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5* wins put Eric Lamaze ‘back in the sport’

Eric Lamaze claimed his second consecutive five-star grand prix victory, the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome, on Sunday, riding Zigali P S.

Eric Lamaze claimed his second consecutive five-star grand prix victory, the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome, on Sunday, riding Zigali P S. © NoelleFloyd.com

One week following his stunning win in the €200,000 Grand Prix of La Baule, France, Canadian Olympic Show Jumping Champion Eric Lamaze made it two in a row by claiming the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome, Italy, on Sunday.

When Lamaze won the €200,000 Grand Prix of La Baule, France on May 18 riding Powerplay, it marked his first five-star victory since his partnership with Hickstead.  Now, the Canadian show jumping star has done it again, claiming the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome one week later with Zigali P S.

In an incredible twist of fate, Lamaze also won the Grand Prix of La Baule and the Grand Prix of Rome back-to-back in 2011 with Hickstead, just months before the great stallion’s tragic death.

“After La Baule, everyone was saying that Zigali would win in Rome but I didn’t think it was possible; it’s so hard to win these grand prix events, especially with two different horses,” said Lamaze of Schomberg, Ontario.  “Winning in La Baule gave me a lot of confidence coming into this week but, when you’re on another horse, it’s quite different.”

Having used Zigali P S as a second horse to Powerplay in European competition this spring, Lamaze decided it was time for Zigali P S to step into the spotlight for the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome.

Fifty of the world’s top ranked riders started on Sunday, with 13 advancing to the all-deciding second round.  When Lamaze entered the arena, he was chasing the time of 42.26 seconds set by Dutchman Frank Schuttert. Lamaze shaved almost a full second off the leading time, stopping the timers in 41.29 seconds.  Next in, Britain’s Michael Whitaker came within fractions of catching Lamaze but, in the end, his time of 41.31 seconds with Viking would only prove good enough for second place.

“Zigali is a super-fast horse, he can leave strides out and can keep his jump,” said Lamaze in praise of the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Kigali x STB-H Palfrenier) purchased by Carlene and Andy Ziegler’s Artisan Farms last November.

Lamaze and Zigali P S had opened the four-day show jumping tournament in Rome with a win in the €24,000 1.50m Premio 3.

“Zigali won the first day, and then he wins again today,” said an astonished Lamaze.  “It’s incredible!  The first class he wins from 64 starters, and then he wins this one, too!  For Zigali to come to Rome, a five-star event, and to compete in two classes and to win both, and for me to win my first five-star grand prix with him, is unbelievable!”

Following the death of Hickstead, Lamaze continued on with a heavy heart, competing for the fifth-placed Canadian Team at the 2012 London Olympics before taking a step back from the sport.  Following a rebuilding phase, he is now back at the top of his game, winning two of the most prestigious grand prix events in the world.

“The faith I had in these horses is paying off,” Lamaze said.  “We are really clicking; everything is coming together between myself and the horses.  I’ve spent time really getting to know them, and the moment has come now.  Yes, I won these two events before with Hickstead, but to do it again now with two different horses really shows the depth of horses that we have. With the Ziegler family behind us purchasing these great horses, I can’t help but to feel like we’re back in the sport.”

Eric Lamaze receives the trophy for the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome.

Eric Lamaze receives the trophy for the €200,000 Grand Prix of Rome. © NoelleFloyd.com

In addition to opening the four-day show jumping tournament in Rome with a win in the €24,000 1.50m Premio 3 riding Zigali P S, Lamaze made another trip to the winner’s circle on Saturday after winning the €5,000 1.40m Land Rover Premio 7 riding Cesanna. In his competition debut with the newly acquired Fine Lady 5, Lamaze was double clear to place fourth in the €24,000 1.50m Premio 5 for owners Artisan Farms.

At CSIO5* Rome, Lamaze competed alongside fellow Canadian Tiffany Foster of Vancouver, BC.  Lamaze and Foster are both based full-time with Artisan Farms in Vrasene, Belgium, and Wellington, Florida.

Next up for Lamaze is the CSI5* Global Champions Tour in Hamburg, Germany, from May 28 to June 1. With strong results already this season in Antwerp and Madrid, Lamaze is the current leader of the Global Champions Tour standings.

Following Hamburg, Lamaze and ‘Team Artisan’ will fly more than 30 horses to Calgary, Canada, to compete throughout the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, which kicks off with the Spruce Meadows “National” tournament from June 4 to 8.  Lamaze’s favourite show jumping venue in the world, he is sure to receive quite a warm welcome at Spruce Meadows from his legions of Canadian supporters.

Horsetalk.co.nz

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