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Hickstead flies highest in Rome

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Winners in Rome; Eric Lamaze and his amazing Hickstead. Photo by Marco Proli.Eric Lamaze is certainly enjoying a stroll on the path of victory these days; today Lamaze and Hickstead (Hamlet x Eikstein) won the 5* Grand Prix in Rome. The win continued the success that the pair has seen lately; they were runner-ups in the World Cup final in Leipzig, and in La Baule two weeks ago they took home the Grand Prix. The Olympic gold medalists will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest.

Problems were spread around the thirteen fence track, but the triple combination proved a real bogey with many horses hitting the second element - while the following vertical and the double at fence nine also proved influential. Twelve of the 47 riders went through to the second round which was reduced to eight fences including a combination. Seven of the riders produced clear rounds in the jump-off – and these were also riders that were clear in round one. 

In-form Jeroen Dubbeldam and BMC Van Grunsven Simon. Photo by Marco Proli.Everything in the jump-off would change as the last three riders took their turn on the course. Jeroen Dubbeldam increased the tension aboard BMC Van Grunsven Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox) with a round that ended with a dare-devil run to the last to snatch the lead from Nick Skelton and the lovely grey Carlo (Contender x Cascavelle). The Dutch pair re-set the target at 42.30 seconds, showing that their run of form lately – they were also on the winning Dutch team on Friday as well as third in the World Cup final in Leipzig about a month ago – is no coincidence. With just two left to go however Lamaze simply blew Dubbeldam’s time away. It seems the Canadian rider can ask the almost-impossible from Hickstead and still succeed, and as the 15 year old stallion twisted and turned his way around the track while the spectators were gasping with delight. In every case where Dubbeldam had taken a tight line, Lamaze took a near-impossible one, but Hickstead found a way to clear each fence, at an angle and at a gallop, to stop the clock on 40.30 seconds. The crowd was ecstatic as the Canadian partnership left the ring.

Runner-ups; Michael Whitaker and GIG Amai. Photo by Marco Proli.Last to go, Britain's Michael Whitaker seemed to be facing an impossible task, but this is not a man who crumbles under pressure. Setting GIG Amai (Non Stop x Bacara) alight he scorched around the track and came gunning down the last line from the penultimate vertical to the final oxer at heart-stopping speed. But the clock showed 41.17 seconds as he cleared the line, and that would only be good enough for runner-up spot as Lamaze claimed the glory.

"When you have Michael Whitaker coming after you then you can't leave much on the table!" said Lamaze after the emotional prize-giving during which he and his wonderful horse received a standing ovation. "What can I say about Hickstead - he's not really a horse, he's a machine! To be honest I don't think it would have been possible to go any faster than he did today - he was amazing!" he added.

Today's Grand Prix victory was the first for Canada in the hallowed Rome arena. "It's great for my country, and I'm proud to be the first Canadian to hold this trophy!" Lamaze said tonight.

For full results click here.

Source; press release

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