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Original Issue

German cliffhanger

The exciting West German riders came from behind to win at New York's National

After the Washington International horse show last month (SI, Oct. 27), we wrote that the German riders "collected everything except the tickets." Well, these same brilliant Germans rode into New York's Madison Square Garden for the Diamond Jubilee of the National Horse Show and practically did the same thing all over again. Their feat last week was all the more remarkable because the strong American team, which had passed up the Washington show, was present and trying its best. The fact is that the Germans (who also won at Harrisburg) are the most exciting men on horseback who have been seen in a long while.

They turned the Diamond Jubilee into a cliffhanger by coming from a midweek third to victory in the over-all team championship over the faltering American team on virtually the last jump. The score was 121 points for Germany, 120 for the U.S.

The U.S. team, with wins by Hugh Wiley and Bill Steinkraus, had built up an impressive numerical lead. The U.S. apparently had the title clinched, but the German team methodically hacked away at the U.S. advantage. They took the low score competition from the U.S. by a mere quarter of a point, and by the last day they were in second place. Only the Nations Cup competition stood between them and the over-all team championship.

The Nations Cup is a two-heat event, afternoon and evening—the same horses and same riders over the identical course, with the aggregate scores of the three horses in the two performances determining the winner. In the afternoon, Alfons L√ºtke-Westhues went for Germany, and his Ala had one knockdown; George Morris went for the U.S., and his Ala had one a knockdown and refusal. Fritz Thiedemann's Finale pulled down two poles, and then it was the turn of the U.S.'s Hugh Wiley on Nautical. But the palomino was off that afternoon—he refused, knocked down a wall, then came in all wrong at a big fence, sending the timber and Hugh Wiley both flying (see opposite). By the time Nautical finished the course he had gathered 33 penalty points and the U.S. was finished.

With care and precision, Germany's Olympic champion Hans G√ºnther Winkler took Halla around with only one knockdown, and that evening turned in a clean round. The Germans won both the cup and the championship. Then, in an unprecedented good will gesture, they presented a trophy—a large porcelain vase they had brought from Germany to bestow on the best American rider. Billy Steinkraus rode into the ring on Ksar d'Esprit to accept the award.

The one title that the Germans did not win was the individual rider championship, and that, to everyone's surprise and delight, was won by Canada's Thomas Gayford. His Blue Beau, a horse who creeps up to a fence and then seems to crawl over it, kept consistently in the ribbons throughout the eight days and kept spectators gasping at his unique jumping style. "Beau is a comedian," explained Tommy. "He won't put out any more than he has to. But the way he hangs over a fence can just scare the hell out of you if you're on him." And scare him Beau did, but when the last, tense individual class was over and Gayford retained his lead despite a German victory, Tommy relaxed and confessed, "I was getting awfully tired of just being known as a good loser."

In the open jumping, too, last classes were a deciding factor—in fact, only one point separated two horses as the show climaxed: Oak Ridge Farm's First Chance, ridden by Adolph Mogavero, had just that slight lead—21 to 20—over Harry de Leyer's Snowman. But to win the National's championship Snowman had to beat First Chance in the stake on the show's last night.

And he did—25 to 21. As the horse cleared the final fence, De Leyer dropped the reins and threw his arms in the air in the exuberant and traditional hurrah gesture; then, as Snowman galloped placidly over the finish, he grabbed the horse around the neck and kissed him. Later, the Long Island horseman refused an offer of $35,000 for the champion that he had bought for $80 in 1956 when Snowman, then just a farm horse, was on his way to the slaughterhouse. "He can never be bought," explained De Leyer, "because I love him."


CATASTROPHIC CRACK-UP in the Nations Cup spills Hugh Wiley from back of Nautical. Neither was injured but this was the fall that ended U.S. hopes for team award.