Tag Archives: John Whitaker

Brilliant British Post Back-to-Back Win in Rome

(L to R) Michael Whitaker, Di Lampard Chef d’Equipe, Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza and John Whitaker. (FEI/Stefano Secchi)

Rome (ITA), 27 May 2016 – Team Great Britain clinched the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title for the second year in a row at Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA). And it was the genius of the legendary John Whitaker that sealed the result with a brilliant last-to-go run with Ornellaia. The 60-year-old rider is one of the best-loved characters in the sport, and could afford a single fence down in the second round. But true to form, he left all the poles in place to post one of four double-clears on a day of brilliant sport to secure the winning British total at just four faults.

The World and European champions from The Netherlands were firm favourites as the action began, but they disappeared from the reckoning with a disappointing second round and it was the French and Americans who eventually filled runner-up spot with 12 faults each. Germany slotted into fourth ahead of the The Netherlands in fifth while Canada lined up sixth ahead of Sweden and Italy who divided seventh place.

Pre-Olympic tension

The air at Piazza di Siena was filled with pre-Olympic tension and, from the outset, the British demonstrated their resolve. As defending Olympic champions they came up against teams they may well meet in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in just over two months’ time, and the message was loud and clear. They were the only side to conclude the first round on a zero score as John Whitaker’s first fault-free effort was matched by Ben Maher with Tic Tac and Jessica Mendoza riding Spirit T.  Michael Whitaker, who along with his older brother was also a member of the winning team at Piazza di Siena 12 months ago, produced the first-round discount score with nine faults from Cassionato. But his foot-perfect second run would prove pivotal to the end result.

This was Great Britain’s eleventh victory at Piazza di Siena since the Nations Cup was first staged at the iconic venue in 1926 and, as Chef d’Equipe, Di Lampard, pointed out afterwards, Friday’s performances just make her selection decisions for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games all the more difficult. “But that’s OK,” she said. “It’s a really good problem to have!”

Wide open

As the second round began the competition was still wide open, with the Americans, Dutch, French and the host nation all stalking the leading British with just four faults on their respective score-cards. Sweden had already racked up eight faults while the Canadians and Germans had nine apiece, and with additional penalties none of these nations would feature prominently at the end of the day. One of the standout performances of the day, however, came from Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and the very exciting 10-year-old mare H&M Cue Channa 42 who cruised around both rounds with the greatest of ease.

Despite a fabulous double-clear from Penelope Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme, the French lost their grip, and the Americans did likewise when also adding eight more faults even though their anchor partnership of McLain Ward and HH Azur were also foot-perfect for a second time. Italian chances were dashed with 20 faults to add to their tally, but the biggest surprise was the collapse of the Dutch whose pathfinder, World and European champion Jeroen Dubbeldam, added 16 faults to his first-round single error with SFN Zenith on a day his team will probably prefer to forget.

It was impossible to predict the outcome, however, when Ben Maher kicked off Britain’s second round with a mistake at the first element of the difficult double at fence eight as well as the last fence. Mendoza hit only the delicate vertical that followed the spooky hedge-filled oxer at fence five, but then Michael Whitaker began to pull it back with a great clear from the enigmatic Cassionato who was a lot more settled on his second tour of the arena.

This ensured that his brother had a fence in hand coming into the ring to bring the competition to a close. John said afterwards that it was less pressure than 12 months ago – “I didn’t have a fence in hand that day” – but he still had a job to do. And he did it in style, his clear round leaving his team two fences clear of the joint-runners-up from America and France.

Delighted

John was delighted with Ornellaia. “This was her first Nations Cup and she showed what she can do,” he said. He has already decided that his more familiar ride, the stallion Argento, won’t be going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “Argento is a great horse; he’s a real fighter but he has his limits and I don’t want to push him beyond them. Ornellaia has done some good things already; she’s really careful and she’s the one for Rio if I am needed, and if I am asked to go. I’m definitely keen to go; the Olympics are the Olympics and there’s nothing like them; everyone feels that way, but I’m probably not in the top five (for selection) if Big Star (Nick Skelton) and Sanctos (Scott Brash) are ready,” he explained.

John reckons his brother Michael’s grey stallion also has great Olympic potential. “There’s nothing that horse can’t jump!” he said. Michael admitted that Cassionato was “a bit too fresh” in the first round – “He was jumping up so high, so in the second round I had to ask him to come back down!” he explained. Cassionato certainly seems to have a whole lot of fun every time he goes in the ring – “He’s a bit like a very naughty boy!” Michael said with a laugh.

