The 2022 World Cup Jumping Final is under way in Leipzig, Germany, and among the trio of British riders competing is John Whitaker, riding in his first World Cup Final in more than two decades, and 31 years after he last took the title.
John, who last competed in a World Cup Final in 2000, won back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991 on the incomparable Milton, and arrived in Leipzig this year hoping to achieve a third title, this tine riding Equine America Unick Du Francport.
Things didn’t quite go to plan on the opening day of competition for John, who had one fence down to finish 19th, but with two more rounds yet to go, all is not lost.
“It went to plan apart from knocking a fence down,” said John. “I planned to try to get in the first five today – not to try to win it as he’s not the quickest horse, although he’s jumping well. We weren’t quite quick enough to afford to have a fence down; I felt it was a bit unlucky. The way I went and the speed I went was all to plan, so it was just a shame I had the one down.
“It would have been quite an easy course if it wasn’t against the clock. The standard is so high these days they tend to make it look easy, but it’s not actually that easy!”
John said that although, of course, it is difficult for any horse to compare to the legendary Milton, he thinks Equine America Unick Du Francport, a 14-year-old gelding by Zandor, is “capable of winning something like this”.
“He’s been really good for me the last couple of years, and has got me back up to the top flight again. He can jump any course; he’s got all the scope and he’s got a good mind. Although he’s 14 he is still learning the job at championship level, though, with all the atmosphere and the attention at something like this.”
John was pipped by just 0.01secs by his nephew, Jack Whitaker, competing at his first World Cup Final. Aboard the smart grey son of Mylord Carthago, Equine America Valmy De La Lande, Jack produced a smooth clear round that was just a little too steady to elevate him into the top positions.
“It was probably as much as I could do, but it was too slow,” said Jack. “I was very happy with the way that he jumped – he is jumping amazingly, but he’s not the fastest horse in the world. He is a bit sharp in his head and if you try to push him a little too hard he can lose his head a bit, so that was about as much as I could do.”
The third British rider, Harry Charles, finished best of the Brits in 13th position riding Stardust, although he revealed that he plans to swap horses for tomorrow’s second round, as will today’s winner, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Chaplin.
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