Seventeen-year-old Robert Whitaker and Think Twice trounced a top-class field towin The Millenium Challenge at Olympia.
Punchingthe air with delight, Robert, the youngest rider ever to qualify for Olympia’s international classes, brought the talented grey mare home clear to rapturous applause, relegating his uncle Michael (Whitaker) to second place riding Ann Bedford’s stallion Virtual Village Handel.
As five section winners and the best three losers came through to the final jump off, the atmospherewas electric, as first Robert Smith (Senator Mr Springfield) and then Michael Whitaker, both winners already on the openingday, produced a series of daring turns, which had spectators on the edge of their seats. Originally intending to just to go for a steady clear, Robert switched tactics to follow his father’s advice to the letter .
John Whitaker, who is still makinggood progress in hospital and is reported to soon be well enough to travel home, was watching the competition on Eurosport, and in a mobile phone call only minutes before his round told his son in typical style – “make sure you go fast enough”.
After his winning round, Robert explained: “I knew that Robert [Smith] had gone fast, so I thought that I had better watch Michael go, and then just had to make sure that I was faster. I’ve always liked this mare. One or two have doubted her ability, but I have always had faith in her.”
The eight-year-old mare by Corrado, answered every call, as Robert steered the most economical course, a brilliant turn back to the penultimate upright, and gallop to the final oxer securing victory by less than one second.
Result of The Millenium Challenge
1, Think Twice ( R Whitaker); 2, Virtual Village Handel (M Whitaker); 3, Senator Mr Springfield (R Smith); 4, Lord Z (B Mandli); 5, Secret Love (J Smit); 6, Traxdata Parcival (T Stockdale).