Cagney, the horse who carried Canadian Olympian Eric Lamaze to many of his early successes, has died of old age at 34.
Born in Ireland in 1980 and by the famous Registered Irish Draught stallion Clover Hill, Cagney was brought to Canada by Doug Henry, and was owned by Eddie Creed while Lamaze campaigned him. Creed later donated the horse to the Canadian Equestrian Team in 1997.
Cagney was first paired with Lamaze in his second year in the grand prix ring in 1993. The statuesque Irish Sport Horse gelding was with Lamaze at the beginning of his meteoric rise to show jumping fame, starting with Lamaze’s first appearance as part of the Canadian Show Jumping Team at the Nations’ Cup at the Washington International Horse Show in 1993, where the team finished second.
For the next few years, Lamaze experienced many career highlights with Cagney. They were partners for important events such as Nations Cups, World Cup Qualifiers and were named to the Canadian Equestrian Team for the 1994 World Equestrian Games in The Hague, Netherlands, and in 1998 in Rome, Italy. The pair also represented Canada at the 1995 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the 1998 World Cup Final in Helsinki, Finland.
“Cagney was my first solid grand prix horse,” Lamaze said. “With Cagney, I experienced the most success I had had up until that point. It allowed me to go to Spruce Meadows for the first time, the World Cup Final, and the World Championships in The Hague. My first time riding on the team for Canada was with Cagney at the Nations’ Cup in Washington.”
Early on, it became quite apparent that Cagney loved to compete in Derby courses, soaring over the huge natural obstacles, and winning the prestigious Shell Cup Derby at Spruce Meadows in 1994, 1995 and 1999 with Lamaze.
“Cagney was a very bold, careful horse,” Lamaze said. “Somehow, if something was important, he knew it and would jump well. It had to be a big-time for him. I can’t tell you the amount of times that horse understood what was going on. He was a great water jumper, and in a derby he would not look at anything. He had his own style.”
Lamaze was also named as the Canadian Show Jumping Champion two years in a row, in 1995 and 1996, courtesy of his incredible partnership with the talented Irish gelding.
In 2000, Cagney won the $175,000 Chrysler Classic Derby at the Spruce Meadows ‘North American’ tournament at the ripe old age of 20 and retired that fall. He lived out his retirement years at Beasley Farm under the watchful care of Sylvia Dixon.
“Cagney came to me 14 years ago, and he was a real character,” Dixon said. “Sometimes when putting him out, he was quite the handful – bucking as I led him. He had treats outside his door and at night check would push the door open and pick the bag up for me to give him his bedtime snack.
“Over the last few months his health worsened, but he would fight back daily,” she said. “Juergen von Buttlar (who assisted Lamaze with Cagney’s training) told me about three weeks ago that Cagney would tell me when it was time, and he certainly did. His ashes will be scattered in his favorite paddock.”