Portofino, the Dutch-bred mare ridden into second place by Michael Whitaker in last month’s show jumping World Cup final, has been bought by Scotland’s Gillespie family from her American owners for an undisclosed sum.

“We couldn’t bear the thought of Portofino going to another country’s rider, so we decided to try to keep her for the British team,” said Graham Gillespie. “It’s not often that a horse of this calibre comes on to the market, so we had to move quickly. Our equestrian business is run by my daughter, Nichola, so we had a family meeting.”

Michael Whitaker said: “I’m very happy about this — it secures our future as a partnership. She’s been resting since Las Vegas. Our next big show will be Rome and, after that, the European Championships in San Patrignano.”

Michael and Portofino, who was owned by the Californian Sappersteins, came agonisingly close to an Olympic place last year, only to lose out to Robert Smith, who finished fourth in Athens on Mr Springfield.

Since Michael took over the ride 18 months on the 11-year-old Portofino, a daughter of Habsburg, the pair has accumulated £340,000 in winnings.

Although they had a well-documented falling out over the Olympic selection, Michael and British team manager Derek Ricketts have since made their peace and Michael has said that he will be available for European Championship selection this year.

This is not the first time the Gillespies have stepped in to help British show jumping. In 2000, they bought Geoff Billington’s Sydney Olympic ride, It’s Otto, after the horse’s owner put him on the market.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 May, 05)


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