Whitaker pleased to be back on ‘home’ turf

Huddersfield showjumper George Whitaker with his horse Tubana. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Huddersfield showjumper George Whitaker with his horse Tubana. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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BELGIUM-bound Yorkshireman George Whitaker is on the crest of a wave – as he aims to sink the opposition in the show-jumping sphere at this week’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.

Starting on Thursday, this week’s four-day spectacular is famed for its eventing action in which world no 1 William Fox-Pitt and Huddersfield’s world no 7 Oliver Townend are among those bidding for glory.

Northallerton’s world no 10 Nicola Wilson and Bingley amateur Charlotte Brear complete a Yorkshire trio seeking glory in the flagship CCI three-star event. But Whitaker, also from Huddersfield, is keen to stress the week’s show jumping action is an attractive proposition in its own right with the 22-year-old hoping to grab a large slice of what he’s been missing.

Whitaker has not competed at Bramham in recent years due to commitments abroad and a sustained European adventure now awaits through his recently announced place on the European Equestrian Federation’s Young Rider Academy for Jumping.

The former Salendine Nook High School pupil is one of just six riders appointed to the scheme which pairs riders with a professional trainer.

Whitaker, the only Brit on the scheme, is consequently heading to Belgium on July 1 for the first phase of a six-month stint with six-time Olympian Jos Lansink. But first comes this week’s quest for glory at Bramham in which in-form Whitaker is aiming to make up for lost time.

Whitaker told the Yorkshire Post: “The show jumping at Bramham is quite big in its own right. For us, it’s a really good show with good money as it’s like a grand to the winner of the Grand Prix. I haven’t been for a couple of years because I have always been aboard jumping but this year I have made sure I can go because I really like it.

“It’s a great event - people know who you are because you’re from Yorkshire so you get the crowd behind you and everything which is great, especially if you do well.

“It’s a nice place, a nice arena and just nice - when it’s not raining anyway!”

The rain lashed it down by the bucket-load last year but the forecast is kinder for 2015’s event at which stable-star Tubana will lead Whitaker’s charge.

The latest Whitaker to make waves in a show jumping sphere is part of an operation that looks after some 35 horses on Hurst Farm in Longwood along with older brother William and younger brother James.

George, though, will soon be departing for Belgium following his selection to the Young Rider Academy for Jumping.

Whitaker beamed: “You get the funds to go and be trained by a top professional for six months in Europe and Jos Lansink has won Olympic gold medals in 1992. It’s a fantastic opportunity. I go on July 1 - but it does mean I’m going to miss the Great Yorkshire Show which is a big upsetting!”

But at least Whitaker still has the chance to shine in his home town county in Yorkshire - at a venue where he has actually experienced a victory before, not that he can remember much about it. Whitaker recalled: “I’ve never won one of the big ones at Bramham but I did win the pairs there one year with an eventer but I can’t remember who it was with. It was a girl - that’s all I can remember!”