Competitors had a tough time Sunday in the Upperville Jumper Classic, the final event of last weekend's 146th annual Upperville Colt and Horse Show.

Only four of 39 horses went clean (no faults) in the first round of the classic to advance to the jump off, and only two of those horses had no faults in the latter event. Some of the fences were lowered after the first course walk Friday, but that didn't help many of the horses and riders.

"I think this is a fair course for the level of the riders," said the course designer, Leopoldo Palacious Jugo, before the class. "I think the Liverpool [an oxer with water underneath] and the skinny vertical will be the most trouble."

Leslie Howard and After Eight were the first to have zero faults; then Berryville resident Hugh "Bert" Mutch completed the difficult course on Cardinal.

Many of the unlucky competitors racked up points in the high teens and a few eliminations for flat-out refusals. The Liverpool combination and the broad water jump claimed a few victims, but it was Fence 3, the Budweiser planks (named for the competition's sponsor), that required the most attention of the busy jump crew. Horse after horse pulled the red planks off the massive downhill vertical.

The Upperville Jumper Classic is unique in the international grand prix circuit as an outside course on grass with hills. Mutch, who finished the day in fourth place, said the Budweiser fence was designed a little differently this year.

"You had two red planks on top. Normally, it has a white stripe to separate them. The biggest problem about it was you were jumping down a hill and the horses have a opportunity to look outside the ring. The Liverpool is always spooky no matter what direction it is going in," Mutch said.

Mutch got his ride on Cardinal, a 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion, from owner/rider Randy Johnson of Comus, Md. He has been competing with Cardinal off and on for almost a year. Mutch hopes to qualify the horse at next year's Olympic selection trials and compete in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. For now, they are headed for the Canadian circuit.

Upperville's Alison Firestone tied for fifth place with two of her family's mounts, Fein Cera and Major. Berryville's Kathryn Clark entered Fiola, ridden by Beezie Madden of New York, and also finished fifth, along with Florida's Margie Goldstein Engle and Hidden Creek's Alvaretto.

Florida's Jimmy Torano and his horse Lancier 4 won the competition.

CAPTION: Aboard his Oldenburg stallion Cardinal, Hugh "Bert" Mutch finishes the day in fourth after completing the demanding course at the Upperville Horse and Colt Show.