The Canadian Flag Flies Again as Lamaze Wins WEF Challenge Cup Round II Grand Prix
Ian Millar and Redefin Come in Close Second
Wellington, FL – February 1, 2007 – In today’s $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Grand Prix at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, Eric Lamaze of Schomburg, Ontario, Canada, had three chances to win. On Lorrain Z, owned by Ashland Stables, he came away with the top prize over fellow Canadian Ian Millar and Redefin and Irishman Conor Swail on Nepomuk.
The grand prix saw 71 entries attempt a masterful course set by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada. Eric Lamaze affirmed, “Michel Vaillancourt is one of the great builders. It’s a great education for the young horses, but enough for the older, experienced ones. It was a great jump-off. You needed a lot of riding ability out there today.” The course was set at 1.45m, had 14 number jumps and seventeen jumping obstacles, including an open water. Ten horses were clear, one horse was clear with a time fault and six horses either retired or were eliminated.
The first to return for the jump-off was Lamaze on one of his three qualified horses. Lamaze set a quick, clear pace on Why Not for the rest of the field to follow in 42.54 seconds. Following him was Lisa Jacquin on Obourg, who carried a good pace but were just off Lamaze’s time in 43.19 seconds.
Olympic gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa entered the ring next on Double H Farm’s Oasis. He pushed Oasis through the turns, and when it came time to jump the triple bar into the one stride of the final line, Oasis kicked out mightily over the top of it. Luckily, he stayed clear and took the lead with a time of 41.01 seconds.
Laura Kraut and the 16 year old Anthem, who looked younger than ever, were next to attempt the course. Kraut was the first rider to go inside the sprinkler to approach the final line in order to save time, but it was not quite enough when she finished in 41.03 seconds, just a hair off of Rodrigo’s pace.
Debbie Stephens and Centennial Farm’s All Star were next in. All Star was lofty over the jumps, but a rail at the triple bar (13a) cost them the lead as well. Their final score was four faults in 43.46 seconds.
The crowd waited for a short while as Lamaze warmed up his next horse, Hickstead. Lamaze and his World Equestrian Games mount ate up the ground with a big stride, but they were not quite fast enough. They stopped the timers with a clear round in 41.34 seconds. Lamaze explained afterwards that his plan was not to push Hickstead. “Hickstead felt great. It’s his second class of the year, but his first big one. He felt fresh in the first round, but came back very well to the jump-off. I was fast with him, but it’s his first class, so I was a bit more cautious than I would normally be with him,” he said. “I just tried to bring him up for the Nations’ Cup and the bigger grand prix at the end.”
The third Canadian in the jump-off took to the ring next. Mario Deslauriers and Available Levantos were on a good rate, but an added stride before fence 11 caused four faults. They finished in 42.45 seconds.
The lead would change hands next with Lamaze’s third ride of the day, Lorrain Z. The talented mare was quick in the air and across the ground, and they tripped the timers in 39.95 seconds.
Conor Swail and Nepomuk galloped through the jump-off, and the big horse made the best inside turn of the day to the final line, but they could not quite catch Lamaze. They posted a clear round in 40.49 seconds.
The last in the jump-off was a great threat to Lamaze’s lead. Ian Millar and Redefin, owned by Susan Grange and Lothlorien, were coming off a fantastic first week where they won both the Thursday and the Sunday grand prix. Millar pushed Redefin again, and Redefin rose to the occasion by giving another great performance. It was just not quite enough, as the scoreboard flashed 40.08 seconds for second place.
Lamaze knew his chances were greatly improved by having three tries in the jump-off. “It’s always helpful, for sure, to have three in the jump-off,” he said with a smile. “Chance is on your side for sure. You could risk a few, but by the end it was clear that you had to take all the chances that you could.”
Lorrain Z is an 11 year old mare that competes with her owner, Ashley Fleishhacker. “She’s a horse that my student, Ashley Fleishhacker, has now taken over. I just do the odd classes to keep her going a little bit. It’s still a great horse to have in a string,” Lamaze noted.
Despite his three rides, he knew he could not rest easy knowing that Ian Millar was the last in the ring. “Ian’s pretty fast, and his horse has been on a roll. Whenever you’ve got this man behind you, you never consider anything to be in your pocket,” he conveyed.
