Winning Whitakers lead the way in this week’s international round-up

Monday 20 May 2024

Winning Whitakers lead the way in this week’s international round-up

John Whitaker joined forces with Gilles Thomas to mark the first Global Champions League win for Valkenswaard United since 2022 on the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid, but it was close, with only one time penalty separated the top two.

The nail-biting, two-round format kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as the teams chased crucial championship points. A 42-year age gap separated the two teammates, young Frenchman Gilles holding his nerve under pressure alongside the legendary experience of John.

“I couldn’t be happier to win, but to win with John is something I will remember forever.  Our team is made up of legends such as Marcus Ehning and Edwina Tops-Alexander, so it is a real privilege to be part of Valkenswaard United,” said Gilles.

The win was evident in John’s ear-to-ear smile: “I’m really proud of Gilles today; he didn’t need any help from me, he rode class. This win means a lot to the team and really puts us back in the championship race.  I always enjoy the show here in Madrid – it’s a fantastic grass arena.  Our team manager Jan Tops joked to us saying, ‘About time’ we were back on top of the podium and after my disappointment in Doha, this means a lot to us.”

Valkenswaard United led the way at the halfway stage on a zero score, 20 seconds ahead of nearest rival Riesenbeck International – the only other team carrying a double clear.  But it was tense as only one fence separated the top seven and it went to the wire for the podium places.

Tactics for round two varied as the Valkenswaard United duo of John and Gilles made no changes and opted to ride Equine America Unick Du Francport and Ermitage Kalone.  While Riesenbeck decided on fresh horsepower, Christian Kukuk changing from Just Be Gentle to Checker 47 and Philipp Weishaupt swapping Zineday for Coby 8.  But it didn’t work in their favour as both returned home with a rail down apiece for a total of eight, dropping to third on time by only 0.43 seconds.

On four faults and in fourth in round one, Madrid in Motion was in striking distance of the leaders, but when Maikel van der Vleuten finished on four faults with Beauville Z NOP, the pressure was on partner Eduardo Alvarez Aznar, and although he came home clear with Rokfeller De Pleville Bois Margot, their two-round total of eight gave the advantage to last to go Valkenswaard United. 

Cool customer Gilles opted for a safe round on Ermitage Kalone – the 10-year-old stallion jumping his first ever 1.60m track.  It paid off as they left every rail intact but picked up one time fault.  Not for the first time, it all rested on John’s shoulders, and he kept everyone holding their breath as an early fence hit the floor.  And the tension didn’t stop there as on their approach to the final fence, the time faults started to clock up…… But they stopped the clock just 0.04 seconds within picking up a third time fault, the six faults added to Gilles one fault totalling seven to clinch the win. 

“Luck was on our side today with the time, and you need a bit of luck to win,” said Gilles.

John reflected on his round: “I had a bit of a silly fence at number three; I knew I could afford to have the odd time fault, but I cut it very fine – it was still enough to win, and we had to win today!”

The 30 points for the win move Valkenswaard United up to third on the leaderboard after the fifth leg of 15, only three points behind the leaders Cannes Stars.

British riders took centre stage in 5* 1.55m speed – run concurrently with the GCL – as Ben Maher and Scott brash claimed the top two places.

Forty-seven competitors faced the 12-fence track with Ben commandingly securing the win from the front on Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright’s speedy 15-year-old Exit Remo (San Remo x Ferro).  Scott was nearest rival, claiming second at the midway stage 2.53 second in arrears on Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s 10-year-old Hello Valentino.


Michael Whitaker hits winning form in Wiesbaden

While elder brother John claimed a five-star victory in Madrid, Michael Whitaker triumphed in the 4* 1.50m in Wiesbaden, Germany, aboard Equine America Q Paravatti N.

Forty-two riders came forward over course-designer Peter Schumacher’s 12-fence speed track.  Germany’s Daniel Deusser led the way at the halfway mark on Ellabelle De Rie Z, but Michael used his late draw on the Quality Time TN x Indoctro 12-year-old to cut the time by 0.46 seconds.  Germany’s Nicola Pohl finished in third on Arlo De Blondel – a former ride for Michael.

