Whitaker drives in to maintain family tradition

HUDDERSFIELD’S William Whitaker is living life in the fast lane after following a family tradition and landing Sunday’s Stuttgart World Cup Qualifier – where a Mercedes Benz car was part of his prize.

Whitaker excelled on 11-year-old dark bay gelding Fandango to pick up not just the luxury car but also some all-important league points.

In sealing a possible career-defining success, the 25-year-old was following in the footsteps of uncles John and Michael, who have also tasted success in Stuttgart.

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A field of 37 starters came forward to contest the fifth leg of the World Cup Series with the 1.60m course built by course designer Luc Musette claiming many victims.

Just 10 of the original riders jumped clear in the first round and qualified for the jump-off with a further six managing to jump clear again.

But none were able to master Whitaker and Fandango’s time of 47.27 seconds with the closest threat coming from of Lucy Davis of the USA with her 10-year-old gelding Barron.

They stopped the clock in a time of 49.84 seconds, just ahead of Steve Guerdat for Switzerland with Nino des Buissonnets.

A delighted Whitaker said: “I knew I had to take some risks as the jump-off was a strong one and Fandango jumped his heart out. I’m proud to have won.

Whitaker’s uncle Michael also featured in Sunday’s spectacular but he missed out on a place in the jump-off after a single first-round error with Viking.

But the 25-year-old’s uncle then saw eventual runner-up Davis set the clock before telling his nephew to put his foot to the floor from the start in a bid to surpass her fast time.

“I didn’t see Lucy go, but Michael said she was quick,” added Whitaker.

“I had my plan already made for what I had to do anyway, and my horse tried his best – I knew he was going fast! Fandango has 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 the horse. To win this class was pretty amazing.”

Whitaker – who has been on an upward curve for some time now despite selling mare Upperclass to Artisan Farms two months ago – is counting down the days to Olympia in December.

He added: “Fandango will have two weeks off and I’ll do a couple of small shows with some other horses and then he will come back for Geneva and Olympia.

“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.”

Yorkshire also enjoyed success at the weekend’s Dodson & Horrell National Amateur Championships at Aintree Equestrian Centre.

Staintondale 16-year-old star Lucy Gilsenan led the way by finishing a close second in the 95cm Grand Prix and fourth in the 85cm, exceeding all her expectations. Gilsenan and Qui Qui were ninth to go in the 95cm jump-off, and no-one had managed to jump clear prior to her.

Lucy’s delighted mum Sue Gilsenan said: “It was just magical to hear the loud music blast out as she passed through the finish, signalling a clear round and into the lead!

“Only one combination managed a faster time, but only by a fraction of a second.

“It’s back down to earth now and on with the chores.”

Whitby’s Estella Harrowing, also 16, was seventh in the 85cm final on Derek’s Choice with the event won by 17-year-old Southend-on-Sea star Toni Evans on Caramel Twist. The 0.95m Championship was taken by 33-year-old Gemma Dickens from Loughborough on board Oakley’s Ace.

Holmfirth’s Nicole Jebson also enjoyed a fine week, the 22-year-old finishing fifth in the 1.10m final and sixth in the 1.15m final on Pepperdan.

Jebson said: “Dan’s not done bad at all for me against some very fast experienced horses. There’s a very bright future for us.”

Staffordshire’s Katie Shaw, 28, took the 1.10m Championship on It’ll Be Me while Katie Shaw took the 1.15m event on Fools Business.

The winner of the 1.05m Championship was 22-year-old Hannah Thorne from Weston-Super-Mare on General Maximus.

Grafton’s James Sommerville and his six-year-old gelding Captain Levade have been named as one of 15 combinations in the British CIC two-star squad to continue training towards the two-star European Championships to be held in the Netherlands in August 2015.

Selected by the British Riding Clubs two-star team selection committee, the squad will recommence training in February 2015.