It was the Four-in-Hand Final we all deserved this weekend in Bordeaux.
There, the Netherlands’ Bram Chardon beat the 2023/24 season leader and defending 10-time Champion Boyd Exell (AUS) to take home his third FEI Driving World Cup™ Title. And the performances didn’t disappoint.
Exell was considered the series favorite coming into Saturday night’s opening competition on 30 points ahead of Bram Chardon’s 27. Despite one knockdown on Saturday, Chardon benefitted from a special scoring system in the Final, carrying over zero points after the opening competition on February 3. But the 50% differences carried over by the rest of the field ultimately made little difference on Sunday.
Despite an initial clear round from the Chardon—who improved upon his knock-down on Saturday—Exell fired back, driving one of his best rounds of season to finish 0.33 ahead of the Dutchman. Chardon’s father, Ijsbrand Chardon, secured the coveted third spot in the drive-off on 142.35, moving two places ahead of countryman Koos de Ronde (NED) who ultimately took fourth, and Dries Degrieck (BEL) who finished fifth.
In the drive-off, which ran in reverse order, Ijsbrand Chardon came back to the shortened course first, notching another clear for a combined total of 263.65. Despite some reticence from Bram that he wouldn’t have enough time to rest his team of Lipizzaners (Kendi, Favory Farao, 372 Conversano Mara XLVI-2, and Dreef Kapitany) before the drive off, he, too, produced another powerful clear run for a combined total of 251.86.
Last to go, Exell faced a slight setback when his team required a last-minute harness repair, resulting in a delayed start. Despite this, he laid down an electric round once again, stopping the clock 2.84 seconds ahead of Chardon, but a single knocked cone ultimately dropped him into second place.
“I only came here for one goal, which was to win,” Bram said after his victory. “Yesterday was a good start, although I had an unlucky knockdown, but today, the horses went double clear. The pressure between me and Boyd has been going on all season and we are pushing each other to the next level every time, and I think we saw one of the best finals in many years.”
Indeed, Bram and Boyd have been trading qualifiers all season: Exell took home wins in Lyon (FRA), Maastricht (NED), Stuggart (GER), London (GBR), and Mechelen (BEL); while Chardon claimed victory in Stockholm (SWE), Geneva (SWI), and now, the Championship in Bordeaux (FRA).
The best part for the 30-year-old Dutch driver? Sharing the podium with his family.
“For me, it is a bonus that my father is on the podium too, like last year, and my sisters are a crucial part of the team too,” Bram said. “It all stays in the family, which makes victories like this more special and the journey home even better.”