Weber Wins; Johnson Third in Impressive Efforts at German Fahrderby, Riesenbeck CAI-A 2008
RELEASE: August 6, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Joanie Morris
Lexington, KY – Driver Chester Weber continued his stellar European campaign over the weekend with a convincing win at the German Fahrderby in Riesenbeck, Germany. The Fahrderby (Driving Derby) is a unique competition which consists of six separate phases.
It began with each competitor driving a pair the first morning - a class that is equivalent to a show hunter class.
Four drivers enter a standard driving arena and are directed by the judges to perform specific movements from letter to letter. The judging is based on conformation and overall suitability for driving. The drivers then exit the arena and are asked back in the ring one at a time to perform a specific mini-dressage test. The judges give one score for this section of the competition. In the afternoon the competitors must then drive a dressage test with a separate pair. Both the morning and afternoon sessions are scored and have a multiplier of one. Weber, who lives in Ocala, FL, scored 28.16 for his winning test in the morning and had the top score again in the afternoon session with a score of 37.12.
“My goal going into Reisenbeck was to win the competition by dominating the dressage phase,” said Weber. “We swept the dressage classes and broke an international record with the lowest score ever in test eight with the Four-in-Hand in on Friday.”
Tucker Johnson was competing for only the third time this year and finished a very respectable fifth in the morning session and fourth in the afternoon. Jim Fairclough rounded out the US trio driving Jane Clark’s relatively inexperienced team. He was fourth in the morning session but had a bit of trouble in the afternoon and finished 23rd.
The second day of the competition brought all four horses together for the traditional Four-in-Hand dressage test. Weber scored a phenomenal 32.90 rumored to be a record score for that specific test. The test was essentially flawless, the only mistake was a restless right leader in the test’s first halt.
Weber, using back-up wheelers, amazingly improved on his winning dressage performance from the CHIO Aachen earlier in the month. The team Weber has assembled is absolutely remarkable and consistently produces accurate and flamboyant dressage tests. The crowd was impressed both by Weber’s performance and by the judges’ marks which broke 200.
Johnson put in his usual excellent performance and ended up fourth with a score of 47.36. His test was consistent and accurate with good transitions and rhythmical gaits. The test was marred only by a mistake in the rein back. Fairclough had a disappointing score of 65.02. Fairclough’s team was inexperienced but full of potential.
The third day of the Derby is the Marathon and the usual suspects set blistering times. Thomas Erickson of Sweden led the way with a score 81.85. Josef Dobrovitz did not disappoint and moved up the rankings in the Derby with a flawless round landing him second on a score of 86.64. The Americans, not always known for their marathon prowess, impressed.
Johnson was fifth and could have been better if not for a broken pole strap in hazard two. He handily managed to escape the hazard without incurring additional penalties. Johnson was resourceful and replaced the broken pole strap with a cotton rope between hazards. Johnson and his navigators were relieved that the rope held for the remainder of the marathon. Luck and experience was on their side as Johnson guided the team to a second and two fourths in three of the remaining five hazards essentially resurrecting what could have been a disastrous marathon.
Weber placed sixth in the Marathon to impress everyone and surprise some, as it is not historically the phase he in which he excels. Weber has been working tirelessly on improving his Marathon and the work began to pay dividends at Riesenbeck – producing his best marathon of the 2008 season. Weber did not win any of the hazards, but his team was consistent.
“My dressage score allowed me to drive a smooth, careful marathon and still hold the lead I had created with my dressage,” said Weber.
Fairclough’s team again showed its inexperience by having inconsistent performances in the hazards. Parts of his marathon proved very promising.
The final day of the 2008 Derby began with two Americans in the top four places.
Weber was comfortably in first place with a score 527.08 points and three balls in hand going into the cones portion. Thomas Erickson laid second with 555.43 followed by the Swedish driver Fredrick Persson at 578.73 then Johnson at 587.73 penalty points.
Weber easily maintained his lead and Johnson drove perfectly put in an impressive effort to move up to third overall. In the cones phase of the Derby the multiplier is three, each ball is then nine points instead of the standard three.
Erickson who had pushed his way into second place after the marathon seemed to lose focus and had three mistakes taking an enormous amount of pressure off Weber. Weber had more than 54 points in hand but his Cones was not without incident. His left leader that was replacing his usual veteran horse seemed glued to the right leader pushing the horse over to the right. Weber wasn’t fazed by the events and managed to pick his way through the course only dropping two balls and picking up 2.92 time penalties guaranteeing the victory. Weber looks poised to continue his streak at next month’s World Championship.
“I feel fortunate to have such a spectacular group of horses that all seem to be peaking at the right time,” said Weber. “Most importantly I was able to finish up this last outing before the World Championships in Beesd with all the horses sound and fit… This convincing win helps our entire team, horses and the people, to feel that the plans we set out are on track for the upcoming championship.”
Fairclough continued to struggle and dropped two balls and had 2.75 in time penalties.
Reisenbeck proved a successful final preparation for the Americans before the World Four-in-Hand Championship in Beesd, Netherlands September 3-7 2008.