Canadian Olympic champion Eric Lamaze scored his second victory of the week at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, guiding Wang Chung M2S to the US$25,000 ESP Jumper Stake win on Saturday.
After posting a clear round to qualify for the jump off, the rider from Schomberg, Ont., shaved a full second off the leading time and stopped the clock at 38.30.
"It was a good course and the jump-off was quite fast," said Lamaze whose student, 17-year-old Caitlin Ziegler, joined him in the jump-off with two horses.
Lamaze began riding Wang Chung M2S last summer after owner and breeder Tom Reed of Morningside Stud in Ireland offered him the ride. They now own the horse in partnership.
While Lamaze has great hopes for the future with the nine-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood stallion, he is not declared for 2012 Olympic contention.
Lamaze has recently acquired seven new horses since the death of his long-time mount Hickstead, who died of an aortic rupture during a competition in November.
"He is starting to feel better. The quarantine took a lot out of him," said Lamaze of the 30-day required quarantine period for stallions entering the United States. "He is starting to feel fresh again and jump like he did in Europe, so that is good news."
Lamaze did ride one of his Olympic hopefuls, Derly Chin de Muze, in Friday night's $75,000 G&C Farms Nations' Cup.
Lamaze posted double clear rounds riding in the anchor position with Derly Chin de Muze, as Canada placed third overall among the 10 countries competing with nine faults.
"I was pleased with her," Lamaze said of the nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare he owns in partnership with Ashland Stables, who also owned Hickstead.
"She had already really impressed me in the $100,000 CSI3* Grand Prix a week earlier when she was really good, showing maturity and mileage," added Lamaze. "I left her off that and went straight into the Nations' Cup. I wasn't sure if I should do another class with her before or not, but I decided to go with my instincts. In the Nations' Cup, she jumped really well in both rounds and felt really comfortable."
As to whether Derly Chin de Muze's success in the Nations' Cup helps him decide which horse to focus on for the 2012 London Olympics, Lamaze said: "She is only nine years old, and she hasn't done anything internationally yet. You don't want to decide about the Olympics based on a circuit like Wellington where the horses go in the same ring every week.
"It is going to be decided in Europe when we see how she handles jumping in different venues. You might feel that she is a year short, but she feels like she has more experience than I would have thought at this point. It is just a matter of maintaining her and seeing how she jumps."
Lamaze will continue competing in Wellington, Fla., until the end of March. He will then return to Belgium to compete at several European venues before attending the Spruce Meadows summer tournaments in Calgary.
Following Spruce Meadows, the Canadian Show Jumping Team Selection Committee will announce the candidates for the 2012 London Olympic Games.