Skelton to help shape Whitaker's future

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The Independent Online

Robert Whitaker will be based with Nick Skelton soon after he returns from Gijon in Spain, where he is riding Virtual Village Randi in the Young Riders European Show Jumping Championships this week.

The talented 18-year-old son of John Whitaker will therefore have the chance to ride some of the most exciting young horses in the country – among them John and Pat Hales' Arko and Magic Darco. Seven-year-old Arko had been Skelton's hope for the 2004 Olympics, until he was forced to retire from riding in February after breaking the top vertebra in his neck.

"We thought it would be good for Robert to see things from a different angle and have a chance of riding some good young horses," John Whitaker said yesterday. He has a high regard for Skelton as a trainer – "We always worked well together in the past. Nick helped me and I helped him. He talks a lot of sense and he's strict, which is a good thing."

Robert Whitaker is eager to succeed in the sport and will not balk at working long hours with the horses in Skelton's Warwickshire yard as well as those he takes with him from Yorkshire. Robert competed in his first Nations Cup teams this year, riding Lord Liberty at La Baule in France and Randi at Drammen in Norway, where he and Louise did better than their father and their uncle, Michael, who were also part of the all-Whitaker team. Lord Liberty has been off work with a cracked foot, but Robert is hoping to ride him in another Nations Cup later this year.