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On the Canadian Scene

Ottawa, Ontario July 20, 2006 - After two back-to-back weeks of show jumping in Blainville and Ottawa, you have to take your hat off to Mr. Eric Lamaze.

Riding Hickstead, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion he has been named to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) Team with, Lamaze proved to be Sunday's best two weeks running. In Blainville, he topped an eight-horse jump-off to take the $70,000 Grand Prix Jumping du Quebec World Cup Qualifier and, in Ottawa, he was his own toughest competition, winning the $60,000 'Kubota' Big Ben Memorial Grand Prix while also finishing runner-up with Ronaldo. Conrad Homfeld, one of five course designers waiting to hear if he will get the job at the 2008 Olympic Games, built both courses.

Lamaze has always had high hopes for Hickstead. Two years ago at Blainville, in the horse's first competition in Canada, he told me that the little stallion was the horse to watch and how right he was! After his win in Blainville last week, he again reaped praise on Hickstead, saying, "He's is a great horse and a very good competitor. He's got a great personality, and he's a fun horse to ride because I know him so well. He's feisty, he knows why he is out there, and he knows that knocking down a rail is not good! Some horses just don't get it."

The Capital Classic Show Jumping Tournament in Ottawa marked Lamaze's last appearance on Canadian soil with Hickstead before the WEG. The horse now travels to Europe where the entire Canadian Show Jumping Team will enjoy an outing during the second week of CSI Valkenswaard, as well as some other possible warm-up shows. Lamaze will travel back and forth, hitting a few of the other big Canadian Grand Prix events with his other mounts (goodness knows he has a stable full of them - he won the $20,000 Open Welcome at the Capital Classic riding Narcotique de Muze II!).

Heading into his fourth consecutive WEG appearance, an accomplishment in itself, Lamaze is optimistic about his chances. Having taken advantage of the opportunity to compete at CSIO5* Aachen in May, Hickstead has not only proven that he is comfortable in the venue, but that he can compete with the best in the world, placing third after jumping three clean rounds in the 300,000 Euro Grand Prix of Aachen.

"I would love to make it to the final four," Lamaze confided. "Hickstead is not an easy horse, so it would be interesting to watch the other competitors try to ride him. I have spent my whole life catch riding, so I think it could be very exciting."

Another competitor who looks hot on the money heading to Aachen is Chris Pratt who would be making his WEG debut. In both Blainville and Ottawa, Pratt advanced to the jump-off with Rivendell where he was again fault-free to place fifth and third respectively. After his third-place finish at the Capital Classic, Pratt explained his strategy, saying, "I just tried to be efficient and stay safe. I know Rivendell can go faster than he went today, but with the World Championships coming up, I just wanted to keep him jumping at his best, and give him confidence."

As for the rest of the WEG team members, Ian Millar only showed his WEG mount, In Style, at Blainville where four faults kept him out of the jump-off. A hometown favourite, Jill Henselwood was missed at the Capital Classic, but her horses had only just returned from a three-day road trip after spending the past two months at Spruce Meadows. It was the same story for Mario Deslauriers, the other WEG team member.

In addition to extending best wishes to the five athletes heading to Aachen, we must also credit the next generation of competitors. Erynn Ballard, 25, the first alternate to the WEG team, impressed with her third place finish in the Blainville World Cup Qualifier, steering Robin van Roosendael to a double clear round with a polished and efficient ride. In Ottawa, it was Lauren Hunkin, 26, whose name stood among the veterans in the final results. A fourth place finish in the seven-horse jump-off had Hunkin ecstatic. A student at Millar Brooke, Hunkin has been riding Orleans, a ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding since January, and her result in the $60,000 Kubota Big Ben Memorial Grand Prix was her best finish to date. Most importantly, Hunkin enjoyed every minute of the experience, enthusiastically telling the press, "This is what we live for!"

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 for more information.


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