What turned out to be a disastrous course for many of the 35 competitors in the $7,500 International Open Jumper Classic at the opening of the Washington International Horse Show last night was a successfully completed challenge for France's Herve Godignon.
The last rider in the nine-fence competition, Godignon raced to a first-place finish atop Moet et Chandon la Belletiere in 44.932 seconds, handily defeating Debbie Dolan and Mark Leone.
Dolan, a 24-year-old Oyster Bay, N.Y., native, took the lead on Lucas with 11 riders left, moving ahead of Leone in 45.384.
Leone, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., was the leader at the halfway mark with a time of 47.036 atop Costello, completing only the third clean round before finishing third in the competition.
Although the course presented difficulties for most of the riders, Godignon, a member of the French Equestrian Team since 1977, rode through a perfect round, as did Dolan and Leone.
More than half the riders toppled one or both of the last two fences, many suffering frustrating faults going into the final fence as they negotiated a sharp turn to beat the clock.
Middleburg's Katie Monahan Prudent, 1986 rider of the year, fell victim to the final fence as she finished in 45.491 on Special Envoy.
Greg Best, a 22-year-old from Flemington, N.J., and this year's rookie of the year with four Grand Prix victories, had the fastest time in the event atop Santos with 43.180, but also hit the ninth fence to incur four faults.
In the $100,000 Hunter Futurity Conformation Over Fences class, Aldie's Image, ridden by Patricia Heukeroth, won the event for 3-year-olds. The event, which accepts entries based on their sire's nomination, is the equivalent of the Breeders' Cup in thoroughbred racing.
The four members of the U.S. Equestrian Team -- Best, Rodney Jenkins, Lisa Jacquin and Jay Land -- each faulted out of the competition. Jenkins of Rapidan, Va., the sport's winningest rider, had the most difficulty of his teammates as he scored four fence faults and three faults when his horse, Potluck, refused a jump.
Among major international-open events the show will feature this week will be the Prix Des Nations competition Thursday, the Puissance (high jump) and the $40,000 President's Cup finale Sunday.
More than $350,000 in prize money will be awarded at the show.