Weekend windfall delights veteran Whitaker

HUDDERSFIELD globe-trotter John Whitaker says he is perfectly set for 2015 after the most lucrative weekend of his illustrious show-jumping career in Hong Kong.

John Whitaker and Argento.

Yet there will be no rest for the Yorkshireman who will take 12 younger horses to the Sunshine Tour in Spain, one week after his £170,000 Hong Kong conquest and one month after his son Robert’s Barbados wedding.

Whitaker, 59, has scooped a plethora of medals at World, Olympic and European level, not to mention prestigious victories at the likes of Calgary and Hickstead.

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But even he cannot recall a weekend as lucrative as his Hong Kong double on Argento with victory in Saturday’s Gucci Gold Cup followed by Sunday’s Longines Grand Prix triumph.

The Chinese crusade landed him $260,000 which converts to £170,000 and the Huddersfield star will bag a 500,000 euros bonus if adding another victory in the Masters Grand Slam events at Los Angeles or Paris later this year. Success in all three carries an even cooler bonus of one million euros.

But however the rest of his year develops, Whitaker admits his 2015 is certainly off to a flier as he prepares for the jaunt to Spain.

“Financially, this is the best win I’ve had for a long time really,” Whitaker told The Yorkshire Post, hours after arriving back at Huddersfield following his Sunday night flight from Hong Kong to Manchester, via Heathrow.

“This achievement is right up there and it’s the best show I’ve had for a long time.

“I won the two big ones back to back on Saturday and Sunday and on the Friday I was also third, so basically Argento jumped three times for a third and two wins. It was good and I don’t think I’ve ever had a better show than that financially.

“I won Calgary three times and in those days that was the biggest prize fund, but I can’t remember how much it was. I think it was about a hundred thousand.

“That was quite good in those days, but I would say this is the most I’ve won in a weekend anyway. The money just goes in the business – if we buy a horse or something but it’s a very good purse for one weekend. It’s unbelievable and it kind of sets you up for the year really.”

Whitaker also took rising star Lord Of Arabia to Hong Kong, but both he and Argento will now be rested ahead of spring and summer.

Yet there is no time for Whitaker to reach for the cigar and slippers with the rider taking a dozen younger horses to the four-week Sunshine Tour in Spain next week.

The veteran looks set to be joined by daughter Louise, niece Ellen and nephew George in Spain with another nephew, William, and son Robert heading for the indoor World Cup show in Gothenburg.

The Whitaker family as a whole have been making national headlines this week in the wake of 32-year-old Robert’s tying of the knot to 37-year-old fiancee Kate in Barbados last month.

A large contingent of family members made the trip to Barbados – including father of the groom John – but one fellow guest at the Mango Bay resort took exception to the family’s celebrations.

A reviewer known only as ‘adrienne3’ posted a review on TripAdvisor complaining of a ‘so-called upper-crust wedding party spoiling the serenity, causing havoc to the ambiance, with their middle of the night drinking and shouting’.

The story made the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror and Whitaker has been quick to defend his family’s honour.

“It’s a load of rubbish,” said the show-jumper.

“We have a bit of a reputation but actually we were really well behaved there.

“I knew the girls had seen something on Facebook but when I actually saw it in the paper I was a bit shocked to be honest because it’s totally untrue.

“It must have been from someone who was upset with us for some reason, but I don’t know why.

“The wedding went well, everything was good and we had a really nice time.

“We weren’t quite in bed for 10 o’clock, but we weren’t bad at all, to be honest, and it was not at all like this woman made out. I think this reviewer turned up at the wrong place.”

Not that Whitaker cares anyway, with £170,000 in his pocket as he prepares to jet off to Spain.

The extensive Whitaker family would be within their rights to ask for a treat or two, but John laughed: “They know better than that. But it’s good. There is big money out there these days and it’s really good to grab some of it.”