Lamaze previously hoisted the trophy on two occasions; in 2007 at the beginning of his illustrious career with Hickstead and again in 2011 in what would be the great stallion’s final grand prix victory before his sudden death. Both victories are incredibly close to Lamaze’s heart, made even more special by winning in front of a home crowd on Canadian soil.
“For me, there is no place in the world like Spruce Meadows,” said Lamaze, who is the all-time leading money winner at Spruce Meadows with career earnings in excess of $5 million. “The fans cheer for everybody, but they especially cheer for the Canadians. To walk in under the clock tower and hear 60,000 people screaming and clapping as you enter the International Ring is truly unlike any other feeling in the world.”
On Saturday, Lamaze and his teammates, Ben Asselin, Mario Deslauriers, and ten-time Olympian Ian Millar, will do battle against seven other countries in the $400,000 BMO Nations’ Cup. Lamaze will ride Coco Bongo, the 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Caretino x Calido) that helped Canada claim the team gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, ON.
Sunday, the focus turns to individual aspirations as all athletes hope for a win in the $3 million CP International, presented by Rolex. Lamaze will call on his fabulous Hanoverian mare, Fine Lady 5, who carried him to an individual bronze medal after leaving every rail in place throughout the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“This grand prix is every bit as big as what we face at the Olympics,” said Lamaze, who won the €300,000 Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final at CHI Geneva (SUI) last December with Fine Lady 5. “This is no walk in the park. It’s serious show jumping, with serious prize money on the line. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has brought our sport to a new level, and I can tell you that it is something that every rider dreams of winning in their career.”At the 2015 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament, Scott Brash (GBR) had the distinction of becoming the first and, to date, the only rider to hoist the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping trophy in what Lamaze describes as “one of the most incredible moments I have ever witnessed in our sport.” Brash won the CHI Geneva followed by a second victory at CHIO Aachen (GER) before handling the pressure to win at Spruce Meadows and claim the unprecedented €1 million bonus offered to any rider able to win all grand prix events in succession.
The current live contender in the Rolex Grand Slam is Grégory Wathelet (BEL), who won the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen in July. He faces stiff competition from Lamaze and Brash, as well as their fellow Rolex Testimonees Kent Farrington (USA), Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Kevin Staut (FRA).
Whatever the outcome, top sport is guaranteed at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.