It was John who was the hero of the day, however, and not for the first time in his life. This man whose career has embraced so many wonderful moments and so many great horses, including the legendary Milton and Ryan’s Son, said this evening that he continues to relish the fun and excitement every time he goes in the ring. “I don’t feel the pressure anymore; I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do so now I just go out and enjoy myself – I’ve got nothing to prove,” said the great horseman, who once again was filled with pride when sealing victory for his country.

That pride and passion precisely mirrors the unique spirit of the jewel in the crown of the FEI – the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.

For further information on the ninth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 series Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA), visit www.piazzadisiena.org or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, press@equi-equipe.com, +39 335 6107070.

The next leg of the series will take place in St Gallen (SUI) on Friday 3 June. For information on the Swiss fixture, go to www.csio.ch or contact Press Officer Roman Gasser, roman.gasser@csio.ch, +41 79 635 50 05.

Full result here.

Quotes:

Show Director Eleonora Ottaviani: “What makes me really happy is that all the riders and the Chef d’equipes wanted to give priority to the Nations Cup this week, because this is our sport.”

Show President, Vittorio Orlandi: “I’m very glad that my two friends for many years, John and Michael (Whitaker), have won with their team. Congratulations to you and the young riders on your team; today’s competition was super-spectacular!”

FEI Jumping Director John Roche: “This was an outstanding performance by the British today. And the FEI is very proud to be connected with this event at this iconic location; long may it continue!”

Jessica Mendoza GBR: “This is my first time in Rome; the jumping was amazing and the course was great. I’ll be enjoying a few drinks with my team tonight!”

Ben Maher GBR: “I started riding Tic Tac in January in 1.40m classes and La Baule (in France, two weeks ago) was his first international show where we jumped 1.50m. I’m still getting to know him but he has a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to the future with him.”

For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series, check out this link.

By Louise Parkes

Media Contacts:

At Rome:

Caterina Vagnozzi
Press Officer
press@equi-equipe.com
+39 3356107070

At FEI:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager Press Relations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

John Whitaker Rolls Back the Years in H&M Ivy Stakes

Photo credit Kit Houghton/Hpower.

John Whitaker, the most senior rider at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, showed his younger rivals a clean pair of heels in the H&M Ivy Stakes when, despite an unpromisingly early draw in a 12-horse jump-off, he set a target none could match.

This hugely popular victory, which had friends backstage rushing to pat him on the back, put John back at the top of the H&M Leading Rider of Show leaderboard, which he heads by just one point from Ben Maher.

‘My real aim was the World Cup class this afternoon [won by Italian Emanuele Gaudiano], which didn’t quite work out, but here I am back on top of the world,’ said John, who turned 60 this summer. ‘The crowd are always really behind you at Olympia and it brings everything out in you.’

His winning mount was Team Harmony and former FEI President Princess Haya’s bay mare, Ornellaia, who he suggests could be a contender for Rio – which would be John’s fifth Olympic Games.

‘All you can do is try to be professional,’ he said, explaining his longevity at the top of the sport. ‘I get up at 6.30am every morning and school horses, trying to improve all the time. You have to keep upping your game, even at my age. This year has been a good one and to finish with a win at Olympia means a lot to me.’

Christmas came early for 11-year-old Alex Finney, a member of the Iveagh branch of the Pony Club, when she paired up with William Whitaker to win the H&M Pony Club Mini-Major. It was a first trip to Olympia for the young Irish rider and her pony, Ballyknock Master Roan.

‘Alex did a fantastic round which captured the win,’ commented William. ‘She showed experience beyond her years.’

There was more high-octane pony action in the H&M Mistletoe Mini Stakes. Oliver Tuff showed that he has inherited his show jumping father Justin’s competitive genes when, on his first appearance at Olympia, the 12-year-old from Totnes, Devon, won with Mandy Hall’s Show Me Again.

The fiercely competitive class culminated in a seven-pony jump-off. Oliver was third to go and, with a series of expertly executed turns, he pinched the lead from Claudia Moore (Peppino II Grande) by over two seconds.

‘Coming down to the last fence with everyone screaming and cheering for you really is amazing,’ said Oliver. ‘Competing here is magical and the atmosphere is electric, and winning has made it extra special.’

The hotly contested Kennel Club Large Novice Dog Jumping Grand Prix was won by Martin Reid and his speedy dog Borderpaws Secret Surprise in the time of 35.05 secs.

