The $7,500 Ben O'Meara Memorial Open Jumper course at the Washington International Horse Show was surprisingly deceptive for the individual competitors yesterday, with only two of the 19 entries jumping clean in the first round at US Airways Arena.

Jumper course designer Robert Ridland spread out the 10 fences, giving most of the obstacles easy approaches. But riders soon learned that the time allowed (59 seconds) was going to be very close.

Ten horses went before there was a clean round over the course. The first to have a clear round was Lynne Little and Pialotta, who were well in the time range at 55.59 seconds. Next to go clean was veteran Joe Fargis on 10-year-old Edgar. Fargis took the jumps easily and just made the time at 58.33 seconds.

The jump-off was another story. Pialotta and Little (Frederick) flew the first fence in the jump-off round, but Pialotta bailed at the second fence and slid to a stop. After correcting that disobedience, Little galloped around cleanly for the rest of the course but accrued seven penalties for exceeding the time allowed (40 seconds), giving her 10 faults.

Fargis had one rail down with the German sport horse, but stayed well in the time at 33.62 seconds and won the class. Fargis was a little surprised by the course.

"It was fair, but it turned out to be tougher then it looked. I am glad I went late. I think the time was tight. My only strategy was to move it," said Fargis, who is a two-time Olympic medalist.

Fargis is best known for his performance at the 1984 Summer Olympics, where he won an individual gold medal on the dainty mare A Touch of Class. He also earned a team silver medal with Mill Pearl at the 1988 Games.

The United States won the $28,000 Nations Cup for the second year in a row. Alison Firestone (Upperville, Va.) led the team with two double clears in the two-round competition between Italy, Switzerland and Canada. Margie Goldstein-Engle (Hidden Creek's Alveretto) also had a clear first round and USET's Peter Wylde (Macanudo de Niro) was the fourth clear round. Leslie Howard (Clover Leaf) finished with two four-fault rounds.

Switzerland took the second-place team finish. Italy was third and Canada was fourth. It was the seventh win for the United States in the Nations Cup at the Washington International Horse Show since the cup's inception in 1985.