‘Best Win of My Career’: William Whitaker On His Special Victory at Olympia
They don’t call it the sport of inches for nothing. The final results of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ at Olympia London International Horse Show display less than seven tenths of a second between the top three. With 18 horse and rider combinations in the jump-off (and ultimately eight clears), every inch that could be shaved off a turn counted.
Spectators packed the perimeter of Olympia's domed arena, cheering half of the competitors in the class on to the jump-off. Senior course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral said he would have expected five fewer clears from the first round, but he wasn’t fussed about it. He simply joked, “I was wrong” and went on to compliment the good footing and fantastic jumping horses.
Ultimately, it was 29-year-old William Whitaker and Ludwig Criel’s stallion Utamaro d'Ecaussines who posted the quickest time. Although he is no stranger to World Cup™ wins, this one was particularly special for William.
“I’ve been coming here since I was two or three years old and have many memories of [my uncles] John and Michael [who have both won it twice],” William said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some good horses in the past and win some good classes. But the way I look at it, the World Cup at Olympia is a bit like a championship. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a horse good enough, and on top of everything else, it’s got to come together on the day… This is by far the best win of my career.”
William jumped about halfway through the class and attacked the course on a forward stride. The round went to plan, he said, but he had to wait to see if his 37.02 second time would be good enough to win.
“It helps when you’re on a horse like him,” William said of Utamaro d'Ecaussines, who was competing at Olympia for the first time. “He’s got such a good brain and mentality. Honestly I’m struggling to get him into canter [in the warm-up]. When he goes in the ring he just lights up and grows.”
Every competitor is on the hunt for the winning formula. This champion has her routine down to a science.
Belgium’s Karel Cox and Evert, a 9-year-old owned by Jos Stevens and Louis Woestenborghs, stopped the clock on a brisk 37.21 to finish second. “I didn’t see William’s round. I just rode what I thought was best for my horse. He’s quite a fast horse – a little bit opposite William’s horse. He always wants to be fast. I have to slow him down.”
Watch William and Karel's rounds side-by-side to see where William gained the advantage.
The last to go in the jump-off, it was all or nothing for Laura Kraut and Old Willow Farm’s 11-year-old mare Zeremonie. A time of 37.7 seconds was good enough for third for the American pair.
“Sometimes that’s the best position to be in. There was no second guessing. I had to go as quick as I could and I just wasn’t fast enough,” Laura said. “I’m very pleased with my horse. I haven’t gone against the clock with her very often because we’ve always been concentrating on making championship teams, so I was pleased to come as close as I did.”
Laura Kraut and Zeremonie.
To view the full results of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ at Olympia, click here.
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Photos by Sophie Harris.
Written by Hossein Maleki
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.