St. Lazare, Quebec – Francois Lamontagne of St. Eustache, QC, won the $25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix held Saturday, May 28, during the 37th annual Pépinière and St. Lazare Horse Shows in St. Lazare, QC.
Last year, Lamontagne and Unik Circa were the runner-ups to Lauren Hunkin and Larry 0146 in the $25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix. There was no settling for second this time around, however, as Lamontagne and Unik Circa claimed victory with the only double clear performance.
Unseasonably cold and rainy weather decreased the number of starters in the feature event to 17 horses. Montreal native and 1976 Olympic Silver medalist, Michel Vaillancourt, set a challenging track in the grass grand prix field that produced three clear rounds.
Alexander Cousineau Denis of Knowlton, QC, was the first to challenge the shortened jump-off track, incurring eight faults with Vendetta M in a time of 42.50 seconds. Lamontagne was up next and moved to the top of the leader board with a clear round in a time of 35.25 seconds. As the final challenger, Toronto’s Tatiana Dzavik had one rail down riding Lasse to end her chances of victory, settling instead for second.
“I saw Tatiana last year doing all of the big FEI grand prix classes with her horse, so I didn’t want to play it safe because I knew she was going to get me,” said Lamontagne of his jump-off strategy.
Lamontagne and Unik Circa were reunited for their victory at St. Lazare. The 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding had formerly been owned by a client of Lamontagne’s before being sold last fall. While Unik Circa has been forming a solid partnership with his new owner and rider, Sarah Lemieux, Lamontagne was asked to ride the horse in the $25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix.
“I know the horse well enough that it was not an issue to take a pick-up ride,” said Lamontagne, 27. “He’s a really talented horse. At the jumps he is careful, and when you turn on the speed with this horse, he becomes even more careful. He is a very competitive horse.”
Lamontagne also placed sixth in the $25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix with his own mount, Anton. Earlier in May, the pair won a $25,000 Grand Prix in Saratoga, New York. Lamontagne, who operates his training stable, Ferme Lamontagne, in St. Eustache, brought a total of 13 horses between his own and those of his students to compete each week in the Pépinière and St. Lazare Horse Shows.
During the first week of competition, the Pépinière Horse Show, Stephanie Morier of St-Jean-Baptiste, QC, rode Tidam to victory in the $10,000 Pépinière Grand Prix, Presented by Sandridge Saddlery and System Fencing, on Saturday, May 21.
Marielle Perrault riding Jezzebel de Bromont claimed victory in the $3,000 Gladys Adam Hunter Derby, presented by Chateau Vaudreuil. In its first year, the Hunter Derby attracted a strong field of entries to contest a course consisting of a wide array of well-decorated jumps including natural obstacles, log piles and split cedar jumps.
The St. Lazare Horse Show concluded on Sunday, May 29, with the $5,000 Val Wagner Memorial Speed Derby. First proved to be best as the first rider on course, Montreal’s David Arcand, led the competition from start to finish riding Cherry Lady 10, owned by Euro Horse BVBA. Laurence Noel also proved that first was best. In her hunter classic debut, the 14-year-old, trained by Duncan Oswald and Holly Hallett, claimed victory in the $5,000 Jump Canada Hunter Classic riding Richelieu.
Well-recognized for the charitable aspects of its competition, the Pépinière and St. Lazare Horse Shows held a JustWorld Horseless Horse Show and party to benefit JustWorld International, a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization working as a catalyst for positive change in the developing world by helping impoverished children.
For more information on the Pépinière and St. Lazare Horse Shows, please visit www.pepinierehorseshow.com.
$25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix – St. Lazare, Quebec
1. Francois Lamontagne St. Eustache, QC Unik Circa 0:0 35.25
2. Tatiana Dzavik Toronto, ON Lasse 0:4 38.68
3. Alexander Cousineau Denis Knowlton, QC Vendetta M 0:8 42.50
4. John Kersley St. Andrews West, ON Cantor 13 4
5. James Gillam North Hatley, QC Channel 4
6. Francois Lamontagne St. Eustache, QC Anton 4
7. Stephanie Morier St. Jean-Baptiste, QC Tidam 4
8. Paul Halpern St. Lazare, QC London 4
9. Melissa Marcotte Levis, QC Well Time de Villa 4
10. Kelley Robinson Kanata, ON Caberlay 8
Photo: Francois Lamontagne won the $25,000 Eastwood Equine Grand Prix on May 28 at the 2011 Pépinière and St. Lazare Horse Shows. Photo credit – Cealy Tetley, www.tetleyphoto.com