Michael Whitaker’s showjumping star to retire

  • Michael Whitaker has retired his former top ride Amai at the age of 16.

    The gelding enjoyed considerable success under Michael, topped by winning the prestigious Aachen grand prix in 2012 — considered one of the toughest classes around the world. They also made numerous Nations Cup appearances together and were members of the winning British team at Hickstead in 2010 and Dublin in 2011.

    The partnership was also part of the team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and enjoyed World Cup triumphs in Verona in 2009 and London in 2010. Since 2007, the pair had been jumping at five-star level on the international circiuit.

    The son of Nonstop is owned jointly by Michael and Beatrice Mertens and he will live out his retirement in the field at Michael’s Nottinghamshire yard.

    Standing at 17hh, the big gelding always had presence and Michael described him in the past as “very sharp” and “intelligent”. Michael found the Belgian warmblood through his friend François Mathy in Belgium.

    In 2011, Amai injured himself while competing at Rotterdam and was forced to have nine months on the sidelines. This meant the pair missed out on competing at the 2011 European Championships. However, he made an impressive comeback from injury to go on and win the grand prix in Aachen in 2012.

    Meanwhile, the 56-year-old showjumper is preparing for this summer’s Rio Olympics. It was confirmed on Tuesday (5 July) that Michael — alongside brother John — will be riding on the British team. He will partner the 11-year-old grey stallion Cassionato, who he rode at last year’s European Championships.

    Joining Michael and John (Ornellaia) will be Nick Skelton (Big Star) and Ben Maher (Tic Tac), while 20-year-old Jessica Mendoza has been named as the travelling reserve with her European Championships mount Spirit T.

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