About 30 horse-and-rider teams attacked the challenging course at Sunday's $25,000 American Cafe Columbia Classic Grand Prix.
They came, they saw, all but one was conquered. The gray Hanoverian stallion Aerobic, piloted by Canadian Equestrian Team rider Howard Chopping, was the only horse to complete both rounds of the competition without making a mistake.
Four horses managed to go clean (incur no jumping or time faults)in the first round, and they returned to face the jump-off course and the ticking clock.
Chopping, who lives in Southern Pines, N.C., was in the unenviable position of having to go first in the jump-off round. He and his 12-year-old stallion attacked the course, but they did it carefully. They emerged from the effort without knocking down any fences and set a good time of 37.849 seconds, which put pressure on the three riders who followed.
The pressure Aerobic's time caused the three other jump-off horses to each bring down a fence.
Perennial Grand Prix jumping star Michael Matz, a master of the effortless and beautiful ride, was aboard Victor, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood. Victor's error came when he put his back legs down in the middle of the first jump. The rest of his round was faultless, however, and he set a decent time of 38.688.
Another Canadian team rider, Olympian Mario Deslauriers, made it to the jump-off on Roche. The 8-year-old Selle Francais is in his first year of showing on the Grand Prix circuit, and even Deslauriers' experience could not make up for theyoungster's lack of seasoning.
In a valiant effort, the rangy chestnut took down just one fence and bettered Matz' time by .003 secondto move into second place behind Aerobic.
The final pair to face the challenge was D. D. Alexander aboard her thoroughbred, Tashiling.Alexander, of Pennsylvania, was out to win, and Tashiling's former racing experience proved valuable as he flew around the jumps.
Alexander and Tashiling were beating the clock when disaster struck at the penultimate fence, as Tashiling took down a rail. The pair joined the other four-faulters (Matz and Deslauriers), but placed ahead of them because of their excellent time, 35.644.
After the victory gallop, Chopping said he was very pleased with the efforts that his horsemade in both rounds of the competition.
"He can jump anything; he's very powerful and very athletic," Chopping said of Aerobic, one oftwo horses he is preparing for the 1992 Summer Olympics. "I didn't expect the course to be so tough. I was prepared for something of a more moderate size.
"I knew it would be on grass, but the hilly terrain made it very tricky. And there were lots of flat cups (devices that hold the rails on the jumps) out there, so you had to be very careful."
Aerobic handled the course very calmly and in an entirely businesslike fashion. Those are characteristics that the stallion exhibits on a daily basis, according to his groom, Roy Herbin.
"I've worked with him for four years," Herbin said after Aerobic's victory, "and it's just like taking care of a baby. He's real quiet and real easy to be around. He's a great jumper. All we have to do is make sure that he stays fit."
Course designer Blair Williams of Toronto cameto Maryland with a plan for the Grand Prix course, but when he saw the hilly terrain of the Howard Community College grounds, he threw out that plan.
"I decided to let the terrain make the course's problems," Williams said before the competition. "I am not familiar with the horses competing here so I tried to build a straightforward course."
Aerobic's winning effort earned Chopping $7,500 of the $25,000 purse. Alexander took home $5,500 for her second-place finish. Deslauriers' third place was good for $3,250, and Matz got $2,000 for fourth.
Organizer Oliver Kennedy said that the crowd of 4,500 was a record for the fourth annual event.