|As the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, draws to a close, Canadian Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze is gearing up for the final event of the 12-week circuit, the $500,000 FTI Consulting Grand Prix Finale on Saturday night, March 29.
With a new string of horses competing at this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival, Lamaze had the opportunity to further each horse’s training as he got to know his mounts better in the competition arena. With 11 weeks to reflect on, Lamaze has selected Zigali P S as his mount for Saturday night’s $500,000 Grand Prix Finale.
“It’s been a successful tour,” said Lamaze of his time at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. “I’ve gotten to know my newest horse, Zigali, very well this circuit and that is the horse I am going to use for the Grand Prix on Saturday.”
During Week XI, Lamaze and Zigali P S emerged victorious from a starting field of 95 horses to win the $50,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round XI. Lamaze’s supporters, Carlene and Andy Ziegler of Artisan Farms, acquired Zigali P S, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Kigali x STB-H Palfrenier), in November from Daniel Neilson of Great Britain. Powerplay and Quelmec du Gery were purchased last May, giving Lamaze a string of top mounts for international competition, including at this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival.
Offering more than $8 million in prize money, this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival was augmented with increased world ranking classes, increased prize money, and the support of Rolex. Already extremely popular as evidenced by the increased entries and spectator attendance, Lamaze expects more and more top level competitors will be drawn to the sunny locale in the future.
“Florida is fantastic,” said Lamaze, a Rolex testimonee who is based in Wellington full-time from December to April each year. “The Winter Equestrian Festival has made itself a top facility with top sport. With Rolex involved and the increase in prize money this year, I think more and more Europeans will start coming. Once you have experienced this show with the great weather and conditions, it is very hard not to come back. Every European rider I know that has been here returns the next year. Everyone has a choice of which venues to go to, but WEF is a very competitive circuit and I think more and more people will start coming here. Many of us have homes here in Wellington, and it is nice to be in one place for an extended period of time.”
Following the Winter Equestrian Festival, Lamaze will return to Europe where Artisan Farms is based in Vrasene, Belgium. With plans to compete at CSI5* Antwerp, Belgium (April 24-27), CSI5* Madrid, Spain (May 2-4), CSIO5* La Baule, France (May 15-18), and potentially CSIO5* Rome, Italy (May 22-25), Lamaze will then return to Canada for the Spruce Meadows Summer Series in Calgary, AB. From there, it’s back to Europe for more competition leading up to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France, at the end of August. At the last World Equestrian Games, held in 2010 in Lexington, KY, Lamaze won the individual bronze medal while his mount, Hickstead, earned the title of “Best Horse” after jumping clear for all four riders competing in ‘The Final Four’ format used to determine individual medals.
Lamaze, who would be making his sixth consecutive World Equestrian Games appearance, is aiming Powerplay for this year’s World Equestrian Games, saying, “It’s something that I plan to do with Powerplay, but Zigali has jumped really well in Florida, and he has been getting better and better with every grand prix that he’s jumped in. My thoughts are that Powerplay will be the horse for WEG but if Zigali keeps going like he has been, there might be some thought that Zigali could be the horse. It’s too early to make a final decision at this point.”
Lamaze and Powerplay, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall x Limbus), have now been members of the Canadian Team on four occasions for Nations’ Cup competition, including the recent FEI Nations’ Cup held February 28 in Wellington, FL, where Canada scored a resounding victory over a starting line-up of 12 nations.
Lamaze is based full-time with Artisan Farms in Vrasene, Belgium, and Wellington, Florida. For more information on Eric Lamaze, please visit www.torreypinesstable.com.