Joe Whitaker added his name to the family’s long Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) success story when he claimed an impressive win on day two at the NEC in Birmingham.
The Yorkshireman, brother of former Great Britain team rider Ellen Whitaker, landed the ReadySupp Cup — a two-phase competition against the clock.
Whitaker’s time of 24.70 seconds on the nine-year-old bay mare Lavarno proved enough to edge out Frenchman Julien Epaillard, riding Tradition de la Roque, while Ireland’s Anthony Condon was third aboard Balzac.
It was Whitaker’s first HOYS international-class victory, and continued a successful season that he has seen him feature among Britain’s most consistent performers.
“I am very proud,” he said. “I have always wanted to win here since I was young.
“It is only the second time I have competed internationally here, and I am absolutely delighted, and more so with it being on a mare that is home-bred.”
Karel Cox ensured success for Belgium as international classes began. Cox, who was a member of the Belgian team that finished second at this year’s Hickstead Nations Cup, landed the Grandstand Welcome Stakes with Caven van het Hobos, claiming a top prize of £7,350.
And the quality of his achievement was underlined by the fact that he beat renowned one round speed merchant Guy Williams, riding Titus, by almost a second, while Kerry Brennan finished third aboard Wellington M.
Jodie Hall-McAteer, meanwhile, saluted the “phenomenal” Tixylix after being crowned leading pony showjumper of the year.
The Hertfordshire teenager, 16, lit up day two by taking top spot and also finishing second aboard Little Squire. It is believed to be the first time in the prestigious class’s 67-year history for a rider to claim first and second.
And there was hardly a dry eye in the house after 18-year-old Tixylix, previously ridden to victory in the same competition by current Great Britain international star Jessica Mendoza in 2010, once again delivered a magical display.
The winning jump-off time of 36.93 seconds was more than a second quicker than Hall-McAteer’s round on Little Squire, while Emma Crawford and Moonlight Flight finished third in a pulsating battle that saw last year’s winner Robert Murphy and current European pony champion Jack Whitaker finish just outside the top three.
“I am very proud, especially as it’s my last year on ponies, and it was extra special with Little Squire, who I have brought through from the start, coming second,” Hall-McAteer said.
“She is a phenomenal pony. I’ve had her for four years, and this is definitely right up there in my career. It’s unbelievable, amazing.
Tixylix is owned by Jessica Mendoza’s mother Sarah, and Hall-McAteer added: “I got her at the beginning of 2013. I was second in this class in 2013 and 2014, and then last year I had an unlucky fence down, so I was quite determined this year!
“She just loves her job. Every time she goes in the ring, she just knows when it is a big occasion.
“She can be a bit difficult in the warm-up — she does her own thing — but when she sees the lights and the crowd, she knows it’s time to do her job.”
Images: top, fence at HOYS, by Julian Portch; bottom, Joe Whitaker, by E.S. Photography, both courtesy of HOYS