‘They won’t knock me off my perch yet!’ John leads gathering of nine Whitakers at a successful HOYS

  • It’s not clear what the collective noun would be for a group of Whitakers – but whatever it is, there was one at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) last week.

    Nine members of the family were competing, in everything from national classes to the grand prix, and most of them gathered for a picture in the Andrews Bowen International Arena on 8 October.

    The gathering in itself was no mean feat – “The biggest job was rounding us up, I thought we were going to miss our class!” William Whitaker said. “There’s plenty of us here; we thought we’d do it by numbers!”

    But, William added: “This shows how much HOYS means to use as a family. We all want to follow in the footsteps of what John and Michael have done in the sport, so to be here competing, with John and the rest of the family, makes me very proud. And I’m sure it makes my dad and uncles proud too.”

    John has been competing at HOYS for over half a century, which William said is “fantastic”.

    “The word ‘legend’ doesn’t do him justice,” he said. “We all really look up to him, and learn from him every day. It would be one thing if he had millions behind him and was going out to buy the best horses, but he’s not. He’s still producing young horses to the top level – and beating us. I’m used to that, he’s been doing it all my life! But I’m sure he’s as delighted when one of us wins as when he does.”

    It was successful Whitaker week; as well as William’s victory in the Grandstand Challenge Cup ranking class on Jalellah OL, and John’s close second in the grand prix on Equine America Unick Du Francport, Robert won the six-bar on Vermento.

    John on Sharid was joint second with Shane Breen on Vistogrand, and Robert said afterwards: “I have told him to retire a few times but he seems to just come back and win more!

    “He never has a doubt, I think that’s his best asset. He’s so positive, he thinks he can win any class on any horse – and a lot of the time, he does. He still helps me every day – we help each other – and I think he’s still going to win a lot more.”

    John himself joked that his family had “taken over a bit” at HOYS this year.

    “But they’re all good,” he said. “They’re all keen, good workers, nice guys and they’re good. It’s great to watch.

    “I think it’s in the blood, for sure, it has to be. They probably tried other things but thought showjumping is probably going to be it, which is great to see.

    “I find it amazing they’re all interested. I’ve lost count but I think there’s only two out of the family who don’t ride, Jack’s younger sisters, but the rest do, and they’re all good, and I’m extremely proud.”

    John added that his long and hugely successful career may “give them something to aim for”.

    “But I’m not going to give it to them easily, they won’t knock me off my perch!” he said. “I’m still going to be here; I don’t know for how many years, but a few more yet.”

    • What do you think should be the collective noun for a group of Whitakers? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, and nearest town and county

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