FAIR HILL -- Mark Weissbecker, who has been riding since he was a youngster, experienced his biggest victory yesterday, winning the Fair Hill International Three-Day Event at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Center in Cecil County.
The 40-year-old from New England had taken the lead after Saturday's speed and endurance phase and maintained the top spot yesterday even though his mount, Best Seller, knocked down one rail in the stadium jumping.
"It's about time," Weissbecker said when asked how it felt to win his first major event at the age of 40.
Weissbecker said he had "an incredible dressage ride" on Friday when he placed fifth of the 63 riders and maintained the momentum with a quick and clear cross country trip on Saturday, which moved him up to first.
Virginian Deanna Hines, 21, who had been second, dropped two rails in the stadium phase yesterday and ended up in sixth place. Missy Ransehousen of Unionville, Pa., moved up to second, followed by Mara DuPuy of South Stratford, Vt.
The top three finishers said they will try for a spot on the U.S. team for the Pan American Equestrian Games, which will be held in Buenos Aires in March.
Weissbecker said that Best Seller, whom he purchased in California after the gelding proved too slow to run at the racetrack, will get a brief rest before a pre-Pan American trial in Florida this winter.
Of the 63 original starters, only 29 made it to yesterday's final stadium jumping phase.
Todd Trewin, whose horse nearly collapsed in the 1992 Olympics as a member of the U.S. team, finished 21st.
"Although I wish I had placed higher, I feel I've accomplished my goal," he said. "I knew I was going to be thoroughly scrutinized as well as I should be and my horse made it through Fair Hill safe and sound."
The Fair Hill event is one of North America's three premier horse trials. Trewin is contemplating a 1995 European campaign with 13-year-old Sandscript.
In the carriage driving three-day event, leader Lisa Singer of Chadds Ford, Pa., knocked over three cones in the final phase yesterday and was defeated by one point by Larry Poulin of Falmouth, Maine.
Poulin, who had been asked to drive his pair of horses by their owner, Spencer Kipe, only five days ago, moved up to first after excelling in cones, knocking over only one on yesterday's final obstacle course.
Singer became the first woman driver to win the U.S. national championships last month in Gladstone, N.J.