The favorite question asked to Eric Lamaze during the last four weeks of competition at Spruce Meadows has been, 'Which horse?' So no surprise that the first question directed at Lamaze during Thursday's media conference at Spruce Meadows was, "What horse will you be riding at the Olympics?"
Five weeks ago, Lamaze arrived at Spruce Meadows with a dilemma -- choosing nine-year-old Belgian warmblood mare, Derly Chin De Muze, or 10-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding, Verdi.
It's a predicament most riders generally don't have in an Olympic year. Lamaze remained tight-lipped, saying only that the horses and their performances would speak for themselves and that is what he would base his final decision on.
That said, Lamaze has given the nod to Derly Chin De Muze.
"She has a great brain for a nine-year-old," he said. "Dependable, careful and has tremendous scope."
The youngest a horse can be to compete at the Olympics is nine. Lamaze admits Derly is a young horse lacking experience, but her good brain makes up for this shortcoming. He also noted that there is still an opportunity to compete, when he travels back to Europe next week, to help bring the mare closer to form for London.
The riding duo experienced a mishap last week at Spruce Meadows, when Derly stopped at the "B" element of a triple combination and Lamaze fell off. Both were unhurt, but Lamaze stated it served as a wake-up call for him to stay focused on the fact that she is young and he needs to stay a step ahead of her. He felt she had misjudged the combination and didn't quite study the test close enough and he probably rode her like she had enough experience.
Derly is co-owned by Lamaze and Ashland Farms, who were co-owners of the late Hickstead.
As for what's in store for Verdi, Lamaze stated that he is a new acquisition that he doesn't know as well (Lamaze had ridden Derly as a seven year old).
Lamaze likes and believes in Verdi. However, after careful consideration and consultation with Canadian chef d'equipe Terrance Millar, he went with the mare.