It took eight men to set the wall for the final phase, and one had to stand on top of an extra block to set the top. Only two of the five riders eligible elected to try.
And when it was over last night, Barney Ward was jumping for joy after clearing 7-foot-6 3/4 with Glandor Akai at the Washington International Horse Show at Capital Centre.
A year ago, the winner of the Puissance high jump contest at the show earned a new car after breaking the North American indoor high jump record. This time, they were jumping for dollars.
Just before the fourth and final jump-off, the board of directors sweetened the pot of the $10,000 international event by $5,000 more to the rider who broke the 7-foot-6 mark set last year by Phillip Moyerson of Italy on Adam.
Glandor Akai is a 10-year-old French thoroughbred bay gelding owned by Ward, 38, of Bedford, N.Y., and Jan van den Berg.
Ward, who finished second last year said, "It's very thrilling. It's like scoring a touchdown in football."
Ward says he used to run back punts and kickoffs for the Providence Steamrollers in a semipro league. He described himself as "someone who has a lot of confidence in myself. I never get rattled. The thing is not to make a big deal out of it. It's like golf. If you've got a good swing don't mess with it."
Asked if the extra money was an added incentive, he said, "Not really. I like to be the best in anything I do. I like money, but it's an ego thing with me."
Ward set the North American indoor record in 1978 on Springer at the Toronto show with a leap of 7-5. Last year he went over 7-4 in Washington. "Last year I didn't think the Italian horse could jump but I figured four faults could win it," he said. "I was wrong."
Sixteen riders started in the class over six fences with the yellow and white simulated brick structure set at 6-0. Twelve were clean after the first round and they returned to jump the wall at 6-6 along with four other jumps.
Eleven riders succeeded, but two chose not to return. In the third phase, with the wall at 7-0, there were five clean rides and three more dropped out.