‘It’s a privilege to ride with him’: HOYS roof raised as John Whitaker and Shane Breen win 1.85m six-bar

  • The roof of the NEC must have been tugging at its moorings this afternoon, as John Whitaker and Shane Breen both cleared 1.85m (6’1”) to win the Thistledown Investments HOYS six-bar.

    After the field of 16 starters had been whittled down to Shane on Cato Boy and John on Sharid, the pair had the option to share first place or go again.

    “I said ‘Why don’t we go again, for the craic?’” Shane said. “With a full house like that – the crowd loves it when you go in and have a go, and it’s lovely we both went in and jumped clear. Excellent sport.”

    Both horses – HH Prince Torki bin Mohammed Al Saud’s 14-year-old who has jumped many a six-bar with John, and Nikki Rutter Giaponne’s nine-year-old who was making his debut in the class with Shane – made nothing of the huge verticals, popping down the line as if it was a grid at home.

    HOYS six-bar winners John Whitaker and Shane Breen

    “He’s good at six-bars, and they do him good,” said John. “They get his focus because he can be a bit of a thug who likes to play around. As Shane said, as the fences get bigger, the distances between them get shorter, so the last two rounds I just went in slow and tried to hold him up in between, and he jumped very good.”

    The cheers for both riders’ achievement were huge – but it was the response to the legendary John, who at 68 has been competing at HOYS for over half a century, that must have been heard miles away; the mighty cheer as he came in for his last round only surpassed by the explosion of applause when he cleared the final fence. The pair rode into the arena with their hands raised together, and took the trophy between them.

    “He’s a superstar, a legend” said Shane. “It’s an honour to ride with him.”

    John added that the atmosphere during the HOYS six-bar today was “fantastic”.

    “I don’t think it’s because of what I do, I think it’s because I’ve been around so long,” he quipped.

    “It’s an unbelievable reception when you go in. It can wind Sharid up a bit – but it was just enough today.”

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