JOHN WHITAKER'S greatest show jumping mount, the fabulous grey Milton, died at the rider's Yorkshire farm on Sunday from heart failure. The 22-year-old gelding had made a full recovery from his colic operation last autumn but last Thursday he looked unwell and had another attack of colic at the weekend, writes Genevieve Murphy.
"Milton was with us for 14 years and we will all miss him, he was part of the family," Whitaker said yesterday. The horse, who was owned by Tom and Doreen Bradley, has been buried on the Upper Cumberworth farm which was his home.
Whitaker began riding Milton in the summer of 1985 - two years after the sudden death of the owners' daughter, Caroline Bradley, who had brought the horse on quietly through the novice ranks. By the end of the decade, the whole of the horse world had heard of the amazing grey who floated over fences like some mythical creature out of Narnia.
Milton was the first show jumping horse to win more than pounds 1m. By the time he retired in 1994, his winnings had reached almost pounds 1,130,000 - and it would have been more if the full value of the cars he won (there were at least ten) had been included in the total.
Whitaker rode Milton to win individual and team gold medals at the 1989 European Championships and he won consecutive World Cup finals in 1990 and 1991. Had the Bradleys allowed him to go to Seoul in 1988, he might well have won an Olympic medal.
After his retirement in 1994, Milton made several "guest appearances" with that other great grey, the steeplechaser Desert Orchid. On one occasion at the Richmond Horse Show, John Whitaker rode Milton while his brother, Michael, was on the other famous grey.
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