Eric Lamaze's young stable has indeed arrived.
Lamaze, who arrived at this year's Spruce Meadows National with big expectations on the heels of a third-place showing at the prestigious Aachen Grand Prix last month, proved it with a double dose of domination last night.
After riding Narcotique De Muze II to victory in the $25,000 Luscar Cup, Lamaze followed up by going double-clear with his No.-1 mount, Hickstead, to claim top spot in the $35,000 Duke Energy Cup.
"They're really nice young horses," Lamaze said. "They've just come back from Europe and they're really ready to fire here.
"When you do three shows in Europe, you get them really ready to come here. Hopefully we'll have a great weekend."
It has certainly been a great start to the tournament. Lamaze and Hickstead placed fifth in the opening day ATB Financial Cup, and he rode Narcotique De Muze II to second spot in the Enbridge Cup. In that event, he also paired with Ramiville to place fifth.
For a couple of years, Lamaze, of Schomberg, Ont., has been saying he believed he had a few horses ready to become big players on the scene. It appears those expectations are coming to fruition fast and furious.
"Narcotique and Ramiville were doing 1.30 metre here last year at the Masters and in the small rings," he recalled. "It's really exciting when you bring them up like that. It's great."
Best of all for Canadians is that Lamaze wasn't the only rider flying the Maple Leaf to claim ribbons last night.
Margie Gayford of Sharon, Ont., placed third in the Duke Energy Cup, behind Lamaze and American Norman Dello Joio and in the earlier event, Chris Pratt of Belfountain, Ont., rode Mustique to third spot.
To Lamaze, it's proof the optimism surrounding the Canadian team -- he teamed up with Pratt, Ian Millar and Mario Deslauriers to win a Nations' Cup event in March in the U.S. -- is well deserved.