John Whitaker clears 1.95m to win on ‘game’ horse ‘he borrows sometimes’

  • Legendary showjumper John Whitaker was the joint winner of the six-bar challenge at the CSIO Rome Piazza di Siena, clearing 1.95m on a horse he “borrows sometimes”.

    John and Paul Barker’s Green Grass, and Emilio Biocchi and Testa Carlo’s Flinton, were the only combinations to leave the fences up in the third round of Friday’s final class (26 May). The riders opted not to battle it out over a fourth round, which would have gone up to 2.05m, and instead agreed to share the win.

    The class asked questions from the start, with the final fence standing at 1.60m in the first round, and the height increased in every round. Only one other rider of 10 made it to the last round, Switzerland’s Alzain Jufer and Kosimo MM, who took the final fence down.

    The competition was 13-year-old stallion Green Grass’s first attempt at a six bar.

    “He’s normally ridden by Paul, who bred him, I just borrow him sometimes!”, said John.

    “He’s really brave, he just took it on. He’s never jumped anything near that height. Paul jumps him in national 1.45m or 1.50m classes and he’s competitive. I just jumped him for experience in the first two rounds and he felt so good the third time I thought I’d go again. He’s very game.”

    John was cheered by the Italian crowd, gaining the title ‘Il grande John Whitaker’ – meaning ‘the great John Whitaker’ whenever he entered the Piazza di Siena ring.

    “It’s actually very nice, I like it!” he said.

    John was in Rome with Ben Maher, Jodie Hall McAteer, Matthew Sampson and Tim Gredley for the CSIO5* Nations Cup. The team had an unlucky day to finish eighth – team Ireland took the honours, made up of Mikey Pender, Jack Ryan, Michael G Duffy, and Denis Lynch.

    Jodie and Kimosa Van Het Kritahof won the 1.50m feature class on the opening day of competition on Wednesday (24 May), and were also second in the 1.45m with Catoki, beaten by Pedro Veniss and Cadum De Champloue.

    Matthew Sampson and his new ride MGH Candy Girl, formerly ridden by eventer Gemma Stevens, were second to Ireland’s Jessica Burke and Inpulss in the 1.45m speed class on Friday. Tim Gredley was fourth and the highest placed Brit in the grand prix on Saturday (27 May) with Medoc De Toxandria. The winners were reigning European champions, Germany’s Andre Thieme and DSP Chakaria.

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