Millar continued to be pleased with Redefin, his “second horse.” He expressed, “I was a little concerned about his level of sophistication; this was a beautifully crafted course by Canadian Michel Vaillancourt. A horse had to be trained just right to do it. Redefin’s just starting to learn that aspect. Yes, it’s great to be second, but I’m even more pleased with the way the horse responded and has learned. If this keeps up, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s a great thing for my other horse, In Style, to be backed up like this. If he’s got a back-up like this, then he doesn’t have to carry the whole load the whole time. He’ll last much longer and stay much fresher.”
Millar went for the winning time, but knew it would be a matter of split seconds for victory. “It’s a game of inches, and I couldn’t really tell you quite where I lost it. Obviously, it was a little here, a little there. It wasn’t one major spot; it wasn’t, ‘Had I done this, I would have been the winner,’” he explained. “What always impresses me in this sport – here we are, going all over the field with such different animals, and time after time, the times come out so darn close together. It’s really quite extraordinary, and what the riders can do with those times is really quite an amazing thing.”
Conor Swail has brought along 12 year old Nepomuk recently and moved him up the grand prix level. “He’s only jumped a few bigger classes, so I’m absolutely thrilled with him,” Swail mentioned.
About his jump-off, Swail explained, “I think, for me, I lost it from one to two. After that, everything went very smoothly. Like Ian says, once you lost it in this particular course, you couldn’t get it back. For me, I just lost a little one to two and maybe needed to have one stride less there. Everything else was very smooth.”
Nepomuk is another second horse that has risen to the challenge for his rider. “I’ve jumped a few grand prix on him, maybe three stars, but not that many. Normally, I use him as my second horse also. I have a very good young horse who’s just turned nine this year; I didn’t bring him. He would be my number one horse, and this guy is a very, very good number two horse,” Swail asserted. “I’m delighted that I’m putting a nice string together. He’s stepping up to the plate, I must say.”
Lamaze pointed out, “This tour here is as competitive as it gets. If you’re fortunate enough to make it to the jump-off, you know you’re not going to win it with a rail, maybe a double clear. Every class is competitive.”
The competitive Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with jumper action in seven rings, with the main event, the Acorn Hill 1.40 Speed Challenge, in the Internationale Arena.
Results of Class $25,000 WEF CHALLENGE CUP - Nutrena/Western Hay Wellington Classic - February 1, 2007
T/A: 84.00 T/A: 50.00
1 1234 LORRAIN Z ERIC LAMAZE 0.00 82.84 0.00 39.95 $7500
2 1654 REDEFIN IAN MILLAR 0.00 80.81 0.00 40.08 $5500
3 2991 NEPOMUK CONOR SWAIL 0.00 80.46 0.00 40.49 $3250
4 3145 OASIS RODRIGO PESSOA 0.00 80.73 0.00 41.01 $2000
DOUBLE H FARM
5 3531 ANTHEM LAURA KRAUT 0.00 80.53 0.00 41.03 $1500
6 1221 HICKSTEAD ERIC LAMAZE 0.00 81.08 0.00 41.34 $1250
TORREY PINES STBLE
7 1243 WHY NOT ERIC LAMAZE 0.00 82.36 0.00 42.54 $1000
DON EDDIE FARM
8 556 OBOURG LISA JACQUIN 0.00 83.03 0.00 43.19 $750
9 1516 AVAILABLE LEVANTOS MARIO DESLAURIERS 0.00 76.43 4.00 42.45 $750
10 630 ALL STAR DEBBIE STEPHENS 0.00 82.34 4.00 43.46 $500
11 1226 TEMPETE V/H LINDEHOF ASHLEY FLEISCHHACKER 1.00 84.94 $500
12 1719 YOUP LESLIE HOWARD 4.00 77.26 $500
13 3519 LOVE Z NICK SKELTON 4.00 77.36
14 594 COCU MOLLY ASHE 4.00 78.15
JANE F. CLARK
15 1652 NOBLE 1 JONATHON MILLAR 4.00 78.92
Photo Credit: Lorrain Z and Eric Lamaze, winners of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round II Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © 2007 Peter Llewellyn/PMG Pictures.
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