Two younger members of the Whitaker family brought the house down in Saturday’s first two classes at the British Open.
Robert Whitaker started the ball rolling in the Grandstand Classic jump-off class, where he and yesterday’s winner, his sister Louise’s coloured horse, Nureev Du Houssoit, completed their double in some style.
In a 13-horse jump-off, penultimate-drawn Robert, 24, turned and galloped all the way to demote the first to go, Dutchman Eric van der Vleuten — looking for his third win of the show — on Pitareusa.
World Class Star and Performance
After this class, Eric made a quick move to the commentators’ rostrum to judge the style prize in the British Equestrian Federation World Class Star and Performance Championship.
Seven younger stars reached the jump-off, where Amanda Derbyshire set a stunning standard on her boss Robert Maguire’s Retreats Oakie Doakie. But William Whitaker was determined to add this class to his 2006 junior European Championship success.
A fabulous round on Nick Ward’s Insultech Leonardo and a stride out on the long gallop to the final parallel proved good enough to take the title won last year by William’s cousin, Joe — and capture the style prize to boot.
“I heard people whistling me to speed up, so once he cleared the second last, I kicked and prayed for a stride,” said William, who is at his final indoor show of the season.
“I’m hoping to go to Maubeuge in France and then Royal Windsor,” he said.
“Whitaker Saturday” continued at the NEC this evening when the father and son combination of John and Robert Whitaker ran away with the third leg of the British Open Championship.
This A4 class was judged on faults and time, but Bob Ellis’s course was big and techincal, ensuring that there would be no gallop.
John set an unbeatable standard from an early draw on Mandy Hall’s Casino and despite close challenges from Robert Maguire (Two Mills Casino) and John’s son Robert on Lacroix, held on to take the top spot.
This victory moved John up to seventh on the points table. This is led going into the final by Ireland’s Jessica Kurten. Mark Armstrong and Robert Whitaker are the best of the Brits, just over a fence behind, while Robert Maguire, Michael Whitaker, Ben Maher, Ryan Prater, William Whitaker, reigning champion Robert Smith and William Funnell have also made the 20 who will jump tomorrow for the £25,250 winner’s purse.
Knockout and puissance
The Whitaker family’s run of success finally ended in Saturday evening’s knockout. But the honours still went to Yorkshire in the shape of Paul Barker on Jimmy Small’s home-bred mare, Temple Guess What, who beat fellow brit William Funnell (Cortaflex Machiavelli) in a photo-finish.
Sadly, William ended up on the floor in the puissance after a nasty looking fall in round two on Vaillant De Ma Campagne, Luckily, no harm was done to horse and rider and William was able to watch the remainder of the class.
Only two reached the final round and when neither could clear the 7ft 5in wall, the honours were shared between Ben Maher on Eperlan Du Fouquet and fellow young gun Robert Whitaker with Finbarr V.
Read Horse & Hound’s full report on all the action from Birmingham in this Thursday’s magazine (19 April, ’07)