Equestrian: Whitaker aims for hat-trick after GB return

Michael Whitaker riding Viking.
Michael Whitaker riding Viking.
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YORKSHIREMAN Michael Whitaker admits he is eyeing a glorious hat-trick following his selection for the Great Britain show-jumping squad at this summer’s World Equestrian Games.

Huddersfield-born Whitaker has been named in a five-man British squad alongside world No 1 Scott Brash, world No 3 Ben Maher, Belgium-based Joe Clee and 21-year-old Lincolnshire rider Spencer Roe.

Whitaker – who will ride either Amai or Viking – claims he will be travelling to France fully intent on securing a terrific international treble.

Whitaker, 55, has helped Team GB secure titles on his last two international forays – to the 2012 London Olympics and the 2013 Europeans in Denmark.

But the possibility of bidding for a hat-trick looked unlikely when the Yorkshireman appeared to have ruled himself out of the final selection process.

The multiple major championship medallist made himself unavailable for key Nations Cup competitions at Hickstead and in Dublin earlier this month, having had a disagreement with Rob Hoekstra after the Great Britain chief had opted not to send a team to last month’s prestigious Aachen Show in Germany.

Hoekstra subsequently revealed that Whitaker did not want to be considered for Hickstead or Dublin, which were the last two major team events before the world championship line-up was finalised.

But for Whitaker all roads now lead to France and the Nottinghamshire-based rider admits he will depart with high hopes of a third successive slice of glory.

“I’m very happy to be selected and we are obviously heading out there to try to win something,” said Whitaker.

“We’ve taken home titles from the last two championships (Olympic and European), so to make it three in a row would be fantastic.

“The two horses I am entered with are in good form and will go to the Global Champions Tour in London this week as part of our preparation.”

Whitaker, Brash (Hello Sanctos) and Maher (Cella) were all part of Britain’s European title-winning team in Denmark last summer.

Roe (Wonder Why) and Clee (Utamaro d’Ecaussines), though, both make their major championship debuts after being rewarded for outstanding Nations Cup form this season.

Show-jumping dominates the second week of the World Games, which get under way in Caen on September 1.

Bishop Burton College plan to maximise the potential of this week’s prestigious FEI European Eventing Championship for Juniors by “grabbing the event with both hands.”

Not that there will be any room for rest at the end of it with the Pony Club Tetrathlon Championships following hot on the heels at the College next Monday.

Eight incredibly busy days at Bishop Burton will begin tomorrow with the opening day of the FEI European Eventing Championship for Juniors.

Yorkshire hopes will rest with Dewsbury’s 17-year-old Kristina Hall-Jackson, who will represent Team GB on Judy Bradwell’s experienced campaigner Lemington Lets Dance.

Hall-Jackson will be joined on the team by 18-year-old Emily King, daughter of eventing star Mary, as Great Britain face opposition from Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

After Thursday and Friday’s dressage phases, Saturday will see riders tackle course designer Eric Winter’s cross-country course before Sunday’s show-jumping finale.

Just one day later, the College will host the Pony Club Tetrathlon Championships from Monday until next Thursday; with the swim phase of the competition taking place at Ennerdale Leisure Centre.

It promises to be an action packed eight days in East Yorkshire and equine director Kim Knightley beamed: “There is a legacy stretching before us with the FEI Championships just around the corner. We have to grab it with both hands and really hope both equestrian enthusiasts and those who are simply interested in top-level competition – no matter what the sport – will get behind this event.”

Jeanette Dawson OBE, college principal and chief executive, added: “We will have the most talented young riders from many different nations here for this event. I do hope the public will get behind it and come along to give them all a warm Yorkshire welcome.”

Admission to the event is free every day apart from Thursday when there is a £10 charge per car.