John Whitaker, the most senior rider at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, showed his younger rivals a clean pair of heels in the H&M Ivy Stakes when, despite an unpromisingly early draw in a 12-horse jump-off, he set a target none could match.
This hugely popular victory, which had friends backstage rushing to pat him on the back, put John back at the top of the H&M Leading Rider of Show leaderboard, which he heads by just one point from Ben Maher.
"My real aim was the World Cup class this afternoon [won by Italian Emanuele Gaudiano], which didn’t quite work out, but here I am back on top of the world," said John, who turned 60 this summer. "The crowd are always really behind you at Olympia and it brings everything out in you."
His winning mount was Team Harmony and former FEI President Princess Haya’s bay mare, Ornellaia (For Pleasure x Calato), who he suggests could be a contender for Rio – which would be John’s fifth Olympic Games.
"All you can do is try to be professional," he said, explaining his longevity at the top of the sport. "I get up at 6.30am every morning and school horses, trying to improve all the time. You have to keep upping your game, even at my age. This year has been a good one and to finish with a win at Olympia means a lot to me."
Runner-up was Switzerland's Steve Guerdat on Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento), while Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten took third place on Cupido V (Numero Uno x Lancelot) in this 1.50 competition.
Source: Press release from Revolution Sports + Entertainment // Picture © Kit Houghton/Hpower.
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