Countdown to Paris 2018: Beezie Madden and Michael Whitaker - déjà vu

Beezie Madden and Simon at 2013 World Cup Final
Credit : Scoopdyga / Pierre Costabadie

Thursday 01 March - 14h51 | Ian Clayton

Countdown to Paris 2018: Beezie Madden and Michael Whitaker - déjà vu

The 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and FEI Dressage Final is scheduled for about 40 days from now, April 11-15, in Paris, France. This week, GrandPrix-Replay continues its look at some of the personalities who have been part of the Finals’ histories over the years. Today, two Show Jumpers who are qualified for the 2018 Final more than 30 years after taking part in the last Final in the French capital, in 1987.

 - Countdown to Paris 2018: Beezie Madden and Michael Whitaker - déjà vu

Michael and Robert Whitaker in Portugal in 2008

In 1987, some of the albums topping the charts included Paul Simon’s Graceland, Michael Jackson’s Bad, Bruce Springsteen’s Live/1975-85 and and Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill. And in the Show Jumping world that year, two of the 'chart-toppers' were Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker and the United States’ Beezie Madden, both of whom competed in the 1987 World Cup Jumping Final at Paris’ Bercy Arena.

This year, three decades later, 54-year-old Elizabeth 'Beezie' Madden, with partners such as Coach, Darry Lou and Breitling LS, is currently sitting in 3rd place in the North American Eastern Sub-League and looks all but guaranteed to earn a return ticket for Paris with one qualifier to go in Ocala, Florida from March 14-18. Last year’s Final winner, McLain Ward (who triumphed in Omaha, Nebraska on HH Azur), is automatically qualified for France, but nevertheless leads the strong division.  

Across the Atlantic, 57-year-old Whitaker finished 3rd in the final Western European qualifier last weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden on JB’s Hot Stuff, taking 7th place in the continental rankings – more than enough for a spot in Paris. “I think I’ve done about 25 Finals, so it’s about time I won it!”, Whitaker joked after the Swedish result. In fact, the rider has done 23 so far, the most of anyone.

A native of the Yorkshire region, Whitaker will be accompanied in Paris this time by his nephew Robert, who also qualified through the Western European league, finishing in 16th place. Indeed, the pair are part of a sort of British ‘royal family’ in the sport, with elder brother John having won back-to-back World Cup titles with the illustrious grey Milton in 1990 and 1991. At the 1987 Final, won by the United States’ Katharine Burdsall with The Natural, John was also the top-ranked finisher in the family, in 5th place on Milton. Michael himself took 10th with Next Warren Point. Madden, riding Medrano, ended up in 18th.
While the elder brother John is thus the only member of the Whitaker clan to have won the Final to date, Michael has also been close over the years: third in 1994 on Midnight Madness, third in 2001 on Handel II and runner-up in 2005 on Portofino. The veteran also his medals from the Olympics and World and European Championships.
That longevity and success has been more than matched by Madden (née Patton), who married horse dealer and former Fédération Équestre Internationale executive John Madden in 1998. Alongside her gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals from Athens, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro, the Milwaukee native of course won the 2013 World Cup Final itself in Gothenburg with her trusty partner Simon.
““I thought I had a good chance with him that year,” Madden told Grand Prix magazine in 2017. “He is a very good indoor horse. He had done well in the World Cup Final in 2011 with Jeroen Dubbeldam, his previous rider. I felt I knew him enough for it, and to be competitive. I won the first leg, which honestly I was a little bit surprised because that is not our favourite class usually. The course really suited him. I was able to be fast by making short turns and not galloping too much. After the second day, Steve Guerdat took the lead as I had the last down in the jump-off, it was a mistake of my part. The third day was very difficult. I had four faults in each round but at the end, I had the jump-off against Steve. I was doubtful because Steve and Nino were so fast... Luckily he went first and had two down. He put the victory in my hands.”
If Madden and Whitaker end up going to Paris this spring as expected, both riders will no doubt be content to find themselves in a similar situation as the competition unfolds. For more information on the event, see here. 

 - Countdown to Paris 2018: Beezie Madden and Michael Whitaker - déjà vu

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