Whitaker's win becomes family affair

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The Independent Online
John Whitaker's 16-year-old daughter, Louise, became the youngest-ever winner of the National Under-21 Championship at The Horse of the Year Show yesterday, when she rode Cowboy Magic Deep Heat to victory.

It was not the most important contest of the day, but it was a major challenge for Louise and John Whitaker found it more stressful than any other. "It was hard work watching. I'd rather ride round the Olympics than watch Louise jumping in a class like that," he said.

Deep Heat, a mare of 15.2 hands, became Louise's first horse when she started riding her two years ago. First to go in the jump-off, her father had told her to "keep it tight and smooth, without going crazy fast". When the last but one fence fell, her round was beatable but her opponents failed.

Henry Turrell, who had jumped an excellent first round on Belinda, was eliminated for three refusals at the second jump-off fence. That left Billy Paul, who had 21 faults on Darwin, as runner -up to the stylish Louise.

The overseas challenge here had not looked too formidable but yesterday afternoon's two senior contests nevertheless eluded the British riders. The Welcome Stakes (the first international contest of the meeting) went to Ludo Philippaerts, one of the Belgian contingent who filled five of the top nine places.

Some riders ambled round on a schooling exercise - but not the Belgians, whose Francois Mathy was the long-time leader on Ivoor. Nick Skelton, jumping five from the end on Sublime, seemed to have thwarted the visitors when he took the lead by 1.6sec. But Philippaerts, riding at The Horse of the Year Show for the first time, promptly put the Belgians in front again with the speedy mare Trudo Jannique.

David McPherson of South Africa then took the SGC National Grade B Championship on a Belgian-bred horse, Lapino. The seven-year-old was sent to McPherson's Kent yard, where he has been based for more than 10 years, by his then joint owners - Duncan Inglis and Peter Charles.

The horse was "a bit of a bandit" when he arrived in Kent early this year, but McPherson was happy to buy him about a month later and he is now delighted with his purchase.

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