Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia. (Photo © Sportfot).
Eric Lamaze (CAN) secured an incredible fifth victory in the Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Series at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Thursday. Lamaze began the 12-week circuit by winning four Challenge Cup classes in a row. He won in weeks one and two with Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable’s Rosana du Park. He then topped weeks three and four with Artisan Farms LLC’s Fine Lady 5. In the eleventh week of WEF competition, Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 returned to take one more round.
Sponsored by Artisan Farms, WEF 11 runs March 18-22. The highlight event of the week is the $127,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI 4* on Saturday, March 21, which will be live streamed at 7:30 p.m. at: http://bit.ly/1C0ySF6.
Other features include the George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship presented by Alessandro Albanese on Friday, March 20, which can be viewed at 4:30 p.m. at: http://bit.ly/1B5Evgg. The $50,000 Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Final presented by The Dutta Corp. in association with Guido Klatte, as well as the $85,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic, will be held on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC on Sunday, March 22. Both classes will be live streamed, beginning at 8 a.m. at http://bit.ly/1xjhKKK.
Olaf Petersen Jr. of Germany built the course for Thursday’s $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 11. He saw 61 competitors with 18 clear to advance to the jump-off, where one entry chose not to return. The short course saw another seven clear rounds, with Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 clocking in at 34.47 seconds.
Ramiro Quintana (ARG) and St. Bride’s Farm’s Whitney finished second in 35.21 seconds, and Darragh Kenny (IRL) guided Caroline Lloyd’s Sans Souci Z to the third place prize, clear over the short course with a time of 36.09 seconds. Ireland also finished fourth and fifth, with Kevin Babington and Shorapur LLC’s Shorapur crossing the timers 37.80 seconds, and Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Chaqui Z finishing in 39.61 seconds. Russia’s Ljubov Kochetova and Balou du Reventon placed sixth in 40.20 seconds, and Nick Skelton (GBR) jumped the seventh clear round in 46.96 seconds with Stone Hill Farm’s Vindicat W.
Lamaze plans to compete Fine Lady 5 at the LGCT event in Miami just after WEF and was pleased to see her back in top form this week after a minor injury. The 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Forsyth x Drosselklang II) was out of competition midway through the winter season, but returned easily.
“It was not a bad injury and it was quickly fixed, so then it was just re-planning a little bit for the end of the circuit,” Lamaze explained. “With her, she really shows up for the event, so it is just to enter her and let her do her thing.”
Prior to Lamaze and Fine Lady’s jump-off round, Kent Farrington (USA) and Amalaya Investment’s Willow held the fastest time in 34.87 seconds, but dropped one rail along the way to place eighth. Lamaze saw Farrington’s round and knew his horse had the speed.
“I know the mare is very fast,” he stated. “I saw Kent go, and I thought he was extremely fast. I knew I was on the same second as him, so I felt pretty good about my time after watching him go. She is just such a fast horse across the ground and she is great at turning back, so all of my distances sort of came forward out of the turns and I just let her do her thing. She is deadly careful, so all you have to do is find the right distance and that is it.”
In addition to the winning portion of Thursday’s prize money, Lamaze was awarded the $3,000 SSG Gloves “Go Clean for the Green” bonus for the fifth time this winter. Each week of the WEF Challenge Cup Series, a $3,000 bonus will be awarded to the winning rider if they are wearing SSG ‘Digital’ Riding Gloves in all rounds of competition with the SSG logo clearly visible. This week’s win brought his tally up to $15,000 in bonus money.
After such a remarkable start to the season, some thought that Lamaze had lost momentum halfway through the circuit, but the Olympic Champion did not let any setbacks get him down. In addition to Fine Lady’s injury, his top horse Zigali P S had a few minor problems, but Lamaze took the opportunity to get step out with some of his other horses.
“I think at the start the horses were very fresh. I used Rosana and she jumped very well and then Fine Lady. Then Fine Lady got hurt halfway through, so this was her coming back class,” Lamaze noted. “Originally she was supposed to do the Nations Cup here, but I was not able to do that with her. Then Zigali came out of the barn just not perfect as well. There were a couple of little injuries, so it sort of set me back. I had to step up Coco Bongo into some bigger classes, which he jumped very well. I had some personal good results with some horses, just not like the beginning.”
“On a circuit like this at the beginning of the season, you are not risking the horses if they are anything other than perfect,” Lamaze pointed out. “This is a time of the year to see where you are. I did not win much halfway through, but I was pleased with the results of the horses. I was also really pleased on a day like today to see Bretton Chad and Caitlin Ziegler qualify for the grand prix. Yann Candele also with four faults. We are missing Tiffany Foster, who is out with an injury. It is not just myself. All-in-all, as a stable and with my students, we had a very good day.”
Lamaze plans to show Fine Lady in Saturday night’s grand prix and will then give the mare a week off in preparation for Miami, where he feels that the small arena will suit her style. After great results with Coco Bongo in the CSI W-5*, he hopes to step the stallion up for the final week of WEF.
Also showing on Thursday, Kent Farrington (USA) won the $8,000 1.45m jump-off class with Haity McNerney’s Belle Fleur.
Final Results: $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 11
1. FINE LADY 5: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Forsyth x Drosselklang II
ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/34.47
2. WHITNEY: 2003 KWPN mare by Indoctro x Concorde
RAMIRO QUINTANA (ARG), St. Bride’s Farm: 0/0/35.21
3. SAN SOUCIS Z: 2003 Zangersheide gelding by Surrealist v/h Paradijs x Voltaire
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Caroline Lloyd: 0/0/36.09
4. SHORAPUR: 2005 Hanoverian mare by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II
KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL), Shorapur LLC: 0/0/37.80
5. CHAQUI Z: 2006 Zangersheide stallion by Chacco Blue x Quinar Z
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/39.61
6. BALOU DU REVENTON: 2006 Oldenburg stallion by Cornet Obolensky x Continue
LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 0/0/40.20
7. VINDICAT W: 2002 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Libero H
NICK SKELTON (GBR), Stone Hill Farm: 0/0/46.96
8. WILLOW: 2003 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Little Rock
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/4/34.87
9. GRAFTON: 2006 Selle Francais stallion by Calvaro x Vondeen
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Ariel & Susan Grange: 0/4/37.79
10. COSMOPOLITAN 30: 2006 Holsteiner gelding by Calido I x Ricardo
HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS (USA), Holly Caristo: 0/4/38.17
11. FLECU: 2004 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Hip Hop x Flamingo
ALEXANDER ZETTERMAN (SWE), Alexander Zetterman: 0/4/38.50
12. PUMPED UP KICKS: 2003 Brandenburg gelding by Levisto x San Juan
LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/4/38.55