By Jennifer Wood
Lamaze Lights Up the Masters and Three Frenchmen Sweep the Nation
It was the Eric Lamaze Masters, much to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament. Lamaze won three classes during the week plus was the only entry to go double clear to help Team Canada win the silver medal in the BMO Nations Cup. Lamaze and his superstar stallion Hickstead brought the crowd to their feet when they performed the double clear dance, once again the only couple to do so, to win the CN $1 Million Grand Prix.
The Saturday highlight was the BMO Nations Cup. The French three-man team, anchored by veteran Roger-Yves Bost and Ideal de la Loge, truly rode to the occasion with a win for their country. With the European Championships the following week, France sent three less experienced riders or riders with younger horses along with Bost to represent them at the Masters. When one horse couldn’t compete, they had to go with just three and therefore having no drop score. French Chef d’Equipe Thierry Pomel said, “Our hopes were not high, but the team is very strong with good horses. Since the beginning of the competition, we believed we could do something, and today you see the result.”
Lamaze helped Canada to the silver medal along with veterans Ian Millar and Jonathan Asselin. Nations Cup newbie Tiffany Foster made her first team appearance and couldn’t contain her excitement. “I was a little nervous. I just tried to pretend it was a normal course. My horse is so nice. I knew Ian and Eric were coming after me, so that was nice padding,” explained the exuberant Foster. “I was happy that I didn’t make a huge mistake!”
Third place went to the Swiss team, while a disappointing performance from the Americans left them in last place.
The best riders of the week had to qualify to compete in the CN $1 Million Grand Prix. Seemingly in top form, Lamaze and Hickstead looked poised to bring home the top prize. The Olympic gold medalists did not disappoint as they bounded through the difficult course with barely a rub in front of a record crowd of 89,632 fans.”[Hickstead] came into this tour in fantastic shape. From the first day he jumped very well,” Lamaze said.Two rookies jumped up to second and third places in the grand prix. Neils Bruynseels of Belgium rode Nasa to second place. “I gave everything, my horse gave everything. She was fantastic today,” he said.In his first CSIO 5* competition nineteen-year-old Martin Fuchs (son of show jumper Thomas Fuchs and nephew to Markus Fuchs) rode Principal S to third place after he was the first to go clear in the opening round.”Today with the first round clear, I was going crazy,” he remarked. “The crowd here is much better than in Europe, but don’t tell the Europeans. It’s a special day, one of the best in my life.”Course designer Leopoldo Palacios commented, “I’m proud to be here with this new generation.”This was the second win for Lamaze and Hickstead in one of the biggest classes in the world, the CN $1 Million. Along with the two victories, the pair has placed in the top five of this prestigious class for the past five years. Lamaze summed it up by commenting, “To win here and win this grand prix, it’s one we have all dreamed of winning. For me it’s just as exciting as the first time, if not more. When you have a great horse, you want to have this title attached to his name. The money is great, but it’s more than that. He’s the best horse in the world.”Almost certainly Olympic bound, look for these superstars in London next year.