Showjumper Eric Lamaze welcomed about 30 guests to his stables on Wednesday, giving a chance for visitors to see his Olympic mare Derly Chin de Muze being prepared for the day’s competition at the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows “Masters” in Calgary, Canada.
Lamaze, a Rolex Testimonee, spoke about Derly’s development, as well as his recent experiences in London where the Canadian Olympic show jumping team had a top five finish.
Guests then enjoyed a course walk with the 2008 Olympic Champion, as Lamaze gave a guided tour of the track set for the first competition of the week, the $35,000 Akita Drilling Cup. Lamaze explained the technicalities of the course, noting the role that the different colours, backgrounds, and measurements between each obstacle play in the competition. He then put his words into practice, meeting the challenges presented to horse and rider by guiding Derly to a clear round.
Lamaze comes into this year’s “Masters” tournament as the defending champion of the $1 million CN International, the grand finale to be held on Sunday, September 10. Lamaze has won the prestigious event on two occasions, in 2007 and 2011, riding the great Hickstead.
“I’m leaning towards Coriana for the $1 million CN International,” said Lamaze, who will also represent Canada in Saturday’s $300,000 BMO Nations’ Cup team competition riding alongside Mac Cone, Tiffany Foster and 10-time Olympian Ian Millar. “Derly will do the Nations’ Cup, for sure. Coriana is my most experienced horse, and every time I ask her to jump higher, she does it with class. She may get a chance here this week.”
While Lamaze is still undecided as to which mount will get the call to fill Hickstead’s shoes on Sunday, there is one thing he knows for sure – two-time Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela will not pull any punches when he sets the track for this year’s CN International.
“I know that the first round will be do-able, but the second round is one of the biggest you will see anywhere in the world,” said Lamaze. “It’s a long day; just because you go clear in the first round, it’s far from over. Leopoldo puts the fences to the max, builds them as careful as they can be, and the time allowed is always a factor. That is why you so rarely see a jump-off. Even though winning is such a great memory for me, you never forget how hard it is.”
For Lamaze, who is based in Vrasene, Belgium, and spends the winter season in Wellington, Florida, competing at Spruce Meadows is like ‘coming home.’
“I’m happy to be back in Canada,” said Lamaze, who tops the all-time money won list at Spruce Meadows, with more than $3.7 million in career earnings at the Calgary venue alone. “When you come into the International Ring and you hear the crowd, it gives you a little extra kick.”
Last year, a record crowd of 89,632 show jumping fans cheered Lamaze on to victory at Spruce Meadows, where Rolex has been the official timekeeper since 1997.
Following the Spruce Meadows “Masters” tournament, Lamaze will return to Europe where he will again represent Canada in Nations’ Cup team competition in Barcelona, Spain.