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Chapot, Star Twist speed to accumulator win at National

October 31, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A canny young rider put her faith in a cautious young horse for a daring ride to victory Thursday as Laura Chapot and Star Twist won the accumulator competition in the 114th annual National Horse Show.

Chapot, the 22-year-old daughter of veteran equestrians Frank and Mary Chapot, and her 7-year-old mare cleanly jumped the 10-obstacle course, in which riders accumulate points by clearing increasingly difficult jumps. The course ends with the option of a joker fence, which can add or remove 20 points depending on whether it is cleared.

Chapot and Star Twist sped through the course in 44.81 seconds, just ahead of Ian Millar of the Canadian team, a seven-time Olympian who finished in 44.97 seconds aboard Mont Cencis.

``It’s less than the blink of an eye,″ Millar said. ``And among riders of this quality, it always comes down to the blink of an eye.″

Another young rider, 24-year-old Markus Merschformann of the German national team, won the evening’s last event, the puissance, in which riders try to jump the tallest wall.

The event was remarkable for its brevity. Merschformann was the only one of the seven riders to run a clear second round with the wall at 6-foot-6, well below the American indoor record of 7-foot-7 1/2. Urs Fah of the Swiss team dropped out rather than try to challenge Merschformann; Swiss chef d’equipe Charles Barrelet complained that the arena’s surface had too much debris and it wasn’t worth the risk to Clover Rain, the horse Fah plans to ride in the Nations’ Cup competition on Friday.

Star Twist’s performance in the accumulator was her first appearance in the National and Chapot was a bit anxious about how the slightly spooky mare would do. Star Twist hesitated ever so slightly going into the first jump, but then angled quickly and nimbly through the course.

``That’s her manner,″ Chapot said. ``She’s a very careful horse _ she judges distances herself and says `Wait, lemme see’ and then goes ahead.″

The speedy, tightly cornered ride was also typical, Chapot said: ``She’s very quick horse and is very good at taking angles. And in this kind of competition, you have to go all out.″

After Thursday’s events, the German team had accumulated the most points at 35, followed by Canada’s 33, the United States at 28 and Switzerland at 21.

The teams compete Friday in the Nations’ Cup, and the show culminates Saturday with the $50,000 Budweiser Grand Prix of New York.

The U.S. Equestrian Team is the defending champion in the Samsung Nations’ Cup Series. The winning 1996-1997 season _ including victory in last year’s National _ ended in September with the USET’s second-place finish in the Spruce Meadows show at Calgary, Alberta.

The USET finished third last week in Washington, D.C., the first show in the 1997-98 season. First place went to the same youthful German foursome that is competing in the National and next week in Toronto.

German chef d’equipe Sonke Sonksen said his team’s ages are deceptive _ the youngest, Toni Hassman, who turns 22 next week, has been competing for 10 years and is a past European juniors champion. What’s more, the national team has been pairing its young riders with veterans in recent competitions to prepare them for this tour, and pointedly selected a group that works together well, he said.

``It’s very important if you stay four, five weeks that far away from home that the four riders, outside the ring they must be friends and inside the ring they must be fighters,″ Sonksen said.

The team also drew the enviable position of going last in the Nations’ Cup events, which gives it the chance to size up the course and the performance of the other riders.

The USET will go first, but chef d’equipe George Morris had already plotted his riders’ order to cope with any position, starting Beezie Patton _ ``a very strong rider with a strong horse who has a good ride to read″ _ and ending with the aggressive Margie Goldstein-Engle, who is ``very good in the crunch, and she’s also very fast as the anchor in case of a jumpoff.″

The Canadian team will go second and the team from Switzerland will be third.

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