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Lamaze and Hickstead claim Geneva World Cup round

December 15, 2008

Olympic champion Eric Lamaze and Hickstead won the Grand Prix Rolex in Geneva yesterday, the fifth leg of the FEI World Cup competition.

Canada's Eric Lamaze wins the Geneva World Cup round aboard the amazing Hickstead. © Kit Houghton
Fighting in a thrilling jump off against Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, amongst nine others, Lamaze proved in the huge Palexpo arena in Geneva that he and Hickstead can also win a big indoor Grand Prix against the best of the world.

The Rolex Grand Prix was this year's sixth major Grand Prix victory for the illustrious pair that amazed the world at the Olympic Games in Hong Kong, winning team silver and individual gold. The Geneva round of the Rolex FEI World Cup competition had great similarity to a showdown in a cowboy movie: the two heroes against each other, settling the score. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly, the winners at Stuttgart, were first to go. Their result in the jump off, 0 in 41.34 seconds, seemed impeccable. But this jump off course really suited Hickstead, Eric Lamaze's small, hot tempered stallion who doesn't like to make too many short turns and prefers to gallop around. Taking longer turns than his German adversary, Lamaze shifted his mount into highest gear and steeple chased from start to finish.

"The big arena in Geneva was to my advantage," said the Olympic champion. "There was only one roll back. This was more like an outdoor type of jump off. Hickstead was relaxed and focused, I can ask him to do anything when he's like this."

A superb rider of a younger generation interfered in the duel of the Olympic champion against the European champion. Second last to go Steve Guerdat thrilled the home crowd, riding Jalisca Solier with supreme Swiss precision to 0 in 40.96 seconds, leaving 'only' third place for Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.

Still MMB was not complaining. "I'm celebrating the fact that Shutterfly has won over 1.5 million euros. If I manage him and Checkmate well, I can still enjoy these amazing horses for some time. And I have three very good 7 year olds coming up. Today I left the door open for great competitors."

One of them was Steve Guerdat, enthusiastically cheered on by 8500 spectators. "There was not one moment in my jump off when I thought I could have been faster. Normally if you would beat either Eric with Hickstead of Meredith on Shutterfly, you would win. But today they were both there in the jump off. I think I can be happy being the runner up."

There's one more thing for Steve Guerdat to be happy about. After five legs, the Swiss is leading the Western European league. "Now that I've ensured a place in the final I can change my programme. I will skip Mechelen and Leipzig and return to the World Cup circuit in Zurich. Most important thing now is to go to Las Vegas with a fresh horse."

Hickstead too will have some time off. Of jumping, that is. "We're collecting semen now, that's why he was a little bit hot," said Eric Lamaze in the press conference. "This was his last show, he deserves a bit of rest. Today was a very important win, because I really want to go to Las Vegas. Hickstead competed in two legs, Toronto and Geneva, and won both. In Florida I'll be riding younger horses. So these 20 points are great."

Heiner Fischer and Rold Ludi designed the perfect course. A delicate long 4 stride from oxer 2 to vertical 3 really was a wake up call right in the beginning of the first round. The turn to the triple combination and a sharp turn to the FEI vertical demanded the optimum of accurate riding. In the last line, consisting of a big triple bar, a double combination at a short three stride distance and a rather normal six stride to the last vertical, horses had to prove their strength and fitness and riders had to show their concentration.



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