Eric Lamaze and Houston out jumped a field of 79 riders to finish 1st in the $35,000 Ruby et Violette Challenge Cup CSI3*, round 3 at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida on Thursday, January 26, 2017.
Lamaze has spent much of the past two seasons at WEF cleaning up in the weekly WEF Challenge Cup series; in 2016 he won no less than four classes with various mounts. But Houston is a new winner for him. The 10 year old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Heartbreaker x Corofino), was sold to Lamaze’s sponsor Artisan Farms in late 2014 to begin his North American career, and was competed last season by Lamaze and former Artisan Farms rider Carly Anthony.
So Houston’s partnership with Lamaze is still fairly new and under careful development, but the stallion excelled in Thursday’s FEI rated class to beat out a string of veteran horses and riders alike, with a jumpoff time of 40.55 seconds.
“He’s an up and coming horse and was a bit edgy as a young horse so I never really asked for speed because I didn’t feel that the timing was right,” said Lamaze. “Last year, he really came on strong, with a clear round in the La Coruna Grand Prix, one clear in the grand prix at the Stephex Masters in September, and at Calgary in September he did some great things.”
A versatile string of athletes joined Lamaze and Houston in the International Arena with the hopes of executing a clear Round 1 to make it to the jump off. The USA’s Kent Farrington was the first to go aboard the 10 year old KWPN gelding (Lord Z x Notaris), Creedance, though a surprising 12 faults would set the tone for the remaining riders in the class. About midway through Round 1, Adam Prudent and Victorio 5 suffered an unfortunate fall, but both walked away unscathed.
Christine McCrea and Nektarnia B secured the final clear round, to bring the jumpoff roster up to 15 pairs of world-class horses and riders. Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Paul O’Shea of Ireland, and Hardin Towell of the USA withdrew from the jump off to end the day with their clean round, which narrowed the field down to a final 12 to ride for prize money.
Of those finalists, only 3 made it clear in the jump off to solidify their first, second, and third place spots. Leslie Howard and Gentille Van Spieveld (Heartbreaker x Capital) secured the second place finish with a time of 41.38 seconds, just 0.82 seconds slower than Lamaze and Houston, and 1.22 seconds faster than the 3rd place finisher, Molly Ashe and Audi’s Dimple (Wittinger VDL x Ahorn), who passed the timers in 42.60 seconds.
As Lamaze paused beyond the ingate to answer questions from the press, the living legend himself, George H. Morris, walked by and stopped to congratulate Lamaze.
“He is the greatest rider in the world because he makes it easier for the horse,” Morris said. The compliments continued to flow, and Lamaze directed his attention to towards course designer Luc Musette.
“I think Luc is a great course designer,” said Lamaze. “You have young and seasoned horse and rider combinations so the course has to be difficult but fair for everyone. He got plenty of faults but no disasters and I don’t think anybody got scared. I think it was a positive experience for everyone. He is a top class course designer, having just finished building the Rolex Grand Prix course in Geneva, so it’s no big surprise that he can come here and make this a good competition for everyone.”
Lamaze is now qualified for Saturday, January 28th’s $130,000 Adequan Grand Prix CSI3*. He will try again to go double clear over Luc Musette’s course, though this time it will be with a very well known mount . “‘I’ll ride Fine Lady on Saturday high,” Lamaze revealed. “She did a 1.45m on Wednesday, just a routine competition. I’m confident and she’s coming off of a top 10 win in Geneva. She’s in good form so we’ll see what happens.”