‘I’m hanging on in there!’ John Whitaker shows ‘young speed merchants’ how it’s done in London

  • The legendary John Whitaker showed the “young speed merchants” how it’s done to win the Santa Stakes – and said winning at the London International Horse Show never gets old.

    John and HH Prince Torki bin Mohammed Al Saud’s Sharid were the only combination to jump off clear in the 1.50m class, beating Scott Brash and Hello Mr President’s turbo-powered but four-fault round into second place.

    John and the versatile 14-year-old, with whom he won the six-bar at Horse of the Year Show this year, were third of six to jump off, and with no clears before him, John judged that aiming to leave all the fences up was his best bet. The strategy paid off, when none of those who followed – Matt Sampson on MGH Candy Girl, Kendra Claricia Brinkop on Ma Belle and  Lorenzo de Luca with Violino Il Palazetto – could match his feat.

    “It’s only his second class this week so he’s fresh,” said John of the 14-year-old Toulon gelding. “He’s not an easy ride but he can really jump and when everything works out, it’s good. It was a tough enough course but with the others not going clear I thought maybe don’t take all the risks. I knew my time was beatable but I was clear, and it put just the right amount of pressure on the others.”

    The home crowd roared its appreciation of the 68-year-old showjumping legend to the rooftops, and John said such moments, followed by the gallop under the spotlights, never get old.

    “In front of your own crowd, and such an enthusiastic audience; it’s a fantastic feeling,” he said. “It keeps me young!”

    John had joked: “It feels good to beat these young speed merchants,” adding:  “They’re just so good, these guys, but I’m hanging on in there! It’s so nice; I enjoyed that. The horses have jumped well all week but not had the best luck so to win a decent class like makes Christmas a bit better.”

    You might also be interested in:

    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...