Geneva, Switzerland – Canada’s Eric Lamaze closed out the 2015 season with a top three finish in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, December 13, in Geneva, Switzerland.
One of three legs comprising the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Geneva attracted 40 of the world’s best riders looking to claim the coveted title and a portion of the 1 million Swiss Francs (approximately $1.4 million CAD) in prize money on offer. A total of 16 riders were clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off where the leading time became increasingly faster and faster. Lamaze moved to the top of the leaderboard with a time of 41.45 seconds following his performance with Fine Lady 5, but would see it eclipsed by Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, who stopped the clock in 40.94 seconds for the win, and Simon Delestre of France, who posted a time of 40.97 seconds to finish runner-up riding Qlassic Bois Margot.
While Lamaze was crowned the Olympic Champion in 2008 with the great Hickstead, fellow Rolex Testimonee Guerdat is the reigning Olympic Champion with Nino des Buissonnets. It was Nino who came out on top in Geneva, giving the home crowd an incredible victory to celebrate. With the win, 33-year-old Guerdat starts his quest to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, a title that goes to any rider who wins the Grand Prix of Geneva, Aachen, Germany, and Calgary, Canada, in succession.
“It is very exciting for me to be back competing at this level,” said Lamaze, who claimed the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva in 2008 and also placed second in 2010 riding Hickstead on both occasions. “It brings back great memories of having won the Grand Prix here before. It was an incredible jump-off, and is a great end of season result for me.
“Geneva is the best indoor show in the world, and it is extremely important to the riders,” continued Lamaze, who was also third in Thursday evening’s Credit Suisse Grand Prix after jumping double clear with Fine Lady 5. “The level of competition is so high, and the classes are very competitive. Everyone is very excited for what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has brought to our sport; the three venues comprising the Grand Slam are the best in the world, and all are unique events like no other.”
Gilbert De Roock of Belgium, who has coached Lamaze to many wins over the years as well as his individual bronze medal at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, helped Lamaze in both Paris and Geneva. While Geneva may have been his final event of the season, Lamaze’s performance with Fine Lady 5 begins a new chapter on the road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“After the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament in September, I rested my horses with the plan to compete at Paris and Geneva with Powerplay and Fine Lady,” explained Lamaze of the back-to-back five-star indoor shows. “Powerplay was intended to be my lead horse but he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t able to go. Fine Lady had to step up to be my main horse, doing the Grand Prix in Paris and the Grand Prix here in Geneva. I must say, she is growing into the role.”
Lamaze was partnered with Fine Lady 5, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Forsyth x Drosselklang II), in the spring of 2014 when the Ziegler family of Artisan Farms purchased her from Germany’s Holger Wulschner. They have since scored numerous victories at the 1.45m and 1.50m levels, especially when Lamaze could use Fine Lady 5’s naturally quick pace to his advantage.
“This mare, Fine Lady, is a possibility for the Olympics,” said Lamaze, 47. “She is showing more power and more heart at this level. Sometimes when you walk a course, some of the fences look too big for her to jump, but she never gives up, and she’s a true competitor who is starting to show me that she can do some of the biggest classes. She’s growing with every big event that I put her in. She seems to learn a way to do it. From a qualify aspect, she has all the quality you would want to have at the Olympics. We will have a good plan for her this winter, and see where that takes us.”
With the conclusion of Geneva, Lamaze returns to North America in preparation for the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival, running January 13 through to April 3, 2016, in Wellington, FL.
“Next year is a big year, and I’m looking forward to gearing up for that,” said Lamaze, who will be training several Canadian Olympic Show Jumping Team hopefuls over the winter, including his TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games gold medal teammates Tiffany Foster and Yann Candele, as well as traveling alternate Elizabeth Gingras and Kara Chad. “We have a lot of students that are looking very promising to be on our team for the Olympics. Working with our chef d’equipe Mark Laskin, we are trying to put together teams to compete in the Nations’ Cups in Rome, La Baule and Aachen. Team competition is very important in preparation for the Olympics. We go back to work in January, and will see what comes out of next year.”
Lamaze and his mounts are based full-time at Andy and Carlene Ziegler’s Artisan Farms, with locations in Wellington, FL and Vrasene, Belgium. In addition, Lamaze, in partnership with the Chad and Edwards families of Calgary, AB, have purchased a new training facility in Grand Prix Village in Wellington, FL. Named Torrey Pines in honour of Lamaze’s iconic show jumping stable, the new facility enables all of Lamaze’s students to be based together for ease of training. Candele, working alongside Lamaze, will provide coaching and training support in the new Torrey Pines venture.
For more information on Eric Lamaze, visit www.EricLamaze.com.