Michael first competed at this venue 40 years ago.

“It’s a nice, traditional show and Paravatti felt good here even though the ground wasn’t perfect because of the rain, but he coped well,” he said.


Lily Attwood is narrowly denied a win in France

Little more than half a second denied Lily Attwood a four-star win in Bourg en Bresse, France, with Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z.

The original 52 starters were reduced to nine for the jump-off over the 4* 1.50m course with Lily skilfully guiding her mother Emmy Freeman-Attwood’s Calvaro FC 14-year-old ‘Leon’ into the runner-up position 0.55 second behind the winner, Switzerland’s Puis Schwizer on Scarlini De Tiji Z.


Jess Mendoza is on the podium in New York

Jess Mendoza jumped In The Air into second place in the 4* Old Salem Farm Welcome Stakes in New York, USA.

Fifty-two competitors contended this $65,000 class with Jess and the Air Jordan x Indoctro 11-year-old mare taking the runner-up spot behind Mark Bluman on Ubiluc.  


Harry and Sienna Charles are in the money at Peelbergen in The Netherlands

Harry Charles steered Chawton into second in the 3* 1.50m at Peelbergen in The Netherlands.

Eleven of the original 67 starters qualified for the jump-off, Harry and the Typhoon S x Caletto II 10-year-old finishing two seconds behind the winner, The Netherlands’ Bas Moerings on Kivinia.

Harry also featured in the top-billed Ashford Farm 3* 1.55m Grand Prix as nine of the 52-strong field tackled the jump-off, the 11-year-old Sherlock again posting a clean round to take fourth 2.19 seconds off the winning time set by Sweden’s Petronella Andersson and Odina Van Klapscheut.    

Harry’s sister Sienna rode Valkiry de Zance into second in the 40-entry 3* 1.45m two-phase, the Diamant De Semilly 15-year-old 1.31 seconds behind the pace.

Great Britain showed promise in the CSIO3* EEF Peelbergen Nations Cup as they fielded three riders making their three-star team debut and were joined by the vast experience of Harry Charles. 

It didn’t go our way in round one as Jennifer Billington came home with an uncharacteristic score she’d rather forget on Flipper Darco UK Z and Claudia Moore, 19, finished on 12 faults with Hardesther. 

But the team dug deep in round two to return a zero score.  Pathfinder Harry posted a double clear on the 11-year-old Sherlock and anchor Robert Murphy – now based in Belgium with former world champion Jos Lansink – followed suit with two clean rounds on the nine-year-old Kannem J.A. Z.  Jennifer firmly put round one behind her and, dismissing any pressure she may have felt, left every fence intact to finish a little over the time allowed, picking up two time faults.  Claudia also improved on her first round, coming home with a magnificent clear round.  Britain was on a total of 12 faults but, with strong competition from the other teams – The Netherlands winning on zero with Canada in second one fence behind and five teams on an eight fault total – they finished in eighth place of 13 teams.    


Sandy McLean lands seven wins in Bonheiden

Sandy McLean enjoyed a bumper show in Bonheiden, Belgium, with seven wins to his credit.

Sandy headed a British top three in the initial world ranking 2* 1.45m, surging ahead on Matthew Pike’s Goldstar.  Eleven of the original 42 competitors posted initial clear rounds to access the jump-off, Sandy and the year-old Otangelo x Waitaki stallion making short work of the raised and shortened track to win by 1.01 seconds.  Matt Sampson slipped the 11-year-old One Whisper (Daniel x Kannan) into second with Graham Gillespie and Veneno filling third.

Graham and Matt featured in the 2* Grand Prix, Graham steering the 16-year-old Veneno (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet) into second 1.09 seconds behind the winner, Ireland’s Ivan Dalton on Plaisire D’Api in the 10-horse decider.  Matt and One Whisper were a fraction behind for third.  Matt also picked up third in the 2* Small 1.40m Final, the nine-year-old King Lepantino finishing 1.38 seconds off the winning time in the 14-horse jump-off.

