by Raun Norquist
The Hampton Classic Horse Show management and staff have made it happen. Hurricane Irene caused the show to pull down 18 tents with 1600 stalls and another 40 large spectator and vendor tents only to put them back up within amazing speed to accomplish a delayed opening today, Wednesday August 31. The difficult call of dropping the tents last Friday was made by the Hampton Classic Board, their Executive director Shanette Barth Cohen and the Equestrian Manager, Steve Stephens. To their credit the decision was a choice of safety and prudence over financial concerns, even though this meant the compression from eight days of competition into five. Opening day had bright skies, grounds that were immaculate and riders eager to compete.
“Amazingly, we have been able to keep virtually all of our classes including all our local competitions, disability classes and even lead line,” said Cohen. “Anyone who was entered in the Classic will still have the chance to compete in what they entered. Horses started to arrive the first thing on Tuesday and exhibitors are telling us that they can’t believe that we even had a hurricane because everything looks great.”
Brazillian, Guilherme Jorge, for his second year, designed, the Grand Prix course for Sunday’s $250,000 FTI and FEI World Cup Qualifier. This internationally renowned course designer is known for tricky rollbacks, many doubles and demanding tight turns reversing direction. Show jumping rider, Debbie Stephens of Tampa, Florida, a 23-year veteran of the Classic explained, “The Grand Prix ring is grass and has certain permanent jumps. The designer must work with those jumps and those of the sponsors to create a safe but exciting, and challenging course. Although Bridgehampton received only 2-inches of Irene’s rain, the points of take off and landing can take a beating, making the ground slippery. Many riders while competing on grass will use cleats to compensate for the quality of the turf but the balance of the week promises blue skies, so by Sunday the Grand Prix ring should be perfect.”
“The Hampton Classsic is a different sort of course than most horse shows,” Stephens says. “Horses have only peripheral vision, and in this ring they are surrounded by spectators on all sides, the permanent hazards like hedges, a water feature, a mound and the course that gets reconfigured. There is much to distract them. The riders must overcome the horse’s natural instincts with skill, trust and cleats. This horse show is a must in preparation for the Masters at Spruce Meadow and the only one of its caliber, not just for prizes but also for the quality of the rings and grounds.”
Last year’s five-time Grand Prix winner, McLain Ward, will return to compete but not on his famous mare, Saphire, who will sit this one out for health concerns and in preparation for competition in London for the Olympic Games. He will be riding Antares of Brewster, New York for the Grand Prix. Other returning riders to look for are Shane Sweetnam, Darragh Kenny, Peter Leone and Hillary Dobbs who won the Opening Day Wolffer Estate sponsored Grand Prix ring event, with a doubled purse for a total of $15,000 with a flawless run at 53.120 minutes.
Among the changes: Short Stirrup will compete on Thursday starting at 8 a.m. in the Annex. Adult Equitation will begin in the Annex on Friday at 9 a.m. On Saturday Local Junior Hunters, Local A-O Hunters will begin at 8 a.m. in Hunter Ring 3 and Children’s Equitation will begin at 8 a.m. in the Annex. Sunday, the greatly anticipated Leadline Class for the 2 to 7 year olds, will be held in Hunter Ring 1 starting at 8 a.m. with the LIHSSRD in the same ring, starting at 2 p.m.
The Classic’s revised show schedule is available on line at www.hamptonclassic.com. The Classic is also providing frequent updates on its Facebook page.