Lamaze, Ward, and Sweetnam post victories on opening day of Spruce Meadows 'National' Tournament

5 June - Calgary, AB, Canada  – In a day packed full of show jumping, three top athletes posted victories in the International Ring on the opening day of the Spruce Meadows 'National' Tournament, presented by ROLEX. In the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Powerplay were victorious. McLain Ward (USA) had two wins today, and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) was also honored in awards presentations.

The 'National' Tournament presented by Rolex is the first of five in the Summer Series and runs through Sunday, June 8. The highlight of the week is Saturday's $400,000 RBC Grand Prix presented by Rolex.

Eric Lamaze and his 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding partner Powerplay blazed around the course with no faults, no one was able to catch them without fault. They set a time of 39.52 seconds for victory.

Lamaze described Powerplay as “a bit lazy” and laidback. He laughed, “He's not the most fun horse to ride in the morning. He's a funny personality. He's very spooky; he's afraid of a lot of things, but he's brave at the same time. He's not really a horse that I think I would get along with, but we've formed a partnership. We like each other, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

Schooling before the class, Lamaze said he could feel the tension of the riders and sensed the importance of the first day. Leading the victory gallop is something that he will savor from today's memories.

He expressed, “I love coming to Spruce Meadows. No one will ever get tired of winning here. It's always special to win any event, especially in the International Ring. There's a lot of other guys fighting to win. McLain had a fantastic day. I thought for sure he was going to go for a hat trick, and it looked that way until the end. It's really not easy. These jump-offs are won with very fast rounds. It's really good sport. We take it seriously.”

In the old days I took it for granted with this little horse Hickstead,” he continued. “It was a lot easier to win classes. Now that I look back, I wished I enjoyed them a lot more. With La Baule, Rome, winning here, I'm really enjoying myself. I have a new respect for how hard it is to win. These horses are very good horses, but for a long time, one was so extra special that it made my job very easy. I really appreciate now when it goes my way.”

Lamaze also complimented the footing in the International Ring. “I don't think I've ever ridden on better grass footing than tonight. It's to perfection. As a rider, this is fantastic. The horses love it, it's not slippery. It's as good as I've ever seen it here,” he said.

Eric Lamaze and Powerplay, Spruce Meadows Media 2014