‘It’s 10 years since I won in this ring’: Jack Whitaker claims first senior Hickstead victory

  • Jack Whitaker secured not only the first British individual five-star win of the week but also his first senior win in Hickstead’s main arena when he headed a gripping 1.50m Royal International salver with Equine America Valmy De La Lande.

    “I think the last time I won in here was children on horses about 10 years ago,” said 21-year-old Jack, who has had strong five-star form on home soil this year, also finishing a very close second with the gelding at Royal Windsor.

    “My plan was to win it. In the big class on the first day we had the first fence down, which revved me up more for this.

    “He was good to me in there,” he added. “I had a few rogue shots in the jump-off but he was really on the ball. He’s holding my career together with all the winning he does and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

    Although the previous three five-star classes had fallen to foreign conquest, British morale had no doubt been boosted by a home victory in the previous day’s Nations Cup. The Brits were on resurgent form, with 11 making it through to the jump-off, joined by two riders for Sweden and two for Italy.

    Brits hold the advantage

    Matt Sampson set the tone with a competitive opening bid on the grey stallion Daniel, before Joe Stockdale, who has been knocking on the door all week with a couple of top-three placings, axed 0.24sec on Barbara Hester’s Ebanking.

    His advantage was short-lived as next-in Jack blitzed the target by 1.77sec on the experienced 14-year-old grey, who was previously jumped to five-star by Jack’s father Michael, until he took over the reins in 2020.

    It was Will Edwards and his chestnut mare SHW Candies B — a close second in the previous day’s Royal International trophy and with a brilliant track record in this arena — who posed the biggest threat in penultimate draw.

    They looked slightly slower round the first half of the course but really opened up after the double — which had been a bogey in the first round — taking a stride out on the final line but were still unable to catch Jack’s stellar target, finishing 0.60sec behind.

    “I thought if there was anywhere I might get beat, it was to the double. When I walked the course I thought ‘I’ve got to get that one right’. It was the poles [which were harder to see, with vertical stripes], it was against the [hospitality] bar, up hill and the oxer coming out was big enough,” Jack said. “I’d slowed him down to jump it in the jump-off to give him some time to jump in.

    “I knew there were a few fast ones behind me including my good mate Will Edwards who has a very fast horse. I was winding him up in the collecting ring a bit, but he didn’t manage to catch me.”

    You might also like to read…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...