This was Whitaker's third victory in this annual classic, which he had previously won with his great former partners, Ryan's Son and Milton. Welham deserves to join this illustrious pair in the record books after his successes this year, which include the Aachen Grand Prix in Germany.
"He's 17 now, but I think he's still improving," Whitaker said of Welham, who is wonderfully responsive and accurate when asked to take short turns on a jump-off course. The win was, however, in doubt until Geoff Billington turned in close to the final planks with time in hand, only to have a refusal there on It's Otto.
Otto hit this fence on his second attempt to finish third with seven faults, one place below the stylish Dutchman, Jos Lansink, on Carthago. Only two others reached the jump-off: Geoff Glazzard, who was celebrating his 48th birthday, finishing fourth on Hello Oscar, ahead of Ireland's 1996 winner, Robert Splaine, on Ballymoss IV.
Paul Schockemohle, whose support for the Hickstead showground has been such a tremendous fillip for British show jumping, gave full praise to Whitaker after the Briton had received the pounds 15,000 first prize. "John was fast, but still smooth and nice," he said, "it was a fantastic picture of horsemanship."
Lynne Bevan gained the biggest win of her career, which includes eventing as well as show jumping, when she won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup for women riders on the 14-year-old Grafton Magna.
Bevan had a broken collar-bone when she watched Mark Todd ride her regular partner, Horton Point, to win the Badminton Horse Trials in 1994. This time it was she who took over from the New Zealander, who had ridden Grafton Magna without success on the first three days of the meeting.
Todd would have partnered the horse on all four days had Bevan not damaged her collar-bone again in a show jumping fall at David Broome's Wales and West Show. The injury meant that she missed her engagement at the Luhmuhlen Three-Day Event in Germany, so she was able to come here to compete in the Queen's Cup for the first time.
"The horse had been going so badly there was no point in getting nervous, I thought it would be a miracle if he jumped a clear round," Bevan said. As it turned out, Grafton Magna was the only one to be faultless in both the opening round and the jump-off.
Bevan defeated Jane Annett, another newcomer to the Queen's Cup, whose only jump-off mistake with Pipakie came at the last fence. British-born Helena Weinberg filled third place with Ferdinand, who had two fences down when recording the fastest time.Reuse content