There’s a new Whitaker on the block… Jack, 20, wins at London International: ‘This is a very big deal for me’

  • Jack Whitaker joined the ranks of famous Whitaker family members who have won in the London Horse Show showjumping when he took the Longines Christmas cracker tonight.

    The 20-year-old rider said a win at the show is “a very big deal for me”, bearing in mind his family’s history with Olympia – as the show is known, although it has moved to ExCel from its usual home this year.

    “It’s difficult to put into words – I don’t think I’ve ever missed Olympia since I’ve been born,” he said. “I’ve always been coming here with my Dad [Michael], watching my Dad win loads of classes and loads of my family so it’s just great to have that one under my belt.”

    This is Jack’s first year contesting the five-star classes at the show, although he has formerly competed in the pony division and last year in the young rider class.

    Video courtesy of London International Horse Show

    Ten of the 20 starters jumped clear in the first round, so the early jump-off riders calculated a fast clear would be needed to win. But speed came at the expense of poles down and it took until fifth-drawn Jack, riding his father Michael’s Valmy De La Lande, to get a clear.

    His 41.48sec left an opportunity open for a faster challenger, but three of the five who followed faulted, with the double at fence six proving particularly influential.

    Finland’s Noora Forsten took second on Con Caya with a clear in 43.5sec, while another young Brit, Harry Charles, was the fastest four-faulter to land third on Valkiry De Zance – a good result for him after a London Horse Show showjumping win on Friday.

    “I just saw them knocking jumps down so I thought if I get a clear round, I might get lucky,” said Jack. “I didn’t think I was going to win. I thought I was going to finish third or fourth, maybe second. I just got lucky.”

    The 12-year-old grey Valmy De La Lande, by Mylord Carthago*HN, has been in the Whitaker family since he was six – “my dad found him and did all the hard work,” said Jack – and was fourth in the World Cup qualifier at Olympia with Michael in 2018.

    He displayed some high spirits in the class, kicking out in both his rounds, which Jack said is typical of him.

    “He’s a proper good horse, he’s just a bit of a lunatic,” said the rider. “He is a complete machine, but he’s just very difficult to handle sometimes. A jump-off like that where it’s all twisty and turny is not great for him, he gets very sharp, so I couldn’t go full blast anyway today. So it just worked out perfectly in the end.”

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