To view the full results, click HERE.

For more information, please contact Gayle Telford, Revolution Sports + Entertainment
E: gayle@revolutionsports.co.uk T: +44(0)778 757 6490 or +44(0)207 592 1207

Olympia, The London International Horse Show
The first international horse show took place in the Olympia halls in 1907. Olympia, The London International Horse Show, the event we see today, was started by Raymond Brooks-Ward in 1971. This year’s show takes place on 15-21 December 2015 in the Olympia Exhibition Hall, located in West Kensington London. The show will play host to a packed timetable of all things equestrian and is expected to welcome over 90,000 visitors. It is regarded as one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious equine competitions. The show mixes top class equestrian action, including FEI World Cup™ Jumping, Dressage and Driving with family entertainment, such as the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National and The Kennel Club Dog Agility.

John Whitaker Celebrates 60th Birthday and Confirms Attendance at Longines Masters of Los Angeles

John Whitaker, Longines Masters Hong Kong 2015 – Getty Images.

Today, August 5th, one of the greatest riders of all time, Great Britain’s John Whitaker, celebrates his 60th birthday, a milestone which does not signal retirement for the indefatigable champion – far from it. In February this year, Whitaker returned to his winning ways, clinching a 5-star Longines Grand Prix victory in the Longines Masters of Hong Kong with Argento, a horse that he has trained himself since he was young. This victory was the first step toward a Masters Grand Slam for the British rider, who has just been confirmed to participate in the American leg of the Longines Masters from October 1st to 4th in hopes of winning the Los Angeles Longines Grand Prix and the €500,000 bonus it would earn him. Happy Birthday from the Longines Masters!

But is it really money that drives this exceptional rider? We’re not so sure: John is, above all, a player, a sportsman. His goal at sixty? “My main aim is to take pleasure in my sport. It’s great to climb back up the world rankings like this (he re-entered the top 20 in July), and I want to continue on that path, try to go even further and last a few more years. Instead of focusing on a specific victory, besides Los Angeles in October, I would rather be consistent from week to week. I don’t aim to win at all costs: above all, I want to remain at this level and continue to progress. It’s so difficult today because there are lots of very good riders and very good horses; the level is very high. I’m just happy that I can still compete against those very good riders… and sometimes, I even beat them. I love doing what I do, and winning is a bonus. But so long as I can pay my bills and stay at this level, I’m happy.”

When asked, the great riders of today often name John Whitaker as an inspiration for his natural riding, his instinct, his feel for victory and his relationship with horses. European Champion in 1989 and two-time winner of the World Cup in 1990 and 1991 with Milton, John Whitaker was the center of the equestrian world in the 90s, and World no.1 for many months. One reason for this can be attributed to Milton. You could spot the horse a mile away by his remarkable charisma, attitude and beauty. Every one of his performances was a moment of grace.

“Milton was exceptional – the horse of a lifetime,” remembers John. “Milton was a dream horse, beyond his jumping style, his coat, his temperament… He had everything, and he was generous; you never needed to force him. He was always responsive to his rider and tried to help.”

Today, Whitaker has Argento, a horse that he trained himself and has brought gradually to a high level. “An endearing stallion who always thinks he can do whatever he likes… he really does have bad manners. But he’s a real personality. At work and at home, he gets lazy quickly and after a couple of minutes, it’s hard to get him to move. But in competitions, he’s like a different horse, very involved. In the ring, he does his job without holding back. He’s focused and alert, and he wants to do well. The rest of the time, I must admit, he makes things tough!”

It was with Argento that John burst back onto the world stage, and it was on the Asian leg of the Longines Masters, in Hong Kong, that he sealed his comeback with a first Longines Grand Prix win, paving the way towards the million-euro Masters Grand Slam bonus. Next stop, Los Angeles: “Of course I’m going! That’s the first thing to do, actually: if I want to win the L.A. Longines Grand Prix, I’ll need to be there, at the very least.”

True to form: humor is one of this singular, good-natured, authentic man’s best qualities.

Longines Masters of Los Angeles: a high-level sport program

All eyes will be on Whitaker at the Los Angeles Longines Grand Prix on Sunday, October 4th. Last year, the class was won by Jos Verlooy, one of the circuit’s youngest riders at age 18. In the build-up to the Longines Grand Prix in Hong Kong, Whitaker also won the Gucci Gold Cup. In Los Angeles once again, 30 of the world’s best riders will gather for this prestigious class, which will be held on Saturday, October 3rd, before another famous class, the Charity Pro-Am Style & Competition: an evening of great sport, glamour and fun, all for a good cause.

