Tag Archives: William Whitaker

William Whitaker Wows the Crowd with Emotional Win at Olympia

William Whitaker with Utamaro d’Ecaussines. (FEI/Jon Stroud)

There’s nothing quite like a big win in front of the home crowd to trigger the emotions, but Great Britain’s William Whitaker (29) wasn’t the only one with a tear in his eye after he reigned supreme in the eighth leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2018/2019 Western European League at Olympia in London (GBR). The packed stadium of spectators went wild with delight when their own man soared to victory over a world-class field in an 18-horse jump-off that was a nail-biter to the final footfall.

“It’s surreal! Since I’ve been coming here as a kid this has been a dream, and I can’t believe it’s actually happened!” — William Whitaker (GBR)

This was the biggest result of Whitaker’s career to date, as he pinned Belgium’s Karel Cox (36) into runner-up spot while American star, Laura Kraut (53), lined up in third.

With so many jumping clear over the first track presented by Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral, it was never going to be easy to come out on top, but Whitaker had no doubt about his plan. “The World Cup at Olympia is like a Championship: you get one shot at it every year and it’s all got to come together on the day. I told myself, if you’re clear in the first round then don’t hold back!” – and he certainly didn’t when seventh to go with Utamaro d’Ecaussines.

He’s long had a superb relationship with the courageous 14-year-old stallion, and when the pair set the target at 37.02 seconds with the smoothest of fast rounds in which every fence seemed to come up in exactly the right spot, and every turn was pure perfection, then that really put it up to the rest of them.

However, two horses later it seemed Karel Cox and the nine-year-old Evert might just catch them when galloping down to the last. But the clock showed 37.21 to leave the Belgian contenders trailing by two-tenths of a second. Whitaker could hardly bear the tension.

“It was torture! Especially the last few – every one that goes by you get closer to the win, and it’s not just anyone; it’s the best riders in the world!” — William Whitaker (GBR)

Third-last to go was the magical German and world no. 4, Marcus Ehning, with his Geneva winner Pret a Tout. But when they turned too tight to the penultimate vertical, they paid the price with a pole down in the quickest time of 36.03 seconds.

Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Vinchester, winners of the previous leg at La Coruña in Spain two weeks ago, made a wider turn there to come home clear in 38.17, but Laura Kraut and Zeremonie looked a real threat when last into the ring. The pair who helped clinched team gold for the USA at the FEI World Equestrian Games in September stormed home with a determined run, but their time of 37.70 seconds would only prove good enough for third. It was destined to be William Whitaker’s day, and he could hardly believe it.

He was of course following in a proud family tradition. His uncles, John and Michael Whitaker, have enjoyed many major successes in the world-famous Grand Hall at Olympia during their spectacular careers. Following in their legendary footsteps means a great deal to their nephew.

“I have memories of watching John and Michael winning the World Cup here – one of the things that got me out of bed in the morning was thinking that someday I could do it too!” — William Whitaker (GBR)

And he was full of praise for Utamaro. “It helps when you’re on a horse like him; he has such a good brain and mentality. In the collecting ring I was struggling to get him into canter, but he just lights up when he goes in the ring; he grows a foot! I’m delighted for the horse and the owners, Jasmin and Ludwig Criel – he’s had fantastic results over the years, but we never won a Grand Prix and I can’t believe it’s this one!” Whitaker said.

He’s got some changes coming up in the new year when he will be relocating to Germany, so he’s not quite clear if he will be in a position to line out in further World Cup qualifiers. “We’ll sit together after Christmas and make a plan,” he said.

For many others chasing down those precious points towards the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April, however, the next port of call is Mechelen in Belgium next weekend.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

William Whitaker Is the Conqueror at Stuttgart

Great Britain’s William Whitaker pictured with Longines representative Christiane Becherer after his victory with Fandango in today’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League qualifier at Stuttgart, Germany. (FEI/Karl-Heinz Freiler)

Stuttgart (GER), 23 November 2014 – William Whitaker stepped right into the limelight with a brilliant win with Fandango at the fifth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series in Stuttgart, Germany today. The 25-year-old nephew of British legends, John and Michael Whitaker, out-classed many of the best in the world in a thrilling 10-horse jump-off in which he set an impossible target-time when second to go.

America’s Lucy Davis was runner-up with Barron, while Steve Guerdat from Switzerland finished third with his Olympic gold medal winning ride, Nino des Buissonnets.

It was a career-defining moment for the young Englishman who lives at the Yorkshire farm where his father, Ian, grew up alongside two of the greatest names in the modern sport. And Uncle Michael played a role in today’s latest Whitaker success-story. He missed out on a place in the jump-off himself, due to a single first-round error with Viking, but he watched Davis set the pace against the clock and advised his nephew that “she was fast, so put your foot to the floor from the start!”

Pretty challenging

Course designer, Belgium’s Luc Musette, has a style all his own and set them a first-round test that proved pretty challenging.

“When we walked the course we all thought the last line was the most difficult, but it turned out it was easier than a lot of the rest of it!” said Guerdat afterwards. The two most troublesome spots were the double, oxer to vertical, at fence six and the triple combination at nine which was approached off a right-bending line following the previous oxer. Talking about the latter, Olympic champion Guerdat explained, “The problem was not the distance from the fence before; it was that there was water under the oxer at the B element and there were just three poles at the opening vertical so the horses could see the water through them, and a lot of them backed off. Also it was a one-stride to one-stride combination, so that always makes it more difficult,” he pointed out.

