As the race for the Championship becomes more intense, one family name is certainly making an impression. The Whitakers are currently dominating the British Open Championship leader board and the probability of Robert, John, Michael, Ellen or William scooping the title is looking extremely likely. Robert is top of the leader board followed by Dad John with Uncle Michael and cousin Ellen tying for third. William Whitaker follows closely in 6th place. If the Whitakers make it a 1-2-3-4-5 or even a 1-2-3 in tomorrow’s final competition it will be the first time they have ever been consecutively placed in the top positions in a major international Championship and definitely a result to go down in the history books.
All three rounds of the 2008 Championship have now been won by three former British Open Champions. Today, the 2005 & 2006 winner, Robert Smith won the 3rd round joining Robert Whitaker (2003 Champion) and Jessica Kürten (2007 Champion) who won the first and second round respectively. Smith’s win elevated him to 9th on the leaderboard and assured him a place in Sunday’s final.
In the additional International classes today, after narrowly missing out to Nick Skelton in the Accumulator yesterday, Dutch rider Eric Van Der Vleuten and VDL Groep Owendel proved they are a force to be reckoned with, winning Zinc Management Stakes in true style. The pair flew round the course to claim the title in 47.20 seconds. Robert Smith took 2nd place on his horse Kalusha in 48.88 seconds. It was a good overall result for the Dutch contingent with a strong performance from Jürgen Stenfert on BMC Satisfaction securing 3rd position in 49.33 seconds.
The unique Red Mills Horse Feeds Power and Speed Indoor Cross Country competition, pairing top show jumpers and eventers working together against the clock over cross country fences and show jumps, proved extremely popular with the crowds. Young William Whitaker and top Irish eventer, Mark Kyle, won in an impressive combined time of 57.04 seconds with no faults. The notoriously challenging Indoor Cross Country course proved no match for Kyle and Drunken Disorderly and William Whitaker and Loxley provided a sterling performance over the show jumps. 2nd place went to Scott Brash and Bill Levett with a time of 61.92 seconds with three faults and William Funnell and Oliver Townend were right behind them in 62.18, also with three faults.
The evening also featured the British Open Knock Out competition which pitches two riders against each other on an identical course of six fences. In a gripping four heat race Robert Bevis came out on top riding his grey gelding, Connery. Robert knocked a rail down and picked up three time penalties, leaving finalist Geoff Luckett on Brickfield Boy in sight of the £1800 first prize, but taking the final three jumps at a steadier pace he was just not fast enough to beat Robert. In joint third place was Paul Barker riding Sonybanta and Jurgen Stenfert on Okometa.
The last competition of the day was the famous British Open Puissance where competitors braved the ever-growing wall. The competition reached it’s fifth and final round with only William Whitaker on Haddon House Leonardo and Dale Burnham riding Cointreau clearing the 7ft wall in the fourth. The fifth round saw the wall increase to an astounding 7ft 2 inches. Both riders attempted the new height with Burnham almost clearing it, but the title was won by William who cleared it in style. The atmosphere and tension of the Puissance provided the perfect ending to a day packed with world-class competition at the British Open Show Jumping Championships.