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Arnett says it wasn't until December 2006 that she was able to locate Bam Bam — in Wellington. In January, she filed a lawsuit under seal and requested an emergency hearing in federal court. She wanted a protective order for Bam Bam, saying Muente had "absconded" with the horse. Filing the case under seal was important to Arnett, she says, because she feared that if Muente knew about her continued effort, he might move the horse to yet another jurisdiction.

It's Muente's turn on day two. He comes on strong — with a Judith-was-a-dilettante scenario — but starts to crumble under cross-examination.

His lawyer, a Connecticut transplant named Avery Spencer Chapman, is himself a polo player. Linebacker shoulders stretch his almost-black navy suit and its custom-tailored seams; he shaves his tanned head to total baldness and still practices the antiquated fashion rule requiring that one's bright-white sleeves should peek out of one's jacket by two inches — all the better to show off a pair of smart, gold cuff links.

Chapman looks young and out of his element in the freezing-cold courtroom. He introduces himself and describes his relationship with his client: "I was hired on Thursday and met him on Saturday," as if to indicate that no one should expect much from him. Outside of court, Chapman dismisses Arnett as a poser, calling her "a chaos junkie."

He adds: "She just likes to be in the middle of everything."

Arnett had said, with some justification, that she thought Muente might be doping Bam Bam. In February 2006, the U.S. Equestrian Federation had censured and fined Muente $500 after investigators discovered he had given As Di Villagana an excessive amount of Naproxen, a common, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. Arnett had also said he had failed to renew Bam Bam's insurance.

But Muente testifies that it was Arnett who lacked professionalism.

"I asked about a contract; she said no," he says, speaking of their sponsorship agreement.

Muente paints Arnett as an all-around wannabe who doesn't even ride that well.

She's all talk, he says on the stand. She told him she'd sold her tack shop for $1.5 million, he adds.

"She said she had just received a lot of money from her father and had $500,000 to spend on horses," Muente says, suggesting that Arnett was making a rookie mistake. "I told her to be quiet because everybody would give her that price for a horse."

He would not have taken a vacation with her, he says. It was all business on their first trip to Europe, in October 2005.

"She wanted to see the babies of my stallion — it's a very successful stallion," Muente says.

Arnett had told him that she wanted to buy a young horse or two as an investment and that she had another $150,000 or so to spend on a horse she could ride in the highest level of amateur show-jumping competitions, Muente says. For his part, Muente would train the horses at his San Jose Stables and show them on the professional circuit, earning 20 percent of any profit made when the horses were sold.

For herself, Arnett liked a mare named Go-Go Girl that the two saw in Germany.

The price was 300,000 euros. Muente says Arnett didn't hesitate and paid $3,000 to vet the horse. But then she didn't buy Go-Go Girl because of a problem with the horse's blood work.

Next, they looked at Ace of Grace.

"She showed interest in Ace of Grace," Muente testifies. "She saw the horse. I rode it, jumped it. Judith rode it. I said I liked the horse. Christian [Müller] talked to the owner for 20 minutes, and he agreed to sell it."

Arnett knew Muente would have custody of Bam Bam while he trained it, he says — "a horse like that needs a professional like me to keep [it] in shape."

But while he could remember in striking detail the arrangements he says Arnett weaseled out of, Muente has trouble recalling what he himself paid for Bam Bam:

"I don't remember how much it was... $60,000? I said I'd buy the horse — totally independent. I negotiated a price for Ace of Grace with Christian Müller. She called me and said she was not buying Ace of Grace because there were too many vetting issues. I called Christian Müller and told him I was going to look at the vetting and consider buying it myself.

"I fell in love with the horse. I know he has a lot of issues. [But] he looks just like his father. Showing a nice offspring of his, it would make my stallion [worth] ten times more." What had been a business deal was turning into a competition for ownership of a prized horse.

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Kelly Cramer

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