 and 6, the Rolex clock and the Landrover obstacle, where Georg von Stein had offered to be the pathfinder testing the dangerous corners. “We weren’t sure whether the carriage would fit in there. But I knew if I could do it, Christoph could do it even faster and it worked”, the 42-year-old said,  very satisfied with his clear round. Winner Christoph Sandmann, individual fourth at Lexington2010, had lost some seconds at the first labyrinth but managed to catch up and drive the lines as planned. He now sits in individual fifth place. Von Stein found the course more testing than expected with his horses less agile in the obstacles. “The horses were irritated by spectators’ whistling, because usually that is my signal for them to hurry up in the obstacles.”

Like many drivers Australian Boyd Exell had a hiccup at the Landrover obstacle as well, getting stuck briefly and nearly damaging the cars parked there for decoration. “But I’m not going home regretting obstacle 6. My horses gave me everything I could ask for. They were strong, quite fresh and pulled me through everything, and with fifteen seconds gained we must have been quick elsewhere”, the British based marathon expert said. He had opted to use heavier wheels, designed for indoor competitions, bringing his carriage 100 kilograms over the minimum weight of 600 to give him an extra gain on stability. “The carriage stayed tight. We were never on two wheels as the spectators like it but I prefer less chance of falling over.” Exell summed up the course: “It was enough of a test”. But he called it an easy track with shorter lines in the hazards.

American dressage leader Chester Weber finished 12th in the marathon ranking after problems with his right leader at the Alltech water as the last fence. “It was challenging out there with everything from the most technical questions to real racing.” The new father is quite relaxed about his pursuing position for the cone phase. “I prefer being in the hunter’s position and having a child puts things in perspective. Today was about sport but not life or death.”

Koos de Ronde, world’s No.4 and youngest member of the Dutch trio, finished fourth in the marathon. It was smooth sailing through all obstacles for the 37-year old and his flashy chestnuts after a small problem at the first test. “It was fantastic to drive in front of that many spectators.” As he had expected, the speed was high but the footing held up. “We had expected to slide a lot more but there was definitely no disadvantage here.” Fastest Dutch driver in the marathon, de Ronde in sixth place trails Theo Timmermans (3.) and Ijsbrand Chardon (4.) in the combined ranking, making the Dutch team look like the hot favourite for their fourth World Equestrian Games team gold, holding Germany and Hungary at bay.      

American course designer Richard Nicoll had presented a course that was very different from his showcase in Lexington2010. He fitted eight obstacles onto the race course that is home of trotting horses. To save the nature reserve in the center of the course all obstacles were set up at either end of the oval, making the scene a perfect showcase for the 16.000 spectators who could watch all hazards either live or on big TV-screens.  

After warming up over 6000 meters and another kilometer in walk the horses had a mandatory halt of 15 minutes before attacking the obstacles. Like every other marathon it asked for bursts of energy within the hazards, with tight turns through up to six gates at each, avoiding the knockdowns that cost two points extra. Two hours of hard work and tension for everybody involved, the drivers, their two grooms on the carriage and four more on the ground – and the horses. Only three teams did not finish with Swiss world champion Werner Ulrich taking the most spectacular exit when he turned the carriage over at the last obstacle. No worries, though, and after the team had set the vehicle upright again, all got on again and left in trot, waving to the crowd. 

Top 5 Marathon Ranking:

1.Christoph Sandmann (GER) – 89.30

2.Georg von Stein (GER) – 90.28

3.Boyd Exell (AUS) – 90.32

4.Koos de Ronde (NED) – 91.53

5.Sebastien Mourier (FRA) – 91.87

Top 5 after Dressage and Marathon (provisional):

1.Boyd Exell (AUS) – 125.83

2.Chester Weber (USA) – 128.60

3.Theo Timmerman (NED) – 133.88

4.Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) – 134.38

5.Christoph Sandmann (GER) – 136.43

Top 5 Team ranking (provisional)

1.Netherlands – 263.19

2.Germany – 277,56

3.Hungary – 283,63

4.USA – 292,28

5.Belgium – 296,08

CLICK HERE for more individual results:

CLICK HERE  for provisional team results:

CLICK HERE for marathon results.


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