Boyd Exell took an astonishing ninth FEI driving World Cup victory — but revealed he almost did not contest the final after his daughter was hospitalised following a riding accident.
Eleven-year-old Olivia broke her pelvis in a fall from her pony Belle but was able to watch Boyd regain the title in Bordeaux on 9 February from her hospital bed.
“Olivia has improved a lot now so we are so very relieved about that, but there is still some way to go,” he said. “There was discussion last week that she may have needed an operation, which would have affected my competing in Bordeaux. Ultimately I was assured that everything was stable and in order, and as a family we decided I should do the show.
“It was a real rollercoaster of emotions over the week,” he added, “It was wonderful to speak to Olivia after the show. She’s being so brave. All in all it was relief to secure the win and then to get home to my family.”
Boyd’s emotional triumph also marked the retirement of his much-loved indoor team wheeler Demi, who is stepping down from competition at the age of 23.
“It was the right time,” Boyd said. “She has given so much to me – she’s given everything.
“I was mindful I wanted her to retire on a high as well, so this was perfect. She’s still fit and healthy and she’ll stay with the family as my son will ride her for pleasure.
“She’ll be hard to replace, that’s for sure, but we have younger horses coming through.”
Last year, the World Cup title went to Dutch challenger Bram Chardon — another pressure making this year’s final the most tense the 47-year-old Australian has faced.
Boyd arrived in Bordeaux a strong favourite with a phenomenal run of form behind him, having secured six out of the seven World Cup legs he contested.
“I really felt the pressure of delivering,” he said. “I have the fastest team and the fastest horses and there’s no excuses – I need to deliver.
“Last year I didn’t do that in the final, and it was very much on my mind that I could not allow that to happen again.”
Boyd went head to head with Dutchmen Koos De Ronde and Ijsbrand Chardon in the three-man drive-off, where Boyd and Koos both produced clears, but the Australian broke the beam with an emphatic 11.29sec lead.
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Boyd will now look towards the outdoor season, before he starts his bid for a tenth win next winter.
During the show, Bram Chardon became the first driver to wear the FEI armband for topping the world rankings, tallied by points gained over a 12-month period running 1 Jan – 31 Dec.
The armband, already used in other disciplines, was introduced to driving in January this year, and will be given to the top four-in-hand, single and pairs competitors.
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