Michael Whitaker, always so hard to beat, outsped his rivals yet again to win the Xerox Special Event Services Cup here yesterday at the Horse of the Year Show. Riding Debbie Cox's Fairviews Mirabelle d'Or, a French-bred eight-year-old mare, this newly formed partnership won by the narrowest margin, 0.01sec, from Guy Williams on Onyx V.
William Whitaker, Michael's nephew, in only his second season, finished close behind in third with It's Super Girl, ahead of Paul Barker with Temple Ryefield and John Whitaker, riding Leandros de Semilly, who jumped the only other clears in this one-round speed class.
The remarkable Whitaker dynasty, who will surely dominate British showjumping for generations to come, can boast 10 family members competing here. The enforced postponement of the Global Champions Tour, due to take place in Brazil, has given the Horse of the Year Show a welcome boost as Michael, John and Robert, their nephew, should have been in South America now.
They rerouted to Birmingham before travelling next week and it has proved rewarding, with Robert winning both classes on Friday evening and his uncle John finishing second each time. Michael Whitaker will ride Portofino and Up To Date in Brazil.
Another Whitaker victory looked likely in the Bob Hurford Memorial Cup yesterday evening over a big course, but the eight clear rounds did not include Robert, John or Ellen Whitaker. An Anglo-Irish contest developed with clears from Geoff Luckett, Andrew Davies, Robert Smith, Paul Barker and Ben Maher, and the Irishmen Dian O'Connor and hisin-form compatriot Billy Twomey.
But it was the lone Dutchman, Jurgen Stenfert, 48, riding here for the first time, who achieved the quickest clear round with BMC Naomie, fending off Smith by just 0.33sec and a determined effort from Barker. Stenfert, on the beautifully balanced 13-year-old mare he has owned for 10 years, had judged the pace to perfection and well deserved this triumph.