Equestrianism: Robert Whitaker secures British Open in family affair
Monday 07 April 2008
Robert Whitaker kept a wonderfully cool head to complete two lovely rounds in the final of the British Open Championship here, incurring only the four faults that he was able to afford and thus repeating his 2003 victory. On this occasion, members of his own family were ready to pounce if he should make a further error.
In a contest that had been effectively dominated by the Whitakers throughout the three legs and yesterday's final, Robert defeated his uncle Michael and his cousin William, with his father John one place below the Irishman Shane Breen in fifth place. Though much has already been written about this extensive Yorkshire family, this was the first time that they had secured a stranglehold on the top prizes in a major international competition.
Robert Whitaker, who won the first leg of the British Open on Thursday, relinquished the lead to his father on Friday but regained it when runner-up to Robert Smith on Saturday. This was to leave 25-year-old Robert with a dilemma. Should he ride his top horse, Lacroix, in the final or rest him for the start of the Global Champions Tour in Qatar, to where he flies today? With a first prize of £25,250 on offer yesterday, Lacroix was pressed into service here, and the 13-year-old gelding obliged.
As if anybody needed another reminder that the Whitakers were here in force, William, 18, the youngest member of the clan won Friday night's Puissance. As at Olympia, where the tall young man wowed television viewers as well as a capacity audience, he was riding Leonardo. This time the horse cleared the big red wall at 7ft 2in, half an inch higher than his winning leap at Olympia.
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