Davis, however, made it all look very elementary indeed with a fabulous first-to-go clear with her chestnut gelding, and Whitaker followed suit when tenth into the ring. The surprises of the day included retirements for both newly-crowned world champions Jeroen Dubbeldam and Zenith from The Netherlands after falling victim, like so many others, to the double at six and the triple combination, and for world team and individual silver medallist Patrice Delaveau from France who called it a day after Lacrimoso HDC lost his balance on take-off at the penultimate double and demolished the first element before grinding to a halt at the second element.

Led the way

Davis led the way against the clock, and again the 22-year-old who was a member of the bronze-medal-winning American team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, demonstrated her consummate professionalism with another brilliant run that stopped the clock on 49.84 seconds.

Whitaker was next. “I didn’t see Lucy go, but Michael said she was quick. I had my plan already made for what I had to do anyway, and my horse tried his best – I knew I was going fast!” the British rider said after breaking the beam in a staggering 47.27 seconds that proved just way too good, even for Guerdat whose reputation for sometimes scary acrobatics with his super-speedy horse makes him one of the most feared competitors on the circuit. And it wasn’t like the reigning Olympic champion wasn’t giving it everything he had when second-last into the ring.

“I wanted to win because I’ve finished second here at Stuttgart three times so it would mean a lot! But the jump-off didn’t suit my horse – I had to add a stride between the second and third fences, and again coming down to the last fence so I lost time there,” Guerdat explained. Three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Germany’s Marcus Ehning, slotted into fourth with Cornado NRW ahead of Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fair Light van’t Heike in fifth while, last to go, The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder and Glocks Cognac Champblanc finished sixth.

Upward trajectory

Whitaker’s career has been on an upward trajectory for some time now following a series of great results with the mare Upperclass, but he might have expected to take a step back following her sale to Artisan Farms two months ago. However, the 11-year-old Fandango has stepped right into the breach.

“He’s been in really good form for the past few weeks, but this is his first season at World Cup level indoors and it’s a different experience for a horse. To win this class was pretty amazing!” the British rider said tonight.

Fandango’s fearless qualities paid dividends today, particularly at the bogey triple combination. “He’s not spooky at all, so the water-tray at the B element didn’t affect him. The course builder put it there to take the horse’s focus off the first element but my horse hardly noticed it. He’s always forward-going and I think he prefers bigger arenas, even outdoors. This is a good big arena here in Stuttgart so that suited him,” he explained.

Now Whitaker is planning the remainder of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping season. “Fandango will have two weeks off, and I’ll do a couple of small shows with some other horses, then he will come back for Geneva (SUI) and Olympia (GBR). I’m really looking forward to competing at Olympia in front of the home crowd. I haven’t been there for a few years and it will be nice because there will be a lot of the family around as well.”

Next weekend the Western European League moves on to a new venue in Madrid, Spain with Steve Guerdat, winner of the second leg at Helsinki, Finland, holding a strong lead on the league table and already well-qualified for the series Final, which will take place in Las Vegas, USA from 15-19 April 2015.

For further information on the fifth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League at Stuttgart, Germany, visit http://stuttgart-german-masters.de or contact Press Officer Joerg Klopfer, Email joerg.klopfer@in.stuttgart.de or Tel +49 7119 5543128.

The next leg takes place in Madrid, Spain on Sunday 30 November. For details of the Spanish fixture, visit www.madridhorseweek.com or contact Press Officers Alba Fernandez, a.fernandez@madridhorseweek.com, +34 676 998 361, or Alejandra Camara, a.camara@madridhorseweek.com, +34 609 915 944.

Facts and Figures:

The Stuttgart German Masters presented Round 5 of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League.

The League has a total of nine qualifiers from which the top 18 riders are eligible for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2105 Final in Las Vegas, USA next April.

9 German horse-and-rider combinations in starting field of 40.

4 retirements, including Jeroen Dubbeldam and Zenith from The Netherlands, who took team and individual gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, France, and French rider Patrice Delaveau, who claimed team and individual silver in Caen.

10 horse-and-rider combinations qualified for today’s second-round jump-off against the clock.

6 produced double-clear performances.

Course designer was Belgium’s Luc Musette.

Today’s winning rider, 25-year-old William Whitaker, is a nephew of legendary British team members John and Michael Whitaker.

Two riders are already well-qualified for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2014/2015 – Olympic champion Steve Guerdat from Switzerland and The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders.

Quotes:

Steve Guerdat SUI – “The course designer did a good job; this was a nice and fair track to ride.”

William Whitaker GBR – “Michael (Whitaker) has trained me a lot and he has helped me at shows over the last year and more.”

Full standings here.

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Rider biographies: view online and download from http://fei.org/fei/your-role/media/biographies.

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Longines’ passion for equestrian sports began in 1878, when it produced a chronograph engraved with a jockey and its mount. Over the years, the brand has built strong and long-lasting links with equestrian sports. In 1912, Longines was proud to partner with its first Jumping event, the Grande Concurso Hippico Internacional, in Portugal.

Today, Longines’ involvement in equestrianism includes Jumping, Endurance and flat racing.

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By Louise Parkes

Media Contacts:

At Stuttgart:

Joerg Klopfer
Email: joerg.klopfer@in.stuttgart.de
Tel: +49 (0)7 11 / 95 54 – 31 28

At FEI:

Grania Willis
Director Media Relations
Grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
ruth.grundy@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 45