The inaugural Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show could provide an Olympics launchpad for one of world showjumping’s most famous riders.
John Whitaker will be 61 by the time next summer’s Rio Olympics take global centre-stage, but his ambition and desire remain as strong as ever.
Yorkshireman Whitaker’s longevity is underlined by the fact that when he helped Great Britain win an Olympic team silver medal in Los Angeles 31 years ago, current world number one showjumper - Whitaker’s fellow British star Scott Brash - was not born.
And a possible sixth Olympics appearance after Los Angeles, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing is firmly on Whitaker’s radar, especially given his powerful string of horses highlighted by the stallion Argento and exciting new mare Ornellaia.
John who will be among a star-studded entry at the waterfront Liverpool Echo Arena from January 1-3 said: “I have had a really good year.
“My horses have been jumping well - they’ve been on form - and I can still win at my age, which is quite good!
“For sure, gaining selection at the highest level is tough, and all you can do as a rider is keep doing your best. The mare is still improving, and if she keeps improving, I know I have a good chance. I will try my best to get to Rio.”
Only Brash, among British riders, is currently above Whitaker on the sport’s official world rankings list, which underlines the standard that he continues to hit, and he is relishing being part of what Liverpool will have to offer during three days of world-class competition.
John added: “It’s very good to have a new international show in the north again. It is great to bring the sport to the public.
“It is the right idea to get shows in city centres in big arenas, and it is something to really look forward to for riders and spectators.”
Besides the 4* showjumping action, attracting famous names from around the globe, there will be an entertainment line-up for everyone to enjoy. This includes the Shetland Pony Grand National, The Bootleg Beatles tribute act, and Clémence Faivrewith her Lusitano horses.
Besides the displays and showjumping, there will also be a shopping village in a hall housing the collecting ring, champagne bar and bistro, offering a selection of trade stands.
To book tickets go to www.echoarena.com .