William sets sights on rising to No 1 in the family

FRESH from his finest year as a show-jumper, Huddersfield’s William Whitaker is targeting a place in the world’s top 30 en route to his dream of becoming world No 1.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st December 2014, 4:21 pm
On the way up: William Whitaker showing the style on Upperclass that has taken him up to No 5 in the British show-jumping rankings.
On the way up: William Whitaker showing the style on Upperclass that has taken him up to No 5 in the British show-jumping rankings.

The 25-year-old also hopes to become the ‘number one Whitaker’ though the Yorkshireman knows surpassing uncles John and Michael will take some doing.

In any case, there are another six Whitakers in the world’s top 2,000 – and more on the way.

The older brother of fellow show-jumping aces George and James, William has enjoyed his best year in the saddle, highlighted by victory in the World Cup qualifier in Stuttgart which earned a new Mercedes car as part of his prize.

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That success plus victories in Spain and in Calgary has drove Whitaker up to fifth in the British rankings and 58th in the world with just uncles John and Michael ahead of him as far as the Whitaker show-jumping dynasty is concerned.

Brothers George and James sit below him in the pecking order – as do cousins Robert, Louise, Ellen, Joe, Thomas and Donald plus uncle Stephen, with Robert the closest family member to Whitaker’s world ranking in 69th. William is relishing the competition amongst his family members and while he admits that toppling his uncles will take some doing, he will give it a damn good go.

Michael is ranked 32nd in the world with John 35th and William told The Yorkshire Post: “Obviously I want to get to world No 1 but I think a realistic target now would be to try and get in the top 30.

“If I can get there and then maintain that, that would be a good platform to try and build on to try and then push on get into the top 10.

“It’s always good to be moving up the rankings and I think I’m fifth in Britain now after being seventh.

“It’s good and it helps you to get into more competitions in the new year and if you keep moving up the rankings it shows you are winning really and it’s always very important to do that.

“This has definitely been my best year to date and it’s been great.

“All of the horses have been on great form and I have definitely had my best career win. I’ve probably had four of my best five career wins this year. I had Stuttgart and I won the Grand Prix in Spain earlier in the year and then I won a big class in Calgary in Spruce Meadows this year as well.

“I’ve won three other Grand Prixs as well so it’s been a good year. It’s good to think we are moving in the right direction and the results are showing.

“Obviously I’ve a lot more to win yet to be the No 1 Whitaker!

“But it’s great to have people like John and Michael to raise your ambitions to.

“They have won so much throughout their careers and I come from the same sort of background so why not?”

William certainly has time on his side as the eldest brother of three will not turn 26 until next July.

This year has also been William’s best as a show-jumper with the curtain drawn on 2014 with a series of decent efforts at Olympia where British and world No 1 Scott Brash set the standard.

William and Glenavadra Brilliant were fifth in the The Levy Restaurants Snowman Stakes behind Germany’s Daniel Deusser.

Brash sits at the top of the show-jumping tree but there is certainly plenty of competition even from the Whitakers and there are more of them on the way.

William and girlfriend Elisabeth Fredlund may have even created two long-term ‘rivals’ of the future, with the couple’s two children, Bella and Oliver, growing up fast.

With cousin Louise also pregnant, the list of potential Whitaker show-jumpers continues to grow.

“There’s a lot of us,” admitted William.

“There’s Donald and his three brothers and sisters so there’s three there and then there’s me and my brothers.

“Then Michael has got three kids and then there’s Louise and Robert.”

Reflecting on his own fatherhood and the prospect of Bella and Oliver one day getting into the saddle, William added: “It’s going very good and they are both doing really well.

“Bella is three on the first of February so she is right getting into the Christmas spirit. Oliver is only five months but for both I guess there will come that time.

“There’s a lot of us now because Robert has got a little one, Ellen has got a little one and Louise is expecting. The Whitakers will be here for a good bit longer.”