By Emily J. Weitz
Opening Day at the Hampton Classic Sunday offered the perfect balance of champagne and horse manure. The sun was out and the competition started early in Bridgehampton, with the first riders taking the Grand Prix ring at 8 a.m.
The Opening Round of the Hunter Derby showcased nearly 40 riders who competed to move on to the finals of the $50,000 International Hunter Derby. There were 14 jumps in the course, including four high side options, which give the riders opportunities for extra points if they select the higher side of the jump.
Several riders fell off during the course and a number of other horses refused the elaborate fences. Cloe Hymowitz, riding Chivas Regal from Rose Hill in Bridgehampton, didn’t attempt any of the high side options, but sailed over all the fences for a score of 157. Mary Rivas rode Palladium for Sag Harbor resident Olivia Mulvey. She also opted against the high side options, which hurt her overall score, but she swept through the course with a patient stride and cleared all the jumps successfully. Rivas finished with a score of 127.
Other local riders included Katherine Strauss of Southampton, who rode Tombola. After chipping the very first jump, Strauss had a successful round, even taking two of the high side options. But her score reflected that initial imperfection and horse and rider did not move on to the final round. Victoria Colvin, who has been called a teenage sensation, rode Listen through the course and took over the first place slot by 3 p.m.
For those who qualified for the second round of the $50,000 International Hunter Derby, there was a totally different course. This one featured 11 jumps, and horses were required to trot the fifth fence and to hand gallop from fence 10 to 11. In the end, Colvin, who rode a different horse, Inclusive, in the second round, took a second place slot. She was bested by Molly Ashe-Cawley on Kennzo, who brought home not only the blue ribbon but also the $15,000 first place prize.
The competition was fierce throughout opening day, and many other local riders and owners placed in the top three of their divisions. In the $100 Local Amateur Hunter U/S, Anne Byers of Southampton rode Tivoli to first place. In $100 Local Amateur Hunter, Yvetta Rechler-Newman and Spring Fling, of Southampton, also took home the blue ribbon. They went on to place second in the $200 Local Amateur Hunter class. In the $100 Local Junior Hunter Section A, Olivia Greenwood of Montauk placed third. In the $200 Local Junior Hunter Section A, Olivia Meihofer of Southampton placed third on Julie Marder’s Playboy. In the $100 Local Hunter Pro U/S Sec A, Laura Bowery Falco of Southampton took home the blue ribbon. In the $200 Local Hunter Pro Section A, Amanda Topping of Sagaponack placed first on Red Drum. In the $200 Local Hunter Pro Section A, Bowery Falco and Tivoli placed second. In the $200 Local Hunter Pro Section B, Jagger Topping of Sagaponack rode Practical Magic to second place and rode Timeless to a third place slot. In the $200 Local Hunter Pro Section B, it was all locals in the top three. Jagger Topping placed first on Practical Magic, Laura Bowery-Falco placed second on Blue, and Jagger Topping placed third on Timeless.
For many participants, the Hampton Classic really is more about the experience than about the blue ribbon. Pierson High School student Olivia Bono rode in the Children’s Equitation class in the morning, and by afternoon, she was just relaxing at the stables on the premises. For her, the Classic has become an annual rite of summer.
“I’ve been riding in the Classic for about eight years,” says Bono, adding that she participates in lots of horse shows throughout the year, except when the ground is frozen solid.
But for Bono, the Hampton Classic is special.
“It’s more exciting than other shows,” she says. “You get to be around a lot of people you don’t see at other shows. It’s fun being around professional riders.”
Bono adds that every year she’s been at the Classic, she has ridden with Swan Creek, a barn she credits for providing her with the opportunity.
“I’ve always been in this tent, I’ve only ridden with this barn,” says Bono. “It’s an amazing barn. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
This year, Bono rode Sir Monte, a chestnut that she started leasing just a few months ago.
“I’ve been showing him all summer,” she says, “but this is my first Classic with him.”
This summer also was the first time she’s shown in the Equitation division, which means the rider is being judged instead of the horse.
“I think Equitation is easier,” says Bono, “because you can’t blame the horse. It’s all on you.”
Even if the judges aren’t looking at Sir Monte, Bono certainly is. She’s pleased with the way he’s performed so far, and is looking forward to more competition. She’ll take to the Children’s Hunter division in a few days, after Sir Monte has a chance to rest and get settled in his new digs, under the bright blue and white striped tents that have become synonymous with the Hampton Classic.