Father and son John and Robert Whitaker both cleared a 7ft 4 wall at Olympia this evening to finish joint first in the Accenture Christmas Puissance, along with Switzerland’s Markus Fuchs. The result marked an excellent day for the Whitaker family. Michael won the Christmas Cracker this afternoon and Robert and Ellen took second and third place in the Accenture Stakes this evening.
The twelve-strong field had decreased to four by the final round. Geoff Billington, who is purported to have cleared a 6ft10 wall twice without a saddle, bowed out in round three along with Accenture Stakes winner Ben Maher. Ellen Whitaker, the only female rider to make it past the first round was knocked out in the fourth leaving an all-male field for round 5, with two rides belonging to 51-year-old John Whitaker.
John Whitaker and St Honores Liquido-Hann were first to attempt the formidable 7ft 4 wall and as St Honores knocked out a brick, the packed auditorium gave a cry of disappointment. Next in the arena 23-year-old Robert Whitaker, winner of three Puissances so far this year, soon showed his father how it should be done. Giving Finbar two hefty kicks in front of the wall, Robert Whitaker cleared it with inches to spare. “He [Finbar] has his own style and gives it lots of room. He was really good,” he said afterwards.
The only international Puissance finalists Markus Fuchs and Ovation also cleared the wall – leaving just 6-1 favourites John Whitaker and Lactic 2 still to jump. “John Whitaker could win on a donkey from Blackpool beach,” the commentator joked to the audience.
But as winner of no less than five Puissances in 2005 Lactic 2 is certainly no Blackpool donkey. The pair sailed over the wall to join Fuchs and Robert Whitaker in equal first place.
Earlier on this evening Britain’s young talent proved their worth in the Accenture Stakes. Ben Maher and Onasis II took the £1,200 first prize with Robert Whitaker and Karina in second place and Ellen Whitaker third.