Equestrianism: Gently does it for Whitaker

JOHN WHITAKER and his fleet-footed 19-year-old partner, Virtual Village Grannusch, sped their way to an opening day victory in the Petplan Stakes at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships yesterday.

Though Whitaker said that his winning round was "not break-neck stuff" it looked fairly spectacular to those watching another superb perfor- mance from the Yorkshireman. He was, he says, able "to take a bit of a pull" coming in to the last of the 10 fences, which was on an awkward turn and was the undoing of some of his opponents - notably Robert Smith, who was last to go on Senator for the Best.

Lesley McNaught, the British-born rider who represents Switzerland, had been first to go when she raced round on Bim II. She eventually stood second in the line-up, between Whitaker and his younger brother, Michael, on eight-year-old Hilton, with whom he was third in the World Cup qualifier at Millstreet in Ireland in October.

Grannusch, who won the first two legs of this year's Volvo World Cup final in Helsinki before dropping back to ninth place in the overall placings, has kept his form remarkably well with his advancing years. Whitaker, who has a reputation for keeping elderly horses in winning form, is well aware of the chestnut gelding's limitations.

"He's such a trier, I don't like stretching him to his limits," Whitaker said after yesterday's victory. "Sometimes I think Grannusch struggles over the bigger fences, so I'll probably ride Welham in the World Cup qualifier."

Welham is only a year young-er than Grannusch and Whitaker, who knows both horses so well, wonders whether his two veteran mounts might be a little bit too well aware of their rider's way of doing things. "It's like kids, they know me so well that they're aware of little things that they can get away with," he said.

The husband and wife partnership of show jumper William Funnell and three- day event rider, Pippa, repeated their success of two years ago when winning the earlier Petplan Family Pair Relay final. William, who was first to go on Comex, had told his wife to "go for it" on his nine-year-old show jumping horse, Henkie. Pippa duly obliged.

"I thought to hell with style," Pippa said, having emulated her husband by jumping a fast clear round. They were the only pair to finish without jumping penalties for victory over Paul Barker and his second cousin, Joanna Andrews, with John Whitaker and his 18-year-old daughter, Louise, in third place.

"We tried to do too much and we both had a silly fence down," Whitaker said. He and his daughter nevertheless did better than his brother, Michael, and son, Robert, who had been threatening the leaders until dropping the teddy bear that took the pace of a baton.

Michael should have retrieved the bear but his mount, Twostep, was sidling away from it. His nephew, Robert, therefore thought it would be quicker to dismount and pick it up himself, but unfortunately this apparently smart bit of thinking led to the pair's elimination.

Petplan, who sponsored both of yesterday afternoon's show jumping contests, have announced their support for the Blenheim International Horse Trials for the next three years. The first prize for the Oxfordshire event will therefore be increased to pounds 6,000 next year.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Petplan Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Grannusch (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 47.40sec; 2 Bim II (L McNaught, Swit) clear, 48.11; 3 Virtual Village Hilton (M Whitaker, GB ) clear, 48.59. Petplan Family Pair Relay Final: 1 Comex (W Funnell) and Henkie (P Funnell) clear, 70.17sec; 2 Kildalton Lad (P Barker) and Townhead Karibund (J Andrews) 4 faults, 72.30; 3 Virtual Village Heyman (J Whitaker) and Livingston II (L Whitaker) 8 faults, 76.28.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week