Speed is another of Whitaker’s fortes, demonstrated by his results in 2015 alone: six podium finishes, including two wins, and 15 top-eight placings with his mare Ornellaia (named after a great Italian wine… That’s John for you). The combination will also be a serious contender at the Longines Speed Challenge, the spotlight competition on Friday, October 2nd. This speed class, a Longines Masters exclusive, is even faster and more exciting than a classic speed class because faults on the obstacles are penalized by two seconds (compared to the usual four), giving riders a shot at victory even if they have a rail down… provided they can pick up the pace, that is. Los Angeles will see the inauguration of a new Longines Speed Challenge course for the 2015/2016 series. After Los Angeles, Belgian course designer Luc Musette’s exacting track will be faithfully reproduced in Paris and then in Hong Kong, providing riders with a chance to beat the record over the course of the series’ three legs.

Still, Los Angeles will have a special sparkle. Like in 2014, the red carpet will welcome a handful of Hollywood notables in addition to famous sportsmen and women. Spectators at the Los Angeles Convention Center will enjoy an exciting moment from another Olympic discipline — dressage — with a demonstration by the United States’ best rider, Steffen Peters, the recent double gold medallist at the Pan American Games and former FEI World Cup champion. After an educational presentation of the discipline, the American champion will perform a freestyle set to music with his horse, Legolas 92: another thrilling occasion from the equestrian world to look forward to.

DETAILS:

The Longines Masters of Los Angeles
October 1st to 4th, 2015
WEBSITE: http://www.mastersgrandslam.com/en/longines_masters_los_angeles
TICKETING: Tickets are available at http://www.mastersgrandslam.com/en/ticketing

ABOUT THE LONGINES MASTERS
Established in three of the biggest cities – Los Angeles, Paris and Hong Kong – the Longines Masters series is recognized by the FEI Fédération Equestre Internationale and is one of the most prestigious equestrian competitions worldwide. Created by EEM, the concept of the Masters was born in 2009 with the first edition of the Gucci Paris Masters, now renamed the Longines Masters of Paris. Inspired by the Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, the circuit rapidly developed abroad, with the Longines Masters of Hong Kong in 2013 and the Longines Masters of Los Angeles in 2014.

The world’s best riders and horses will compete for one million dollars in prize money at each leg of the series. In addition, any rider who consecutively wins the Longines Grand Prix in Paris, Hong Kong and Los Angeles will be rewarded with one million euros Master Grand Slam Bonus. For two successive victories, the rider will be awarded €500,000, and winners of two non-successive victories within a series of three Longines Grand Prix will receive a €250,000 bonus.

These events are broadcast in more than 120 countries and reach almost 550 million viewers. Every edition of the Longines Masters is must-attend event that brings together sports enthusiasts, amateurs, celebrities and corporate decision-makers from around the world, who come to enjoy a unique experience, boasting exceptional sport, entertainment, glamour, gastronomy and contemporary art.

Longines Masters of Los Angeles October 1st to 4th 2015
Longines Masters of Paris December 3rd to 6th 2015
Longines Masters of Hong Kong February 19th to 21st 2016

About EEM

To reinvent Show Jumping! What an ambitious goal EEM CEO and Founder Christophe Ameeuw and his team have set for themselves! For over ten years they have been dedicated to bringing equestrian sports to the international front stage. Inspired by the Grand Slam in tennis and its legendary tournaments, EEM gathers under one roof the best of the sport, entertainment and glamour.

2009 was a crucial milestone for EEM with the revival of the Jumping de Paris and the creation of the Gucci Paris Masters, as it marked the beginning of their international development. EEM then set off to conquer new continents. An Asian edition took place in Hong Kong in 2013, followed in 2014 by the first American stage of the Longines Masters in Los Angeles. This first edition on the American continent was welcomed by renowned sports channel ESPN with the headline “The Next Big USA Sport”.

In 2015 the intercontinental trilogy becomes the Longines Masters, presented by EEM.

UNITED STATES MEDIA CONTACTS
Sunshine Sachs
Sarit Schneider | Alyssa Furnari
LAMasters@SunshineSachs.com
212 691 2800 | 323 822 9300

EUROPEAN EQUESTRIAN MEDIA CONTACTS
R&B Presse
longinesmasters@rbpresse.com
+33 344 620 621