CALGARY — Eric Lamaze put himself in position to win the prestigious CP International Grand Prix, but a costly mistake took him out of contention at the Spruce Meadows Masters on Sunday.
Egypt's Sameh El Dahan eventually beat Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten in a jump-off to win the top prize of $1 million, while Lamaze ended up in seventh place and took home $89,000 for his efforts in the second round of competition.
Following a clean run aboard his horse Fine Lady 5 in the first round, Lamaze was in the running to also qualify for the jump off, but he knocked down rails on the third- and second-last jumps in the second round.
"It's just sometimes you have a split decision to make — an adjustment and I made the wrong one, that's all," said the 50-year-old from Schomberg, Ont., in regards to getting Fine Lady to take five strides in between jumps instead of six.
"I jumped the triple bar and she went a little bit right and she opened the door for the five. I was still thinking six, but the five just was all of a sudden in front of me and I shouldn't have taken it. I should have held for one more stride and she would have jumped it. It's my mistake."
Dahan and van der Vleuten were the only two competitors to have clean rides within the allotted time in both the first and second rounds of competition.
After van der Vleuten posted a clean ride of 42.98 seconds atop Verdi TN in the jump-off, the pressure was on Dahan and his horse Suma's Zorro and they delivered.
"When I looked up at the screen, because obviously I wasn't sure what was my time and it says first place, it's a very difficult feeling to explain," said El Dahan, who also went clean and finished the course in a time of 42.21 seconds. "It's something that every rider dreams of to win such a prestigious Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows.
"I'm over the moon. I'm delighted. It's a feeling that I think I'll never forget."
Van der Vleuten still earned $600,000 for finishing second, while Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, N.Y., placed third atop Coach to win $445,000.
Lisa Carlsen of Okotoks, Alta., and Susan Horn, of Bolton, Ont., also competed, but didn't advance to the second round. Carlsen had nine faults in the first round, while Horn had 20 faults.
Lamaze and the rest of the Canadian show jumping team will now switch their focus to competing at the World Equestrian Games in Mill Springs, N.Y., While the Games start on Monday, the show jumping portion doesn't begin until Sept. 18.
"We put the best team we could put together," said Lamaze, who will be atop 12-year-old chestnut gelding Chacco Kid for the event. "I have a younger horse that's never done a championship."
Canada's show jumping team will also include Calgary's Kara Chad (Carona), Erynn Ballard (Darkos' Promise) of Tottenham, Ont., and Mario Deslauriers (Bardolina 2), who hails from Venise en Quebec, Que., but now resides in New York.
"We're really happy to have him back on our team," said Canadian chef d'equipe Mark Laskin of Deslauriers, who previously competed internationally for the United States. "Mario's sitting on an incredible horse. It's a little lacking in experience, but Mario's a great rider.
Laskin said he's also expecting big things from Chad, who won the Atco Founder's Classic at the Masters on Thursday before also teaming up with Lamaze, Carlsen and Ian Miller to help Canada win silver at the Nations' Cup two days later.
"Kara, already at 22, has ridden on a lot of our national teams," Laskin said. "She's also, for the last few years, worked with and for Eric Lamaze, who's the best in the business.
"She rides a lot and she's in Europe jumping at a high level with a lot of different horses, so she's gained an immense amount of experience in the last two years. She had a great week. She didn't make a mistake, so that really bodes well, not only for the results this week, but we're going to the World Equestrian Games and she's on our team there, so she's just going to go there loaded with confidence."
Lamaze couldn't be happier for his young protege.
"Absolutely. She had a great week here and we're very proud of her," Lamaze said. "We look forward to riding with her at her first world championship."
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press