Wellington, Florida – 2008 Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, ON, topped a star-studded international field to win the $50,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round XI on Thursday, March 20, at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
A total of 95 horses entered the International Arena in the hopes of becoming the victor, with 19 successfully negotiating the first round track set by course designer Olaf Petersen Jr. of Germany to advance to the jump-off.
Riding Zigali P S, Lamaze had the opportunity to demonstrate the horse’s capabilities with an exciting jump-off performance. A clear round in a time of 37.59 seconds put the pair at the top of the leaderboard with nine more still to challenge. None were able to catch Lamaze’s time, with Lorenzo de Luca of Italy coming closest with a time of 37.66 seconds while reigning World Cup Champions Beezie Madden and Simon of the United States stopped the clock in 38.78 seconds for third place.
“He is so fast, I’ve yet to even unleash him and go fast,” said Lamaze of Zigali P S’s potential. “It feels great when you have a horse where it doesn’t matter who is leading, you feel like you have a chance to win. I’ve yet to even put the full throttle down with him.
“Zigali is a new horse to me, I just got him before I came here,” continued Lamaze, whose last European competition was at CSI5* Geneva in December before arriving in Florida for the 12-week FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. “I liked everything about him from the beginning. He’s a fantastic horse that feels to me like he comes back in the second round like a winner. He gets better for the second round. He feels like a great horse to me!”
Zigali P S is a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Kigali x STB-H Palfrenier) acquired last November for Lamaze by Carlene and Andy Ziegler of Artisan Farms. Along with Powerplay and Quelmec du Gery, both purchased last spring by Artisan Farms, Lamaze once again has an internationally competitive string as he looks towards the upcoming FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, in August. At the last World Equestrian Games, held in 2010 in Lexington, KY, Lamaze won the individual bronze medal while his mount, the beloved Hickstead, earned the title of “Best Horse” after jumping clear for all four riders competing in ‘The Final Four’ format used to decide individual medals.
“Artisan and the Ziegler family were so generous to purchase Powerplay for me, who I love, then Quelmec du Gery and Zigali afterwards,” said Lamaze, 45, graciously. “For Zigali, I can’t ask for more in a horse. I knew the horse was a winner. This is a time in our sport when you can’t buy success. The sport is full of great riders and great horses, and you have to be a match with the horse; you can’t buy success unless you become a match with the horse. I’m a great believer in that. With Zigali, as with Powerplay, I’ve made a great match with the horse. Powerplay is more of a championship type horse with big scope, and Zigali is a real competitor for modern day grand prix.”
In addition to winning the $50,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round XI, Lamaze was also awarded a $3,000 bonus in the SSG Gloves “Go Clean for the Green” promotion. As Lamaze is personally sponsored by the Canadian glove manufacturer, it came as no surprise that he was wearing his SSG ‘Digitals’ on his way to victory.
“The product is fantastic, and what a great sponsorship!” said Lamaze of the innovative SSG Gloves incentive promotion. “It is a $3,000 bonus for this class alone, but there is a lot of money going into it, $60,000 in total, that is also awarded to the juniors and the amateurs. To wear a great product and be rewarded for it with money on top: who could ask for anything more? It’s a great concept.”
Zigali P S also earned an award for his efforts. In recognition of his winning form, Zigali P S was presented with the Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award by Laura Fetterman.
It was also a great day for another Artisan Farms rider. Caitlin Ziegler narrowly missed qualifying for the jump-off when, having posted a clear round with Touchdown, the clock stopped at 72.05, barely exceeding the 72-second time allowed. Her strong performance qualified her for Saturday night’s $100,000 CSI4* Engel & Völkers Grand Prix, the feature event of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival Week XI which, fittingly, is presented by Artisan Farms.
Lamaze is based full-time with Artisan Farms in Vrasene, Belgium, and Wellington, Florida. Following the conclusion of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, Lamaze returns to Europe where he will begin competing in April.
For more information on Eric Lamaze, please visit www.torreypinesstable.com.