John Whitaker proved why, even at 60 years old, he still dominates the world of showjumping when taking the Longines grand prix at the Athina Onassis Horse Show in St Tropez (Saturday, 4 June).
With a total prize-fund of €400,000 (£313,000) the class was hotly contested and fellow world-class riders including Kevin Staut, Simon Delestre, Christian Ahlmann and Jeroen Dubbeldam also lined-up among the field of 40.
But it was John, riding his own and wife Clare’s incredible stallion Argento, who put in the best display to take the top honours.
The second round saw 18 combinations go forward — ten of which had produced a clear over Luc Musette’s 1.60m first-round track.
John and Argento were one of just five to keep the poles intact and go head-to-head in the jump-off.
On the scenic beach of Pampelonne in Ramatuelle, spectators watched a thrilling third and final round.
With three fast clears in front of him — each just a fraction of a second apart — John was the last rider to take to the arena.
Remaining cool-headed, in true John Whitaker style, he pulled off an epic jump-off, coming home 0.09 of a second faster than runner-up Christian Ahlmann, to take grand prix glory.
The British-bred stallion and the renowned Yorkshireman received a standing from an appreciative French crowd.
Their win comes weeks after John confirmed he will not be putting Argento up for selection for the Rio Olympics this summer.
“Argento is a great horse, he’s a real fighter but he has his limits and I don’t want to push him beyond them,” he explained.
Last year, John also ruled him out of the European Championships in Aachen because the stallion prefers smaller arenas, saying at the time: “He always tries his best and I don’t want to break his heart in something he’s not comfortable in.”