Britain's Robert Whitaker has won the 2023 Longines King George V Gold Cup after delivering the only double clear of the competition on Vermento, at family owned Hickstead.
The win came two days after the Brits won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™, with Robert's father John part of that winning team, crowning an amazing week for the home nation at the Longines Royal International Horse Show.
Nine of the 45 starters produced a clear first round after Kelvin Bywater’s tricky course caught many of the competitors out. But in round two things got even tougher, with all but Robert collecting faults in the jump-off. Brazil's Pedro Veniss produced the fastest time of the day, finishing on 56.48sec, but he was one of several riders to pick up penalties at the white gate at 8B. He ended up in second place with the 12-year-old Nimrod De Muze Z, with Amanda Landeblad and the British-bred For Killy in third after also falling foul of the white gate.
Robert is the third member of his famous family to lift the iconic gold trophy, following in the footsteps of Dad John, a three-time winner, and Uncle Michael, who has won four times.
John bred Robert’s winning ride, the 10-year-old stallion Vermento, who was sired by the great Argento with whom John enjoyed so much success.
“It’s just amazing, my dad bred the horse, and we’ve put a lot of work in him. I’ve probably nurtured him the last couple of years, saving him and jumping 1.50m classes. I’ve never jumped a five-star with him before – that was his first,” said Robert, who hails from Yorkshire but now is based in Surrey.
“I just think today he was feeling very good in himself, he jumped amazing in the first round and in the jump off he still had a lot of energy left, and I think that showed today. When I was going in the first round I was really nervous, because you never know what can happen in this ring. But actually, this is a local show for me, so I jump here a lot, and he’s jumped a lot in smaller classes in the ring, so he knows the ring quite well – I think that worked well in my favour today,” he added.
With so many of his rivals picking up faults in the jump-off, Robert wanted to keep up the pace while avoiding making any mistakes. “I wanted to get in a good rhythm and not be too slow; to get a good time but not to overcook it. The way he was jumping, he jumped so safe everywhere. I ended up quite a lot quicker than people with one down.”
Watching his son win the premier Grand Prix at the showground where Robert has been competing since the age of three was an emotional moment for John Whitaker. "It’s a special competition. Following on from the Nations Cup, which was an unbelievable win the other day, for Robert to win that it’s very special,” said John.
“It’s unbelievably good. When I’m riding, I’m not at all nervous but watching the kids, especially Robert today, I was very nervous.”
The Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead drew to a close after six days of top-class equestrian action. Click here for the full results.
Photo credit - Elli Birch / Boots and Hooves Photography