Olympic veteran John Whitaker shows his class at Longines Hong Kong Masters
Four-time British Olympic showjumper John Whitaker was in impeccable form to secure the US$84,500 Gucci Gold Cup at the Longines Hong Kong Masters at AsiaWorld Expo on Saturday night.
Whitaker, 59, a silver medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, piloted Argento to ward off a challenge from world No 1 Briton Scott Brash, taking the US$27,685 first prize for a flawless round.
"I was worried a little bit as the competition was quite hard," said Whitaker who was mobbed by some in the crowd shortly after the prize presentation.
Whitaker, who returned to the world of showjumping just one year after suffering a life-threatening brain haemorrhage in 2000, finished the challenging course with zero penalties and in a time of 40.70 seconds. Young gun Jessica Mendoza on Spirit (41.32 seconds) was second and Brash third on 11-year-old mare Hello Annie (41.46 seconds).
"She is very good and fast and was hard to beat," said Whitaker praising Mendoza.
Mendoza, competing for the first time at the Hong Kong event, was thrilled to finish second on her in-form mare Spirit.
"She jumped amazing. I tried to go quickly but still got second and I am really happy with that," said Mendoza.
The opening night's glory was grabbed by Frenchman Julien Epaillard who won the Longines Speed Challenge on Pigmalion Du Rozel.
The Hong Kong leg, being held for the third successive year, will come to a climax on Sunday with the Longines Grand Prix carrying total prize money of US$750,000.