Equestrianism: Whitakers and Fuchs battle to rousing conclusion

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The Independent Online

A three-way tie between father and son, John and Robert Whitaker, plus Switzerland's Markus Fuchs, brought last night's Accenture Christmas Puissance to a rousing conclusion here at the London International Horse Show. Some BBC2 viewers of the first prime-time show jumping to be shown for many years may have been left hoping for another round and an outright winner, but they had seen some wonderful jumping in the five rounds allowed by the rules.

Robert Whitaker, riding the unconventional Finbarr V who felt "a bit like an old diesel tractor" to his 23-year-old rider, was the first to clear the huge red wall at its final height. There was rapturous applause for the young rider and for the two old hands ­ Fuchs and John Whitaker, who are both in their fifties ­ when they proved to be as brave and as brilliant as ever by following suit. Fuchs had never ridden Ovation in a puissance before, so his equal first was a happy surprise.

Earlier John's younger brother, Michael Whitaker delighted the crowd with a superbly swift clear round on Insultech Portofino which gave him victory in the Christmas Cracker.

The Dutchman Eric van der Vleuten and Germany's Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst filled the top two places when Whitaker came in last for the eight-horse jump-off. It was clear that he meant business from the outset as he flew over the early fences and took a stirring gallop down the arena to a big upright and jumped on a right-hand turn, which had proved the undoing of the first two competitors.

Portofino was foot perfect all the way, finishing with 0.54sec in hand. "She couldn't have gone that fast two years ago," Whitaker said of the 12-year-old mare, "but I reckon she is in her prime now."

He is hoping to prove that point again tomorrow when he rides Portofino in the H&M World Cup Qualifier. He will again be taking on his nephew Robert, his brother John and his niece Ellen.

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