John Whitaker bids for a record-equalling third World Cup victory (his first since Milton in 1991!)

  • In Leipzig, Germany, this week (7-10 April), 36 of the world’s best showjumpers will be battling it out for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final and, after a two-year hiatus owing to the pandemic, the excitement levels are sky-high.

    Among this year’s contenders, who have qualified from six different global leagues and who represent 19 different nations, are a trio of British riders – John Whitaker, his nephew Jack Whitaker, and Harry Charles.

    The legendary John, 66, will be bidding for a record-equalling third World Cup victory; his previous two wins came in 1990 and 1991 with the great Milton, and this year he is riding his newly prefixed top horse Equine America Unick Du Francport.

    Rising stars Jack, 20, and Harry, 22, will be making their debuts. Jack — son of John’s younger brother Michael Whitaker — takes the reins on Equine America Valmy De La Lande, and Harry is bringing his Tokyo Olympics ride Romeo 88 and his victor of the World Cup qualifier at the London International Horse Show, Stardust.

    “The reason I’m taking the two horses is because they are both super-consistent,” says Harry. “Stardust has an extremely high clear-round rate at 1.60m and Romeo has so much experience behind him.”

    Among the other returning champions at this year’s final are the current title-holder Steve Guerdat, who Harry Charles says has “a bit of a magical relationship with the World Cup Final”. The Swiss rider lifted the trophy in 2015, 2016 and 2019 and he will be joined this year by countryman Martin Fuchs.

    German star Marcus Ehning is another three-time winner, lifting the title in 2003, 2006 and 2010, and he brings his in-form partner Stargold for this year’s competition. McLain Ward is also back in a bid to regain the title he won in 2017, one of nine riders from USA this year.

    Flying the flag for Ireland are Conor Swail, currently ranked number seven in the world, and Denis Lynch, who headed the standings in the Western European League.

    Among the other big names are Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands, David Will and Christian Ahlmann for Germany and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy. But some new names are also in the mix representing the likes of Lithuania, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

    This year’s courses are being designed by Germany’s Frank Rothenberger and the competition begins on Thursday (6 April) with the speed competition followed by a jump-off class on Friday. The final takes place on Sunday, when the 2022 World Cup champion will be crowned.

    H&H will be bringing you all the action online with a full report in next week’s issue of the magazine, in the shops on Thursday 14 April.

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