September 10, 2007

Show jumper Eric Lamaze, of Schomberg, Ontario became only the second Canadian in history to win the world's only million-dollar showjumping competition.

As he was presented with a cheque for the $325,000 winner's share in the CN International at Spruce Meadows yesterday, Lamaze spoke to the crowd of more than 60,000 enthusiastic fans. He told them that his great mount, Hickstead, "loves to hear you make noise and clap over every jump". Lamaze, 39, was treated like a rock star by autograph-seeking fans as he tried to leave the arena.

Lamaze's win comes 20 years to the day after Canada's show jumping legend, Ian Millar, claimed his first of two victories in this competition. Although Millar's wins in 1987 and 1991 netted less money, it was the richest grand prix in the world at the time. Lamaze also earned a $50,000 rider bonus because his win was his second this season in the CN Precision series, giving him and Hickstead a combined payday of $375,000.

"That was the hardest course I've ever ridden," Lamaze said, as he dismounted.

Course designer Leopoldo Palacios, of Caracas, Venezuela, who has also designed Olympic showjumping courses, said "I plan this course the way I plan Olympic Games".

To earn his way to the winner's circle Lamaze was the only entry, of 40 starters, to jump two faultless rounds. The final round, which Lamaze said was by far the toughest, came down to a contest against World Champion Jos Lansink, of Holland; three-time winner of this grand prix Nick Skelton, of Great Britain; and nine other riders with world-class resumes. Second-place went to French Olympic veteran Hubert Bourdy on Toulon. Dutchman Jos Lansink claimed third on his World Championship-winning mount, Cumano. Lamaze thought Palacios was right to make it so tough. "If you earn your way to the second round, you should be ready to play," he said.

Lamaze came to Calgary fresh from a team silver and individual bronze medal performance at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, also on Hickstead. He is crediting his current success to experience that he and Hickstead gained by making a European tour last spring. His next outing with Hickstead will also be in Europe, beginning a fall tour in October in Brussels.

• On Saturday in the team competition, Lamaze and Hickstead jumped one of only two double-clean performances in the two-round team competition. Canada was competing against The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and the US, and finished third as a team. Only 1992 Olympic team gold and individual bronze medalist Piet Raymakers, of The Netherlands, equalled Lamaze's two faultless rounds.

Lamaze is currently ranked 10th on the international equestrian federation's world rider rankings. He is the first Canadian to crack the top 10 in the world since Ian Millar was the world number one in 1987 and 1989.

Lamaze was joined in the team by Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood and John Pearce. The Canadian team missed a position in the jump-off for first place by just one time fault, incurred by Pearce, riding Archie Bunker, in the first round. Germany snatched the victory from The Netherlands in the tie-breaker in the $350,000 nations cup.

"I've think I've got one of the best horses in the world right now, in Hickstead," a very happy Lamaze said. His sights are set firmly on the 2008 Olympics. He is joined by Millar and Henselwood as Canada's current front-runners for that team. All three came here fresh from a team silver medal at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Henselwood was the individual gold medalist there and Lamaze the individual bronze medalist.