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Little Wins 1st Course at National

October 30, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Lynne Little took advantage of an early ride’s blissful ignorance to speed through a risky course and win the first international and open jumper event Wednesday in the 114th annual National Horse Show.

Little, riding third of 26 competitors in the $20,000 I Love New York Welcome Stake, cleared all 10 jumps on Conrad Homfeld’s tight, demanding course in 52.90 seconds, 1.7 seconds faster than her nearest competitor.

The event was the first in the show that runs through Saturday. Members of national teams from the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Canada will compete Friday in Nations’ Cup events, and the show culminates Saturday with the $50,000 Budweiser Grand Prix of New York.

Nona Garson of Lebanon Township, N.J., like Little an independent rider, was the victor later Wednesday in the $10,000 Business Wire Gambler’s Choice, in which riders choose their own course and earn points based on the difficulty of the jumps they clear.

Garson, riding Rhythmical, earned 1,340 points, followed by Canadian team member John Pearce, collecting 1,310 aboard Casper, and the U.S. team’s Beezie Patton, earning 1,270 on Innocence.

Little, from Frederick, Md., attributed her aggressive ride in the Welcome Stake to the fact that she didn’t have to wait and watch as the rest of the competition struggled with the course’s tight turns and high walls.

Particularly troubling was a sharply angled 4-foot-9 vertical that came at the end of a sweeping turn in the middle of the course. Most competitors at least rubbed the top rail, and the U.S. Equestrian Team’s McLain Ward, the top rider in last year’s National, crashed through the top three aboard Amity in an otherwise flawless ride.

``I turned back very tight to that jump _ had I been watching the others, I would have gone wider,″ Little said afterward.

As it was, she said, her mount Special Memories ``did have a little stutter″ heading into the jump. ``The angle the swoop was set _ they (horses) don’t see it,″ she said.

Eight other riders managed clear rounds: Stefan Lauber of the Swiss national team, riding Pernod S, was second and Toni Hassmann of the German team was third aboard La Zarras.

Designer Homfeld, in the second of his two-year stint in the National, has a reputation for setting up courses that give little room for error in the tight arena at Madison Square Garden.

``That’s Conrad’s trademark _ he lets us know the week’s going to be a test,″ said Canadian team rider Ian Millar, the top international rider in last year’s show. ``There’s no question this first course is a good challenge.″

That’s music to Homfeld, himself a former Olympic rider: ``Well, good, it makes me happy to hear that,″ he said.

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