The weekend must be here.
Eric Lamaze is on-form and ready to make his mark at the Spruce Meadows North American now that the big-money events are on the docket.
Lamaze, the world’s No.-1 ranked show-jumper, showed he’s ramping it up by winning the $31,000 Pepsi Challenge aboard Take Off Friday night and finishing second in the $50,000 Lafarge Cup.
He’ll bring superstar horse Hickstead from the barn for Saturday’s $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
“I’m ready. My horse is waiting,” Lamaze said.
“I’m sure if you asked him what’s happening (Saturday), he’d tell you.
“I’m looking forward the Queen’s Cup and then we’ve got a couple more on Sunday and then we’re running to the airport.”
Lamaze won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in 2007 and 2008 with Hickstead, but Mario Deslauriers won last year in a thrilling jumpoff to prevent the three-peat.
Lamaze plans to run Atlete Van T Heike in Sunday’s $175,000 Mercedes-Benz Classic Derby.
The horsepower doesn’t end there for the rider from Schomberg, Ont., as displayed by Take Off’s win Friday night.
They went double-clear and beat fellow Canadian Yann Candele (Azzaro Van’t Hagenhof), by more than two seconds in the jumpoff.
Lamaze said he didn’t try to push the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare for any crazy speed. It just worked out to be fast enough.
“Here, sometimes you can get carried away trying to beat somebody. You’re better off going with what you know of your horse,” he said.
“If you’re not good enough on the day, you’ll be third or fourth. If you try to do something you shouldn’t, you end up seventh or eighth.
“I had a plan for her and it was good enough.”
He even referred to Take Off as Little Hickstead.
“She doesn’t do the same height, but she sure does as much winning,” Lamaze said. “She’s been such a great horse. I use her as a main horse sometimes in Europe, and every time she has to back him up, she does it in style.”
Jenn Serek of DeWinton was third with Eleonora, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare she’s worked up the ranks. It was the first time Serek had ridden Eleonora in the International Ring, and they combined for her best result ever.
“She’s a great horse, an amazing horse,” Serek said.
“We have really high expectations for her —just from how she performed over the winner. She got a ribbon in almost every Grand Prix at Thermal (Calif.).”
Serek was beaming about the result for the young horse.
“It means a lot to me because we pick the horses, find it and develop it and my success rate has been really good with Shin Shin, Bottom Line, Eleonora,” she said.
“We’re picking horses that weren’t doing this at the time we bought them, or nowhere near and in six months to a year are performing at a high level ... It’s a sense of pride, and a real team effort.”
Lamaze finished a half second behind American Charlie Jayne in the jumpoff of the Lafarge Cup.
Jayne, from Elgin, Ill., had just enough speed aboard Urbanus, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood, to beat Lamaze and Coriana Van Klapscheut, an eight-year-old Warmblood mare.
Ireland’s Jennifer Crooks played third with SF Uryadi.