Eric Lamaze and Hickstead on their way to winning the grand prix class at Palm Beach.
© Debra Jamroz
Hickstead made his first return to competition in a small competition just ten days ago, after undergoing abdominal surgery in October. He stepped up to his usual level earlier this week. "He felt great today," Lamaze said, "no negative effects from the surgery. It was a big course and it was easy for him. No effort. He was very careful."
Hickstead was not only careful but he and Lamaze were blazing fast in the four-way tie-breaker. After 51 entries competed in the first round only four were fault-free. Lamaze, of Schomberg, Ontario, set such a fast pace that next-to-go Nicole Simpson on Vicomte D didn't attempt to beat Lamaze's time, settling for another clean round. A native Californian now competing on the eastern US circuit, Simpson is expected to make a bid for the US team.
Fellow Canadian Darrin Dlin did attempt to catch Lamaze's time, but knocked a rail down in doing so. Dlin, a native of Spruce Grove, Alberta, who now resides in the US was aboard Catwalk and settled for third.
Riders from seven nations are gathered at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center where many of them will make Olympic team bids for their respective countries. Lamaze, 39, is Canada's top-ranked show jumper and currently ranked sixth in the world. The Canadian Olympic team will not be named until June, but performances in Florida are being watched closely by the selection committee.