Olympic Champions Eric Lamaze and Hickstead won the $1 million CN International for the second time in their career on Sunday at Canada's Spruce Meadows "Masters" Tournament in Calgary.
Eric Lamaze celebrates after winning the $1 million CN International on Hickstead. © Bob Langrish
An international field of 35 horses tackled the tough two round track set by two-time Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. None could match the perfection displayed by Lamaze and Hickstead as they posted two clear rounds, despite losing a shoe on course during the second round. As the pair sailed over the final fence to clinch victory, the record crowd of 89,632 show jumping fans erupted in cheers as Lamaze threw his helmet into the air and galloped around the International Ring to a standing ovation.
"What a horse!" exclaimed Lamaze, who also won the event in 2007. "It is just as exciting as it was the first time, if not more. The money is great, but to have his name attached to the title twice means a lot. As he nears the end of his career, I am so happy for my horse."
In addition to claiming the first place prize money of $325,000 in the CN International, Lamaze was also awarded a $50,000 bonus for winning his second CN-sponsored event of the 2011 season. That brought Lamaze's all-time career earnings at Spruce Meadows to more than $3.5 million.
"This is the Grand Prix that you dream about winning," said Lamaze, who is currently ranked the number one show jumping rider in the world. "I dreamed about it when I was a kid, and I think a lot of riders dream about winning it."
Lamaze has been riding Hickstead, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Ashland Stables and Lamaze's Torrey Pines Stable since the horse was seven.
"I know him very well, and he wants to jump clear just as much as I do," said Lamaze of his mount. "I don't come to Canada very often - I only come here to Spruce Meadows in the summer and then back for the "Masters," so to win here is very special. He is the best horse in the world, in my opinion, and for him to show it here to his Canadian fans is great."
Lamaze was also handed the keys to a new Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 as the leading Canadian rider after claiming victory four out of the five days comprising the 2011 Spruce Meadows "Masters" Tournament.
• Earlier, Lamaze continued his impressive run of victories by winning the $80,000 Suncor Energy Winning Round and guiding his student, 16-year-old Caitlin Ziegler, to second place on Saturday at Spruce Meadows.
Eric Lamaze and Coriana van Klapscheut won the $80,000 Suncor Energy Winning Round at Spruce Meadows. © Starting Gate Communications
Caitlin Ziegler, 16, placed second to her coach in the $80,000 Suncor Energy Winning Round on Saturday. © Bob Langrish
Tiffany Foster and Southwind VDL made their Canadian Equestrian Team debut, riding as members of the second-place team in the $350,000 BMO Nations' Cup at Spruce Meadows. © Jennifer Wood Media
A total of 27 riders entered the International Ring to tackle the course set by two-time Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela with 11 jumping clear. In a format that only sees the top eight return for the second round, Lamaze and his two students, Ziegler of Mequon, Wisconsin, and Tiffany Foster of Schomberg, Ontario, were among those to advance.
Foster was the first of the trio to attempt the jump-off, coming home with eight faults to eventually place eighth riding Victor, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable.
Making her Spruce Meadows "Masters" debut, Ziegler crossed the timers in 40.61 seconds to move to the top of the leaderboard with only Lamaze left to challenge. Ziegler was aboard Valencia, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by her family's Artisan Farms.
Lamaze, the number one rider in the world, managed to shave mere fractions of a second off his student's time, stopping the timers in 40.50 seconds riding Coriana van Klapscheut. For the win, Lamaze earned $24,000 while Ziegler took home $16,000 for second place.
"You have to put your rider hat on, and then you have to put your teacher hat on," said Lamaze of competing head-to-head with his students.
"They are both very professional, and I have taken great pride in watching them come along. For Caitlin to only be 16 and competing at the "Masters" for the first time is very impressive."
Of his mare Coriana van Klapscheut, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable, Lamaze said: "She's become my speed specialist. She's won so much this year. She's a little horse and she tries so hard. She's a lovely mare and a great winner."
The victory marked the third win of the week for Lamaze in the International Ring. On Wednesday, he and his Olympic partner, Hickstead, won the $35,000 Finning Welcome. On Thursday, he guided Coriana van Klapscheut to victory over 41 entries in the $40,000 ATCO Structures and Logistics Cup.
After winning the $80,000 Suncor Energy Winning Round, Lamaze's day was far from over. One hour after taking his victory gallop, he mounted Hickstead in preparation for the $350,000 BMO Nations' Cup.
Riding alongside him on the Team for the first time was Foster, who was making her Nations' Cup debut for Canada, as well as Olympic veterans Jonathan Asselin and Ian Millar. Canada made an impressive effort, finishing second among the 10 countries competing.
"I am very proud to have a student on the team with me," said Lamaze, who was the only rider to post two clear rounds in the Nations' Cup competition. "It is a great experience to bring someone along from doing hunter competition to riding on the Canadian Team."
Foster posted scores of eight and 12 in her Nations' Cup debut. She was riding Southwind VDL, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Baloubet de Rouet who was bought by Artisan Farms in July.
"I was a little nervous, but I was trying to pretend that it was just a normal course," said Foster, 27, who had been asked to ride on the Canadian Team only a week earlier. "I knew I had Ian and Eric after me, which was nice padding."
While Hickstead and Coriana van Klapscheut are competing in Canada, Lamaze's other two top mounts, Atlete Van't Heike and Sidoline van de Centaur, are awaiting the Nations' Cup Promotional League Final in Barcelona, Spain, from September 21 to 25. Lamaze will then be a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, from October 25 to 30.