Donald Whitaker races to a Spruce Meadows North American win

Monday 08 July 2024

Donald Whitaker races to a Spruce Meadows North American win

Donald Whitaker recorded his first win at the Spruce Meadows North American meeting to add his name to a Spruce Meadows trophy like his legendary uncles John and Michael Whitaker.

It was no mean feat, but Donald had an added incentive as close friend and fellow showjumper Matt Sampson threatened to defriend him if he didn’t win.

“Matt told me if I didn’t win, he wasn’t going to be my friend anymore.  Seriously, I had to win it; it was the last class, if I didn’t win it, I wouldn’t have won anything,” said Donald, who had suffered a drought of success in the four weeks at Spruce Meadows.

The USA’s Mckayla Langmeier set a sizzling early target in the 5* Kubota Cup 1.45m Speed and Handiness on Chadina as 28 competitors chased the prize in the Table C (four seconds added for each knockdown). Challenges came and went, and the commentators thought the competition was already in the bag.

Donald used his late draw to devastating effect on Reitsportanlage Dagobertshausen’s 10-year-old mare Uliana 3 (Uriko x Acord II).  Setting off at a full gallop, Donald maintained his pace, cutting corners and flying over angled oxers to wipe 0.43 seconds off the leading time, punching the air in recognition as he sped through the finish.

“I’m so relieved.  It’s been an unlucky show, to be honest.  I knocked a fence down a few times, but this mare has actually jumped clear a few times, but with a time fault.  It took its toll, I left it late, but I managed to do it on the final day.  It’s a big weight off my shoulders.  To win anything, especially at this place in this arena, takes a lot and she [Ulania] definitely deserved this win,” said Donald, who was met with a high-five from Matt as he exited the arena.

Sameh El Dahan guided WKD Toronto into third in the Akita Drilling Cup 5* 1.50m.  Ten of the 43 starters mastered the 11-fence course to contend the jump-off, Sameh and Sycamore Horse Farm’s home-bred Tornesch 11-year-old finishing 1.64 seconds behind the winner, The USA’s Alex Matz on Cashew CR.

Charlie Jones was in the money all week.  Stone Ridge Farm’s Montserrat OS picked up two third places for Charlie.  The pair claimed third in day one’s 25-strong The Partners 1.45m speed, six seconds behind the pace. 

Fifty-one competitors started in the McNerney Cup over a 12-fence 1.45/1.50m track, with 28 qualifying for the jump-off.  Fourteen provided double clears, Charlie guiding the Care For Del Piero P&B nine-year-old into third 0.88 seconds off the winning time.

Charlie was just off the podium in fourth in the Atco Cup aboard Capitale 6.  Ten from the original field of 60 returned for the jump-off with Charlie and the San Patrignano Cassini x For Pleasure 13-year-old jumping another clear 2.68 seconds behind Egypt’s Nayel Nassar’s winning round on ESI Ali.  

 

Ben Maher and Robert Whitaker take five-star wins in Aachen

Ben Maher had been knocking on the door for a five-star win all week at CHIO Aachen with Exit Remo, and Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright’s 15-year-old obliged in the Allianz-Prize.

Ben had steadily worked Exit Remo’s way up to the win, taking fifth in day one’s 51-strong 1.45m speed and third 24 hours later in the 50-horse 5* 1.50m two-phase, finishing 1.28 seconds off the pace.

Thirty-two riders came forward in the Winning Round competition over a 12-fence track built by celebrated course-designer Frank Rothenberger with the 10 best pairs going through to round two in reverse order of merit.

The USA’s McLain Ward secured an early top spot with Callas, but Ben was hungry for success: “The horses have jumped well so far but I’d picked up faults in the big classes.  My owners are here, so I wanted to do my best to clinch victory.”

With this approach, he tackled the jump-off with determination, steering the San Remo x Ferro gelding into the top position with half a second to spare, then faced a nail-biting wait to see if it would suffice.

Germany’s Richard Vogel gave him a run for his money in the latter stages, slotting Cydello into second place 0.36 seconds in arrears.

Ben was delighted to achieve his goal, but it hadn’t been that easy: “Normally Exit Remo has a very big stride, but I’d already noticed when I approached the first fence that he didn’t really want to go as fast I wanted him to.  I had to push him, which, to be honest, wasn’t a good feeling, but I cut a tight turn in front of the second fence, which hadn’t been in the plan.  But sometimes, doing the unexpected turns out to your advantage and I think that’s where I gained time.

“Every Time you ride into the ring at Aachen for a class like this, it’s just as important as riding into a Grand Prix anywhere else.  For me, my owners and my family – they are all here – it was fantastic!” he added.

Ben also claimed a win in the initial Youngster Cup with exciting new talent Corlander.  Thirty-five competitors contended the 1.45m two-phase course with Ben and Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright’s Cornet Colbert x Landfriese 2 eight-year-old stallion edging ahead of Richard Vogel on Levi Noesar by 0.34 seconds.

