For the third time, the World Cup four-in-hand driving season opened at the German Classics, Oct. 26-29 on the Hannover fairgrounds (Germany).
Victory in the World Cup-qualifying class went to Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson, ahead of the 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany) individual bronze medalist Christoph Sandmann of Germany and the current World Cup champion, Ysbrand Chardon of the Netherlands.
Reigning team world champion Michael Freund, who retired from international driving at the 2006 Aachen WEG, said a final goodbye at Hannover, placing fifth. For the round of honour in the prize-giving ceremony, his son Marco took over the reins. More than 8,000 spectators cheered them on with a standing ovation.
It was Eriksson’s second consecutive win at Hannover’s World Cup-qualifier. “I really enjoyed this competition and I believe we gave a very good show today,” he said. The win also gave him a special satisfaction, since he’d gone off-course and been eliminated in front of his home crowd at the World Cup Final at Gothenburg, Sweden, in April 2006.
Eriksson placed second in the qualifier for the World Cup class, driving a clear first round and finishing just 1 second behind Chardon. Sand-mann, the winner of the warm-up competition, achieved the third-best result in the initial round.
In the second round, in which only the best three teams of the first round advanced for a combined score, Chardon started off very fast again, but knocked a ball down in the first obstacle complex.
Then, the World Cup title defender increased the speed so much that two more balls fell, and with them also dropped his hopes to win the first of seven World Cup legs of the 2006/2007 indoor season. This took a bit of the pressure off Eriksson, but he knew that Sandmann would still come behind him. Eriksson finished with one ball down and an overall total of 205.22 penalties.
Sandmann’s clear aim after winning the warm-up class was to also take victory in the World Cup qualifier. And, until the last obstacle, it looked like he would be driving towards victory, but, unfortunately, he knocked down a ball at the last fence (207.46), which spoiled his victory.
“It was great to win yesterday and I knew I had to take more risks today, but I am very pleased with the second place,” commented Sandmann.
Fourth place went to Hungary’s Jozsef Dobrovitz, who drove a clear, but slow first round with his team of Lippizaner horses, shortly missing qualifying for the winning round.
Fifth-placed Michael Freund, who had had two balls down in the first round, was at Hannover primarily to say goodbye to the spectators. “Hannover is one of the events which has always supported me. I will also say goodbye to the crowds at [German shows] Stuttgart and Leipzig. Those events mean a lot to me. I will not say goodbye forever, but I might be back as a groom for my son Marco in the future!”