Eric Lamaze and Houston won Thursday’s WEF Challenge Cup.
Wellington, Fla. – January 26, 2017 – Marking his 24th career win in the WEF Challenge Cup Series and first series win in 2017, Canada’s Eric Lamaze cruised to the victory in Thursday’s $35,000 WEF Challenge Cup during Week Three aboard Artisan Farms LLC’s Houston.
“Houston is an upcoming horse,” Lamaze said. “He’s got all the talent in the world. This year is his time to step up, and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming along.”
Eric Lamaze and Houston
Out of a starting field of 77 horse-and-rider combinations, the duo emerged victorious from a 12-horse jump-off, edging Leslie Howard from the top spot just minutes after she had taken over the lead from Molly Ashe Cawley.
Cawley and Maarten Huygens’ entry, Audi’s Dimple, were the first to go clear in the jump-off round, setting the time to beat at 42.607 seconds. Shortly after, Howard and GJ Stable’s Gentille Van Spieveld took over the lead with their 41.384-second effort.
Leslie Howard and Gentille Van Spieveld
Following immediately after were Lamaze and Houston, who lengthened their stride across the track to shave almost a second off Howard’s time, finishing clear in 40.555 seconds to claim the victory.
“I was very surprised with how big of a stride Houston has,” Lamaze said. “I thought doing eight strides from fence two to three in the jump-off would be very forward, but it was normal for me. I almost asked myself if I did nine. I knew I had to slow down a little bit for the double, and then I just let him come home. He put in a brilliant effort at the last fence. A lot of the time we invest years, and the owners invest money and time into bringing these horses along, so it’s nice when you finally get there.”
Eric Lamaze and Houston over the final jump-off fence
Many riders were unable to rise to meet the challenges of Luc Musette’s courses, as 21 of 77 riders finished the first round on four faults. Only 12 of the 15 qualified riders elected to advance to the short course, and from there, only Lamaze, Howard and Cawley finished the jump-off on 0 faults.
“Luc Musette is a very great course designer,” Lamaze said of the track. “You have young horses and young riders, and seasoned horse-and-rider combinations, so the course has to be difficult but fair for everyone. I think that Luc, over the years, has come to realize that this is early in the season, and he got plenty of faults but no real disasters. I don’t think anybody got scared; I think it was a positive experience for everyone.”
Howard and Gentille Van Spieveld would hold on to second place, while Cawley and Audi’s Dimple would bring home third. Fourth place was awarded to Lauren Hough and Meredith Mateo’s Waterford, while Sergio Alvarez Moya and his own G&C Unicstar D’Laumone brought home fifth. Rounding out the top six were Ben Maher and Poden Farms’ Cliff 67.
Molly Ashe Cawley and Audi’s Dimple