Flags are up at La Prairie Racecourse. Forty-six drivers from 17 different countries and their horses are ready to go into their world championship of Driving, piloting their four-in-hand carriages through the three phases of competition, starting with dressage over two days, followed by the marathon on Saturday and finishing with precision driving through cones on Sunday.
The Ground Jury gave the green light to all drivers with their five horses each, but put a damper on the hopes of Miroslav Matuska who had the extra horse for his team of four not accepted. That leaves Slovakia’s only competitor with nothing to spare. He needs to finish all three phases with his quartet of Lippizaner horses, while all other drivers still have the option to change one horse according to its special abilities. Defending title holder Boyd Exell will use this option to full extent. “I have a new combination for dressage”, says the Australian, who is based in England. He will put his reliable 14-year-old Rambo on the wheel and has young Curios in the lead.“He is only 7 but should give me more movement and more presence”, the Australian has set out his tactic.
Fourteen teams will compete with the Dutch the hot favourites. Ijsbrand Chardon, Kees de Ronde and Theo Timmerman are determined to keep the title they won in Lexington and held three times in WEG history. Veteran Ijsbrand Chardon (53) has been part of every Dutch team since 1990 in Stockholm and on the individual’s podium every time but once in 1998. No.8 in the world ranking, and defending silver medallist, he owns eleven WEG medals by now, four of them gold, and plans to at least complete the dozen at Normandy2014. He will set the tone getting out as the first starter on Thursday.
World’s No.1 Chester Weber won the prestigious Aachen event on a record score of 33.54 and can become the first American titleholder. The 39-year old “Mr. Dressage” has a record-breaking year already and drives at his fourth WEG.
Dutch Theo Timmerman, No.3 in the World, is at his third WEG, aiming for his first individual medal while German team veteran Christoph Sandmann has already bronze and silver to show for his individual record, but finished fourth in Lexington, while the team clung to bronze behind the USA.
It is a varied mix of drivers that took out their horses on Wednesday for the last round of training. Italian Carlo Mascheroni is the oldest at 74. Catching his breath, he presented his five horses trotting in front of the Jury. “The most difficult part of the competition”, he puffed afterwards. No such difficulties for the Hungarian, Jozsef Dobrovitz jr. At 22, he is the youngest, forming a team with his father, Jozsef sen. The most impressive family turnout competes for Czech Republic. Father Jiri Nesvacil, at his second World Equestrian Games, competes with two sons and has the third grooming for one of the brothers.
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