Canada’s 2008 Olympic Champion and 2016 Olympic Individual Bronze Medalist Eric Lamaze took top prize in Thursday’s $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 3 riding Houston at the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL.
WEF three, sponsored by Adequan®, features CSI 3* competition on January 25-29, 2017. Highlights include Saturday’s $130,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 3*, and Sunday’s 35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Both classes can be seen on the live stream HERE. The 12-week WEF circuit continues through April 2, 2017, awarding over $9 million in prize money.
Belgium’s Luc Musette set the course for 79 starters at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Thursday, with 15 entries qualifying for the jump-off, and 13 moving on to the short course.
The jump-off had three clear rounds, the first of which was set by Molly Ashe (USA) and Maarten Huygen’s Audi’s Dimple in 42.60 seconds. Leslie Howard (USA) and GJ Stable’s Gentille van Spieveld followed, crossing the timers in 41.38 seconds. Lamaze with Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable’s Houston then took the lead in 40.55 seconds.
Houston, a ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Heartbreaker x Corofino), is an up-and-coming mount for Lamaze that was purchased by Artisan Farms at the start of 2015. The young horse has steadily progressed and ended the 2016 season with clear rounds at both the La Coruña CSI 4* and Stephex Masters CSI 5* events.
“It is a horse that really came off strong towards the end of last year,” Lamaze detailed. “He is an upcoming horse, and he is a stallion, so you have to ask things nicely. He has all the talent in the world, but with my string of horses, he never truly had a chance to show off last year other than to get some great mileage at a lot of competitions. This is his time to step up, and we could not be happier with how it is coming along.”
Lauren Hough (USA) and Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) were each faster than Lamaze in the jump-off, but incurred four faults. Hough’s time of 39.49 seconds placed fourth with Laura and Meredith Mateo’s Waterford. Moya took fifth place with his time of 40.11 seconds riding G&C Unicstar de l’Aumone.
Commenting on his winning round, Lamaze detailed, “I was very surprised with how big of a stride Houston got. I thought eight strides from fence two to three in the jump-off would be very forward, but it was normal for me. I almost asked myself if I did nine. I knew I had to slow down a little bit for the double, and I just let him come home. He put a brilliant effort in at the last fence. A lot of the time we invest years, and the owners invest money and time, into bringing these horses along, so it is nice when you finally get there.”
Lamaze will jump Saturday night’s $130,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 3* with Fine Lady 5, which he rode to an individual bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as the win in the Rolex Top 10 Final at CHI Geneva (SUI) in December. He looks forward to jumping the track set by Luc Musette, noting, “He is a top-class course designer, having just finished building the Rolex competition in Geneva. He gets asked to do the biggest competitions in the world, so it is no surprise that he can come here and make this a good competition for everyone.”