Sandy followed up with a one-two in the 2* 1.40m speed, outpacing his 49 rivals to win on his 14-year-old top ride Gino F (Ultimo x Grannus) and slot the Eldorado VD Zeshoek 13-year-old Eagele Z into second, 1.74 second separating the two.

Matthew Pike’s seven-year-old SES Jumeirah (Diamant De Semilly x Ard VDL Douglas) doubled up in the seven and eight-year-old classes, beating 55 rivals by 1.15 seconds in day one’s 1.30/1.35m two-phase and topping the following day’s 54-horse speed by 2.22 seconds.  They had to settle for second on day three. 0.97 seconds behind Belgium-based Brit Joe Clee aboard the eight-year-old mare Dopamine Z (Dominator 2000 Z x Asca). 

SES Moulin Rouge – another owned by Matthew – was equally successful in the five and six-year-old classes, winning two and taking second in the other for Sandy.  The six-year-old Goldstar x Quidam De Revel mare headed the initial 35-horse 1.05/1.15m two-phase with 2.42 seconds in hand over Elizabeth Lutener’s six-year-old Emeril.  Sandy and Moulin Rouge finished second in the 1.05/1.15m speed 24 hours later 1.43 seconds off the pace but bounced back to the top in the final day’s 1.10/1.20m two-phase with more than two seconds to spare.

Sandy’s final win came in the 2* 1.35m two-phase as Emma Phillips’ J.X Hale sailed ahead of their 31 rivals to win by 0.53 seconds.


Consistency pays off for Joe Fernyhough in Balmoral

Joe Fernyhough had a successful trip to Balmoral Show in Ulster, Northern Ireland’s largest agricultural show, with a win and several notable places to also gain Leading Speed Rider and International Leading Rider awards.

Victory came in the Ryedale International Speed Challenge as 18 competitors tackled German course-designer Klaus Holle’s 11-fence 1.40m track.  After finishing third in the initial 1.35m, Joe made the opening round count to win from the front, skilfully negotiating all the tight turns on the eight-year-old Westpoint Quickfire x Landjunge mare to stay ahead despite the challenges and win by one whole second. 

The pair also picked up second in the 25-strong ClipMyHorse.TV 2* Accumulator, 1.31 seconds behind Ireland’s Clem McMahon on Grand Prix DK.  Adrian Whiteway slipped Cooley Network into third.

Joe jumped Calcourt Equestrian’s home-bred Calcourt Particle into second in the Connollys Red Mills 2* 1.45m.  Eight of the 30 starters over the 13-fence track returned for the jump-off, Joe’s early lead on the Spartacus TN x Lasino 12-year-old beaten only by Ireland’s Jason Foley on Durango VDL by 1.63 seconds.

Joe and Particle rounded off the show with fourth in the 2* 1.45m Grand Prix.  Their early lead in the 12-horse decider – which was won or lost on a risky gallop down the length of the arena to the final oxer – dropped down the order to finish 2.14 seconds behind the winner, Ireland’s Francis Derwin and Flexi K.

Great Britain’s Sameh El Dahan retired former top ride Suma’s Zorro alongside owner Joanne Sloan Allen in a retirement ceremony in the Main Arena.  The mare – now aged 20 who jumped in two Word Equestrian Games, 2014 Caen and 2018 Tryon – won the 2017 Longines Grand Prix of Madrid, 2018 LGCT of Paris and posted a glorious victory at Spruce Meadow’s 1.70m CP International in 2018.

“She was part of one of the most important chapters of my career, rose to the occasion and always had my back,” said Sameh.

“Our amazing mare got the send-off she deserved.  It was one of the hardest days of my life but I’m glad she is retired to the paddocks happy and healthy,” said Joanne.  “Now for the next generation of little Zorros!”


Image: Global Champions Tour

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