By Emily J Weitz
The blue and white tents are up. The jumps are neatly arranged. More and more horses arrive every day as one of the most prestigious horse shows in the country, the Hampton Classic, draws some of the most competitive international riders to Bridgehampton for one week every year. The week is upon us.
From August 26 through September 2, the grounds of the Hampton Classic, which spend most of the year completely barren, will be bustling with people and horses. And on the heels of the London Olympic games, many of the most skilled riders in the world are poised and ready to compete.
“We’re so excited that everyone will be able to feel the excitement of the London Olympic Games right here at the Hampton Classic,” says Shanette Barth Cohen, the horse show’s executive director. “These world-class riders will be competing every day and will have their eyes set on our main event, the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix.”
Some riders to watch include McLain Ward, an American-born Olympic gold medalist who has won the Classic’s Grand Prix a record six times. Ward already won the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon on his horse, Antares F, in May. If he wins at the Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic and then goes on to win at the Alltech National Horse Show, he will win the new Taylor Harris Triple Crown Challenge, which awards a $200,000 bonus to the horse and rider team that wins all three.
Other riders, like fellow American Beezie Madden, Brazilian Rodrigo Pessoa and Colombian Daniel Bluman, all competed in London and will be riding at the Classic throughout the week.
On the first day of competition, things get started early, at 8 a.m. in the Grand Prix Ring. The $20,000 Nicolock Time Challenge will bring some of the most prominent names of the week to the spotlight for this timed competition. Riders will need to move through one round of a jumping course, racing against the clock.
At 1:30 p.m., there will be an Opening Day ceremony, and quickly following will be the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby presented by MeadowView Farms.
Throughout Opening Day, local riders will also have their chance to shine. Local Hunter Divisions are open to any horse that is housed in Nassau or Suffolk Counties on Long Island for at least 75 days this year.
“Opening Day always provides a great start to the Classic,” says Cohen. “It gives our Long Island exhibitors a chance to be part of the competition and also gives spectators a chance to see some of the best jumpers and hunters in top level competitions.”
In addition to the hunter, jumper and equitation classes taking place throughout the week, there will be activities for the whole family from shopping to dining to kid-friendly offerings. Monday is ASPCA Adoption Day, so guests will have the chance to visit with and perhaps adopt rescue horses, potbellied pigs, and dogs and cats. The finals of the Long Island Horse Show for Riders with Disabilities will also take place. Tuesday will feature the $2500 Marshall and Sterling Children’s Hunter Classes as well as the Triple Crown High Performance Hunter Classes. Wednesday will be the Triple Crown High Performance Hunter Classes along with Short Stirrup and Open Jumpers.
Things begin to heat up on Thursday, with several higher-stakes competitions, including the $10,000 Sam Edelman Equitation Championship. Friday will be the $50,000 Spy Coast Farm/ Young Horse Show Series Grand Prix Qualifier, which will dictate who gets to be in the main event on Sunday.
Saturday, September 1 is Optimum Kids’ Day, and along with a number of major competitions, kids’ events will take place throughout the grounds. Kids are admitted for free, and each child gets a free pony ride. The Laughing Pizza Family Band will perform, as will the Bellini Family Circus and Friends. Magic by the Amazing Zola and face painting by Ruby will also be big draws for the little ones.
“We are excited to host Optimum Kids Day once again as part of our schedule at the Hampton Classic,” says Cohen. “Many families return year after year to take part in all the fun activities that are held throughout the day and it’s become one of the Classic’s favorite traditions. In fact, we have some people who came as kids years ago who now come with their own children!”
Sunday, September 2 will be the fiercest competition, when all eyes will be on McLain Ward and the other Olympic athletes and professionals who are looking to take home the $250,000 Grand Prix prize.
“We know that everyone attending the Hampton Classic this summer will find something exciting to do,” says Cohen. “The thrilling competition, our great shopping, and all of the fun family activities will ensure that everyone who comes to the Hampton Classic will have a wonderful time.”