by Raun Norquist
PHEW! The 36th Hampton Classic Horse Show finished up on Sunday September 4 and what a show it was. Hurricane Irene’s arrival on the scheduled opening day, Sunday August 28, caused the competition to be compressed from the usual eight days into five. Riders that might have had several events and different choices of horses were forced to narrow down their attempts making for an even more intense focus than usual.
McLain Ward, of Brewster, NY, as anticipated, made another fine show, having won the Grand Prix the past two years — and a record five times overall. This year he did not disappoint any fans.
Ward said, “I try to make it just another day at the office but that‘s just not reality. I am a competitive person. I don’t really think about the pressure of winning another year, I just think of the pressure day in and day out that I like to win.”
On Friday, August 2, Ward, for a purse of $50,000, took first place in the Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix Qualifier, over Ashlee Bond of Hidden Hills, Ca. There were nine competitors making clear rounds, qualifying for the jump-off.
“I knew there were a couple of fast riders coming in behind me in Darragh Kenny, Ashlee Bond, and my student Katie,” Ward said, “but I was going to try and lay down a tough round and thankfully it was.”
On Saturday, August 3, Ward, competing against himself in the Nicolock Open Jumper Challenge for $30,000, finished first, third, and fourth. He made three clear runs on three different horses, qualifying for the jump off on all three in a field of 14.
Sunday, September 4 was the last day of competition with the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup Qualifier, and Ward rode Antares F, owned by Grant Road Partners, LLC. The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist tied his own record winning a Grand Prix at the Classic on three consecutive days, and tying Margie Engle’s record for three consecutive years, for a record, totaling six times, twice as many as anyone else.
Seven riders qualified for the jump off. Kent Farrington of Chicago, IL, on Uceko owned by R.C.G. Farm went first and completed a flawless run with a fast 32.96 seconds suggesting everyone else “should go home.” Ward said of Farrington “I watched Kent go and I said, ‘my God, I would like to be in the clubhouse with that round. I knew he had done eight strides to the third jump after the wall and I thought that was the only place maybe I could get him.”
Again Ward silenced the capacity crowd as he and Antares F entered the ring. Their round was swift and perfect with a time of 32.78 seconds, less than two tenths of a second faster than Farrington, besting 33 riders in a 16 jump competition, and 7 jump off qualifiers. Ward said, “I got him by a hair.”
“This is the best show in our country, it always has been,” said Ward. “I always bring my best horse because I believe that the event that is put on here is worthy of that. It means a lot to win here, it means as much for me to win this Grand Prix as any.”
The final Grand Prix rider, and the first Russian rider to compete at the Classic, Ljubov Kochetova of Russia, rode to a clear round on Royce, at only seven years old, he was the youngest horse in the class. She finished in a time of 40.11 seconds for third place.
Mclain Ward’s performances over the 5 days of competition were amazing but not the only triumphs. Victoria Colvin, of Loxahatchee, FL, finished first and second in the $10,000 Hermès Hunter Classic on Sunday. Only one point separated the top two, with defending champion Way Cool, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, receiving the highest overall score of 180 points. Sanzibar, owned by Karen Long Dwight and Barbara Ridder Irwin, were second with 179 points. Pavarotti, owned by Teri Kessler, and ridden by Chloe Reid of Washington, D.C., came in third with a total score of 171 points.
Colvin on Sanzibar earned the highest score at 90 points in the first round. Way Cool was second with 89 points. Second round the results reversed with Way Cool finishing first receiving 91 points and Sanzibar scoring 89 points.
Horseability celebrated its 6th anniversary at the Hampton Classic Horse Show, again providing riders with disabilities the competitive experience that other equestrians enjoy.
The Reserve Champion in the LIHSSRD Walk with Aides Division was won by eight-years-old Kevin Allenburg, his 4th year at the Classic. “I started out riding for therapy, but I was so good I started to compete, I like winning, but I really love riding and the horses.” said Allenburg.
Even in the face of adversity, hurricane Irene aside, the show went on. So here’s to another marvelous Hampton Classic Horse Show, our local crowning glory of the summer and all of those pretty horses and all of those hard working competitors. Thanks for the show!