John Whitaker enjoys grand prix success: ‘It was a good feeling finally to win a class with this horse’ *H&H Plus*

  • Unick Du Francport gives John Whitaker a well-earned win, while Michael Duffy scores for the Irish in Spain, while Joe Stockdale impresses in Vejer de la Frontera

    CSI3* Atlantic Tour, week five, Vilamoura, Portugal

    John Whitaker and Unick Du Francport captured an elusive big-class victory when they produced the fastest of four double clears to claim the Atlantic Tour’s penultimate 1.50m grand prix. The 13-year-old gelding, who has been ridden by John since 2019, has been a consistent performer at this level, but had never picked up a win.

    “I was in Vilamoura last year in the spring and autumn. Unick was jumping good and was clear all the time, but we always finished second, third or fourth – never first,” said John. “It was a good feeling finally to win a class with this horse.”

    Elio Travagliata built a suitably challenging first-round track for the fifth week of the tour, delivering seven clears from 46 starters to contest the €12,925 (nearly £11,200) winner’s pot.

    John was joined in the jump- off by fellow Brit and last week’s grand prix victor Lily Attwood (Karibou Horta), who has been on super-consistent form. The pair settled for sixth place after collecting four faults.

    Germany’s Marc Bettinger and Undercover Z took the runner-up spot, trailing by 0.58sec, while France’s Juliette Faligot and Arqana De Riverland took third.

    “The first round was quite tough, especially at the end of the course — nine, 10 and 11 were really difficult,” John said. “But once I managed the first round, I just went for it.

    “These things sometimes depend a little bit on the draw. I was in the middle, so I knew what I had to do, but also knew I had some good ones coming up behind me, so I had to be clear and fast.”

    Joe Stockdale puts on a good show

    CSI4* Sunshine Tour, week three, Vejer de la Frontera, Spain

    A brilliant pathfinding effort from Joe Stockdale and Equine America Cacharel wasn’t quite enough to take the Andalucia 1.55m grand prix, with Irishman Michael Duffy and Lapuccino 2 snatching victory by 1.88sec.

    Fences fell all round this track from Spain’s Elena Boix Gracia. Joe and Michael produced the only double clears of the class, while world number one Steve Guerdat (Albfuehren’s Maddox) was the fastest four-faulter in third.

    “I didn’t do anything stupid,” said Michael. “I rode the whole course fast. In the last line, I pushed that bit harder, and that’s where I think I made up the time.” Michael has been riding Lapuccino, owned by Carl Hanley Sporthorses, for five years.

    “Each year he improves. I adore him. Today, he jumped his heart out for me,” Michael said.

    Joe’s 10-year-old Holsteiner mare – who has been with the Stockdales since a three-year-old – has the makings of a champion. She showed big-track consistency, jumping two 1.55m double clears in seven days.

    “The first round was quite strong. It was big enough and a technical course with a few tricky lines, but she jumped great,” Joe said. “In the jump-off, I planned to get a double clear and let the others chase. It worked out almost perfectly.

    “She has everything you want in a grand prix horse. She’s unbelievably scopey, super careful, adjustable, has a big stride, lovely attitude and learns quickly.”

    Joe originally came to Vejer for three weeks, but now plans to stay for the tour.

    “I have Equine America Don Diego De Plata out here as well, so I can rotate them,” he said.

    Jodie Hall-McAteer also picked up a strong runner-up spot in Sunday’s 1.50m medium tour grand prix with Kimosa Van Het Kritrahof. Jack Whitaker was third in the 1.50m Tio Pepe trophy with Scenletha the day before.

    Also published in H&H 4 March 2021

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