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Pomel Leads France To Victory

October 31, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Thierry Pomel led France to victory in the first round of show jumping competition Wednesday as the 113-year-old National Horse Show returned to its longtime home at Madison Square Garden.

The prestigious show, produced in recent years at the Meadowlands arena in E. Rutherford, N.J., celebrated its return with a heavy helping of nostalgia, honoring past stars while providing a glimpse of the variety of equestrian competition planned before the show closes Saturday afternoon with the $50,000 Budweiser Grand Prix of New York.

Pomel, aboard Veneur d’Etenclin HN, captured first place and his teammates came in fourth, fifth and sixth in the $20,000 international and open first jump-off, featuring both individual competitors and members of the four national teams.

Second place went to the Canadian national team and Olympic veteran Ian Millar, who led his team to the overall victory in last year’s National. Millar, aboard Play It Again, finished just ahead of U.S. Olympic silver medalist Anne Kursinski, riding as an individual entry.

Only one member of the U.S. team finished among the top eight: Margie Goldstein-Engle, aboard Hidden Creek’s Alvaretto, was seventh.

France finished the evening with 19 points, Canada had 6, U.S. 1 and Sweden none.

Honorary ground jury president Christopher Reeve, paralyzed in a jumping accident last year, took a salute from the 25-member New York City Mounted Police team. The team switched from crowd control to chorus line with a series of intricately choreographed drills.

The opening ceremonies were a little too exciting for some of the competitors. French team member Pierre Jarry tumbled fell off his mount, Arnaque, when she began bucking and rearing.

The 8-year-old mare, in her first indoor show, was the most anxious of several edgy horses as the Canadian, French, Swedish and American teams paraded into the arena. Jarry climbed back aboard, grinning and saluting the applauding crowd with a wave of his hard hat.

French chef d’equipe Patrick Caron shrugged off the spill afterward, noting with a smile that Jarry had chosen Arnaque because he thought she would be the calmest of his three mounts.

``A horse is not a machine,″ Caron said. ``It is no problem. ... She will make her class tomorrow and we will jump well.″

Pre-show jitters _ or precautions against them _ were the order for most competitors. Kursinski brought Eros and Farina, her mounts in last year’s National, back to the show. But Eros hasn’t shown indoors since then and was unnerved by the crowd at the Olympics.

``It’s tough, it’s not a normal horse show,″ she said as she awaited the opening ceremony. ``The horses have to get off in the middle of the city and of course the taxicabs and the people. ... Then you’re stuck in a not-very-horsey environment. I mean it’s the furthest thing from what they’re used to,″ she said with a gesture at the crowded, bright backstage of Madison Square Garden.

Still, Eros ran a clear round in his first event, just not as quickly as the Canadian and French entries.

The hubbub was a definite factor in choosing a horse for Western rider Mike Flarida, who rode his daughter’s horse, Almighty Bux, to victory in the invitational freestyle reining class, one of two reining events this year.

``The reason I brought him is he’s quiet, he’s a gelding, downtown New York City,″ said Farida, who demonstrated the sport at this summer’s Olympics. ``I’ve probably got better horses in the barn than this horse, but this horse is very broke, very quiet. This was only the second time I’ve ever rode him.″

Top finishers Wednesday in the $20,000 Cavcote Welcome Challenge Trophy, with times for the jump-off:

1. Veneur d’Etenclin HN, Thierry Pomel, 31.50; 2. Play It Again, Ian Millar, 32.51; 3. Eros, Anne Kursinski, 33.34.

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