Clayton sets sights on Olympia main event with Brazil the long-term goal

Joe Clayton
Joe Clayton
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HUDDERSFIELD’S Joe Clayton is the 12th best show-jumper in Britain – not bad going at 22 years of age.

It is a ranking the Yorkshireman desperately hopes will qualify him for the main event at Olympia next month.

Even if it does not, a top five slot is the long term aim – plus a place on the Team GB plane to the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Clayton, a first cousin once removed of show-jumping stars Michael and John Whitaker, has enjoyed a fine 2012 – highlighted by victory in the Charles Stanley British Masters Grand Prix on Mr Darcy and a runners-up slot at the Horse Of The Year Show on Antello Z.

At HOYS, the young Huddersfield star was only denied victory in the Zinc Management Trophy class by his relative Michael Whitaker, who is also his boss at his yard near Grantham.

Clayton has come a long way in the show-jumping world since leaving Salendine Nook High School aged 16 with last year’s victory in the HOYS Puissance event on board Nick Ward’s Leonardo his career highlight.

In all likelihood, Clayton’s ultimate career high has yet to be savoured as he is fully entitled to dream of Rio while waiting for news of which event he will be targeting at next month’s Olympia show.

“I’ve had a good year and I’m up to 12th in the rankings which is the highest I’ve been,” said Clayton.

“Now I’m just waiting to see if that’s enough to get me into the main event at Olympia. They do it on the rankings list and sometimes it’s top 10 but it can be top 11 or top 12.

“I’ve been before for the young riders’ class and if I don’t get into the main event I should be okay getting into that. But it would be great to get into the main event for the whole week’s jumping.

“Whatever happens, things have gone fantastically for me as this time last year I was probably about 35th in the rankings.

“I’ve just steadily climbed my way up and there are some big names in the top 15 like all the Whitakers, Nick Skelton and Tim Stockdale.

“Now I just want to keep progressing into the top 10 and, hopefully, the top five.”

Such progress would lead to Clayton entering the Olympic picture and the Yorkshireman ought to be at the peak of his powers by the time Rio 2016 comes around, by which time he will be 26.

Getting on the plane to Brazil really would be a career high.

“That would just be unbelievable and it’s a great place to have an Olympics – nice and hot!” joked Clayton.

“There’s four years to go and a lot can change in four years but there’s definitely a possibility.”

Clayton would likely continue his glowing association with 11-year-old Mr Darcy at Olympia with eight-year-old Antello Z also in the Yorkshireman’s thoughts for next month.

Either way, it will then be back home to Outlane for a family Christmas, before heading back down to Grantham.

“I do miss Yorkshire – I love coming back for the Great Yorkshire Show and I’ll be coming back for Christmas,” said Clayton. “But after that it will be back down to Michael’s and we’ll just be looking to do as well as we can in all the big shows like HOYS, Olympia and Hickstead. I’ve been at Michael’s yard for about five years now and he’s done everything for me. You could say I’m part of the family there now.”