‘It’s totally surreal’: British rider wins World Cup qualifier at Olympia

By Penny Richardson

The name Whitaker is synonymous with Olympia, the London International Horse Show and on the show’s “super Saturday”, William Whitaker became the latest member of his illustrious family to win the prestigious Longines World Cup qualifier.

William and the Criel family’s wonderful Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Uti) had to do it the hard way, as they were seventh to go in a star-studded 18-horse jump-off .

“I told myself that I didn’t know how many chances I might get in a World Cup here and that I mustn’t go defensive in the jump-off,” said William.

Uti must have heard him. The little 14-year-old stallion set off at fast as he could go. He may not have the longest stride of any horse on the circuit, but what he does have is an enormous heart and their round was sheer perfection. They never wasted an inch and William crossed the line at the gallop to take the lead by more than two seconds.

The Yorkshireman then had to suffer what must have seemed the longest half an hour of his life.

Challenges came and went, with pre-class favourites Marcus Ehning and Pret A Tout beating the time at the expense of a pole down. Belgium’s Karel Cox came extremely close for the runner-up spot on Evert and when the last pair of Laura Kraut and Zeremonie’s time was good enough for third place, William’s leap in the collecting ring almost rivalled those of his horse.

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“This is by far my best ever win. I’ve been coming here since I was two and I got used to watching my uncles John and Michael winning the World Cup,” said William.

“I always wondered what it would be like to win something like this and now I have it hasn’t really sunk in. The whole thing is totally surreal.”

Don’t miss a moment of H&H’s extensive coverage. Check out dressage and Wednesday-Saturday showjumping reports in the 28 December issue (out Friday, not Thursday this week because of Christmas schedules), while showing, driving and Sunday showjumping coverage will be in the 3 January 2019 issue.

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