Lamaze ready for Olympic return

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

CALGARY - The next Olympic Summer Games are more than a year away, but Eric Lamaze is already making plans for London in 2012.

However, the show jumper who moved into the No.-1 spot on the world rankings a week ago can't be 100% sure his great horse Hickstead will be there with him.

Lamaze and Hickstead combined to win gold in the individual event and were part of Canada's silver-medal team in 2008 and are still going strong, but there are no sure things.

Especially since Hickstead, the Dutch warmblood stallion, is getting up there in years.

"I'm going to really ask for him to be in top form to bring him to the Olympics," Lamaze said on the eve of the Spruce Meadows National, which runs Wednesday through Sunday. "I'm not going to put him through it if he's not in top form. I definitely want to be part of it, myself, and we're going to try to find something as a backup because those events are fantastic to go if you have a good chance."

Considering how the pair arrived in Calgary fresh off Grand Prix wins in Rome and La Baule, France, last month, Hickstead still has what it takes to be the best in the world, but Lamaze knows his horse is also battling Father Time.

Then again, who's to say Hickstead can't overcome the barriers of age better than most four-legged athletes?

"Hickstead's coming on 15 and seems to be getting better every day," said Lamaze, who's fully recovered from the foot injury he battled through last summer. "I don't know if 'getting better' is the right words. He seems like he's getting better because he's been on a roll. He's had an easy winter and really started the year incredible. He's usually a very slow starter, but it's like he missed being in the action and he wanted to be noticed, was tired of being left behind.

"He's really happy doing it, and his freshness and his will to want to do it, doesn't go away."

As much as Lamaze is blessed to have Hickstead in the fold, he continues to look for another top-calibre hose. He has a few candidates notably Coriana Van Kalscheut and Take Off but admits he doesn't know how good any of them will be.

"When I had Hickstead at the age that I have some of my horses now horses I think are good I didn't know I had Hickstead," he said. "I'm really happy with the stable of horses I have and if another Hickstead comes out, I'd be the luckiest guy in the world.

"But I didn't know Hickstead was going to be Hickstead. When he was nine years old, I thought I had a good horse, but I could never have predicted what he's done. I think he's the best horse in the world, today."

Then again, with Hickstead to turn to for all the major events, it's hard for Lamaze to truly know how good those other mounts truly are.

"There's only one horse that does the grand prix, so some of these horses, if they were pushed to do the grand prix every week, their career may be different," he said. "Because of Hickstead, a lot of horses had to suffer a bit and be like speed horses, where they really were grand prix horses."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

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