The results were reversed in the final over a 12-fence 1.50m track in a hot 17-horse decider, Richard taking the top spot with a 0.54 second advantage over Ben and Corlander.  

One costly rail denied Ben a chance to contend the jump-off for the Rolex 1.60m Grand Prix.  Dallas Vegas Batilly clipped a rail going into the combination in the first round’s big 13-fence track, but Ben comfortably made it into the top 18 from a star-studded start list of 40 riders.  The Cap Kennedy x L’Arc De Triomphe mare was foot-perfect for Ben in round two and they finished in fifth place as the fastest four-faulter.  Germany’s Andre Thieme claimed the Rolex crown with a breath-taking, throw-everything-at-it dash to the final Rolex vertical on DSP Chakaria in a four-way showdown to beat THE USA’s McLain Ward, in second place on Ilex with the only other double clear.

Robert Whitaker notched up a win on the final day aboard Caroline Blatchford’s 15-year-old Evert (Amadeus x Indoctro), taking the Mystic Rose Prize.

Twenty-eight contenders came forward over the 5* 1.45m speed track with Robert staking his claim in the latter stages, angling oxers while maintaining the pace to win by 0.22 seconds.

“It’s been a good week for me and my first victory here in Aachen is the highlight,” said Robert, who posted clear and four faults on Thursday as a member of the third-placed British team in the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup.

 

 

Skye Higgin conjures up a Monaco winning double

Skye Higgin hit top form with a victory double on the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco, topping an early class and claiming the 2* Grand Prix with new ride of five weeks Fly For You.

The pair quickly established a partnership, starting the show well by topping the initial 11-fence 2* 1.40m speed, outpacing their 34 rivals by 0.61 seconds.  They went on to win the 2* Grand Prix.

Only six of the original 26 competitors negotiated the 1.45m track cleanly to access the jump-off.  Mid-drawn Skye and the nine-year-old Quaprice Boismargot Quincy daughter set a quick target and held on to the top spot by 1.66 seconds despite a late challenge from France’s Cyrine Cherif on Triple T Calamando Blue. 

Sophie Evans picked up second in Friday’s 31-entry 2* 1.40m speed, the 12-year-old Hatzidee PR (Spartacus TN x Indoctro) finishing 2.48 seconds off the pace.

 

Sam Hutton secures a Grand Prix victory at JV Horses in Belgium

Sam Hutton jumped to victory in the 2* Grand Prix with Melusina BVL Z at JV Horses in Wuustwezel, Belgium.

A 14-fence 1.45m course tested the 60 horse and rider combinations present, but only eight found the key to make their way into the jump-off.  Five posted double clears, Sam mastering the shortened jump-off course, urging the Mylord Carthago x Air Jordan Z 10-year-old into a 0.84 second win.

Lily Attwood slotted Johnnie Walker into second in a 2* 1.45m.  Seventy-four competitors tackled the 12-fence course with Lily and the Harley VDL x Numero Uno 12-year-old finishing 0.95 seconds behind the winner, Belgium’s Pieter Kenis on Ohaj De Regor. 

 

James Smith seizes a winning double in Spain

James Smith notched a winning double at CSI3* Maeza in Sariego, Spain, with Juno Rose 23.

Their first victory came in an early 1.35m as James battled out the top two places with friend and rival Laura Renwick.  Sixty-seven came forward over this speed track with James and the 10-year-old Erdento x Caretano Z mare winning the battle by 0.81 seconds over Laura’s home-bred NFS Angelina.

James and Juno Rose went on to head the hotly contested 3* 1.40m speed, edging ahead of their 65 rivals by the tiny margin of 0.23 seconds.

Laura missed out on a podium place by one in day one’s 3* 1.45m with Enjoy CK Z.  Twelve of the 49 initial starters reached the jump-off with Laura and the Echo Van Spieveld 11-year-old mare posting another clean round to finish two seconds behind the winner, British-based Irishman Billy Twomey on Ace of Hearts Z.   

 

The best of the rest

Alex Gill slotted Lacoste VDL into third in the 3* 1.45m in Ommen, The Netherlands.

Sixty-two competitors jumped in this two-phase class with Alex guiding the VDL Zirocco Blue x Indoctro eight-year-old into third 0.77 seconds off the winning time.

An easy round in the 3* 1.50m handed Graham Gillespie and Veneno fourth place.  Fifty-three came forward in this speed class with Graham and the Chacco-Blue 16-year-old finishing four seconds behind the winner, Ireland’s Simon McCarthy on Narcotique V/H Dingeshof. 

 

Laura Mantel picked up third in the 2* 1.45m in Royan, France, with Super Nova. 

Forty-nine riders came forward in this speed class with Laura and New Priory Stud’s Casall x Carthago Z 12-year-old finishing more than three seconds behind the winner. 

 

Image credit: Spruce Meadows Media Mike Sturk

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