Ottawa, Ontario – June 22, 2006 - The Canadian Show Jumping Team for the 2006 World Equestrian Games was named Tuesday night and while the news was eagerly awaited, there were no big surprises. Mario Deslauriers, Jill Henselwood, Eric Lamaze, Ian Millar, and Chris Pratt were the five chosen by the Selection Committee to comprise the Team.
Ian Millar and In Style, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Acord II, have been consistent performers since laying claim to the Canadian Show Jumping Championship title back in 2004. Ian has often lamented being the lone Canadian representative at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and will be especially pleased to ride alongside his capable teammates this time around. The Canadian Team must finish in the top five at the World Equestrian Games or in the top three (excluding those already qualified through WEG) at the Pan American Games in order to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games, otherwise it risks only qualifying individual like in Athens.
Ian's horse, In Style, is owned by Jump Canada's 'Owner of the Year', Susan Grange, who also owns Chris Pratt's mount, Rivendell, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding by Piano II. While Chris has ridden in two Nations' Cup competitions - the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' last September and the Wellington Nations' Cup in March where he delivered two clear rounds for the victorious Canadian Team - the WEG would mark his major games debut.
Aachen would mark the fourth consecutive WEG appearance for 38-year-old Eric Lamaze, an incredible feat for any rider from any nation. Eric has spent many years consistently at the top of the Grand Prix standings and with Hickstead, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Hamlet that he owns in partnership with Ashland Stables, he has found a partner capable of competing with the best in the world. In fact, the pair has already proven that they are comfortable in Aachen, having jumped three clear rounds to place third in the 300,000 euro Grand Prix of Aachen in May.
Mario Deslauriers could easily be considered one of the best riders in the world, so his sheer ability as a competitor is an asset to the Canadian Team. He and Paradigm, his 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Nabab de Reve, put on a great show for Canadian fans last September at the Spruce Meadows "Masters" Tournament, placing third in the $1 million CN Grand Prix. No stranger to pressure, Mario won the World Cup Final at the age of 19 and, at the 1984 Olympic Games, was involved in a jump-off for the Individual Bronze Medal, eventually placing fourth.
While the four men mentioned above proved they had the winning formula in the Wellington Nations' Cup, Jill Henselwood was out on the west coast, winning the $150,000 World Cup Grand Prix on the HITS Indio circuit. A European warm-up prior to competing in the 2006 World Cup Final in Kuala Lampur was the same method of preparation she had followed one year earlier for the 2005 World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Jill rode on the World Equestrian Games Team back in 1994, and this time her partner is Special Ed, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Argentinus that is owned by Juniper Farms.
Three alternates were also named, in order. They were Erynn Ballard and Robin van Roosendael and Margie Gayford and Stuntman - both of whom had grandfathers and fathers who rode on the Canadian Equestrian Team, and Tamie Phillips with the Canadian Warmblood gelding, Lucas, a horse she and her mother bred themselves. None of the three have ever ridden on the Canadian Team before, but all three certainly captured the attention of the Selection Committee, and it is only a matter of time before they don the red jacket.
One of the things that stands out about the five Team members - Mario, Jill, Eric, Ian, and Chris, is that in addition to having a wealth of experience, all of their horses are also seasoned Grand Prix competitors. This is so important when the pressure in on and the world is watching, especially in a venue like Aachen where the crowds are sure to be overwhelming.
Experience surely was a factor taken into consideration when the Selection Committee sat down to make their decision. The five members, Terrance Millar, Laura Balisky, David Ballard, Alan Chesler and Mark Samuel, are all consummate horsemen well aware of what it takes to compete on the international stage.
The plan is for the five Team members to travel to Europe and compete at CSI Valkenswaard from August 10-13. Between now and then, the riders will be left to their own devices with Jill staying in Calgary through to the end of the "North American" Tournament, and Eric returning home with the possibility of returning for the "North American" with two horses. Ian, Chris and Mario will be coming back east and determining if they compete at any of the major Quebec and Ontario tournaments including Blainville, Ottawa, Bromont and Palgrave.
"These guys got themselves to where they are by knowing their horses and knowing what works for them, so I think you would interfere with great caution," commented Terrance 'Torchy' Millar, who as the Chair of the Selection Committee and will also act as chef d'equipe for the Canadian Show Jumping Team.
As everyone in horse sport knows, good horsemanship and a well-thought out program help to ensure that the horses are at the top of their game for a major championships, but a little luck also goes a long way. The plan is for all five team members to arrive in Aachen with the final four team members then being named. Consolation for the 'fifth' will be a guaranteed spot on the Team for the $350,000 BMO Financial Group Nations' Cup at the Spruce Meadows "Masters".
Ending on a historic note, it was exactly 20 years ago that Canada claimed the World Championship title. Interestingly, it was also in Aachen, Germany, where Gail Greenough and Mr. T proved to be the best in the world on that fateful day, beating out Conrad Homfeld, Nick Skelton, and Pierre Durand in the 'Final Four'. Gail made history by becoming the first North American and the first woman to ever claim the World Championship title, a feat that still has never been repeated. Only time will tell what this year's World Championships will bring.
This special report is a preview provided by PhelpsSports.com. Look for the debut of this new equestrian news website during the World Equestrian Games in August. Visit http://www.PhelpsSports.com
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