Houseguest Beats Host at the Hampton Classic

Daniel Bluman went clean on Ladriano Z — to his and the large crowd’s delight
Daniel Bluman scored rare back-to-back wins in the Grand Prix Qualifier and in the Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic this past week — on Bacara d’Archonfosse in the qualifier and on Ladriano Z, above, in the Grand Prix. Durell Godfrey

Daniel Bluman, who won Sunday’s Hampton Classic Grand Prix in a three-rider jump-off, was happy to learn at the press conference afterward that he was still welcome to stay at his host’s house, where he has been the past three weeks.

His host being McLain Ward, one of international show jumping’s top riders, a four-time Olympian with two gold medals, and the Classic’s recordholder with six Grand Prix wins.

Ward, the third-place finisher in the 31 horse-and-rider field, behind Brianne Goutal and Bluman, a native of Colombia who represented that country in the past two Olympic Games, but who rides for Israel now, was gracious in defeat, though he and his horse, HH Callas, did their best to put his houseguest’s back up against the wall in the jump-off, looping swiftly through the first six obstacles of the pared-down course before tipping over rails on the final two.

Bluman, the last to go, went clean on Ladriano Z — to his and the large crowd’s delight. The win capped a big week for him. He had, among other championships, won Friday’s Grand Prix Qualifier as well. It is rare for the qualifier’s winner to repeat in the Grand Prix. 

The only other one he knew of who had done so, Bluman said, was Ward, whose bonhomie had apparently been further tested when Alexa Schwitzer, of Muttontown, stepped in to buy Ladriano Z at a time within the past year when Ward had declared his interest in buying the 9-year-old bay gelding. 

For her part, Goutal, a Brown University alumna who finished the jump-off with one knockdown, said, with a smile, that she was getting tired of being a bridesmaid. She’s been the Grand Prix’s runner-up three times now.

Ward gave a particular nod of appreciation at the press conference to the Grand Prix course’s designer, Alan Wade, who, he said, was expert at building in to his courses subtleties that weren’t immediately apparent to the riders. 

Sunday was a case in point. Two of the jumps, the Jaguar gate and the square blue-and-white oxer that followed it some six strides later, caused a lot of grief. According to one count, there were 10 knockdowns at the gate, the 11th obstacle on the course, and, likewise, 10 at the square oxer that followed. 

Asked why later, Peter Leone, an Olympic silver medalist who does WVVH’s televised broadcasts, said he thought some of the horses tended to have their heads down as they, with a water jump to their left, approached the Jaguar gate from out of a blind turn. “All of a sudden — boom — there it was.”

Faulty timing on the riders’ parts, Leone thought, accounted for the oxer’s front rail going down so often.

“It was a six,” The Southampton Press’s Cailin Riley said, “but it was a tight six.”

Bluman won $82,500 for finishing in first place, Goutal $50,000, and Ward $37,500. Bluman won $28,380 for winning the Grand Prix Qualifier.

Still, it was Richie Moloney, the defending Grand Prix champion and a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, who won — for the fifth time — the $30,000 Longines Leading Rider Challenge, having garnered the most points (287) in competitions throughout the week. Ward was second, with 279, and Bluman third, with 250.

As far as local barns’ ribbons went, Swan Creek Farms of Bridgehampton was well represented. 

Phoebe Topping, 14, Mandy and Jagger Topping’s daughter, won the $2,500 Marshall & Sterling Children’s Hunter Classic’s 14-and-under division on Perfektionist, which is owned by her aunt, Tracey Topping, saying afterward that her horse was “so perfect and smart — he was a really good boy . . . I really like him.”

Isabel Culver, a Pierson High School junior who rides at Swan Creek, and Cabaret were, said Topping, reserve champions in the Children’s Hunter 15-to-17-year-old division; Miranda Green was the reserve champion in the younger children’s hunters on Insightful, and Sage Leyva and Secret’s Out were reserve champions in Large Children’s Hunter Pony. 

“All of our junior riders won a rainbow of ribbons in the Children’s Hunter divisions — Lucy Beeton of Sag Harbor on Clint One, Emma Diesing of Southampton on Talladega Nights, Amelia Magel on My Favorite Spot, and Emma Siskind on Chinou, just to name a few.”

“Our adult riders did well in the Adult Amateur Hunter and equitation classes,” Mandy Topping continued — “Kylie Tekulsky of East Hampton on Jagger’s horse, Obelix, Kate Whalen of Brooklyn on Eminence, and Yvetta Rechler-Newman of Southampton on Just Dandy.”

Another young rider who did well this past week, Sophia Pilla, the niece of Ryan Pilla, the Car Doctor, was on Betty Boop III the reserve champion in the $5,000 Children’s Jumper Classic.

When questioned by this writer, Mandy Topping said there was very little letup in the show circuit, that it was pretty much a year-round pursuit. As for riding, “You have to be patient, you have to be devoted and a hard worker — you have to have the right stuff.”

Her in-laws, Alvin and Patsy Topping, were “mostly retired now,” in South Carolina, “but they can’t quit — they’re still teaching young kids.”

Phoebe, she said, is to compete in the Zone 1 and 2 jumper championships in Princeton, N.J., at the end of this month, and at the end of March Swan Creek will have riders, she said, in a show in Atlanta on the Olympic showgrounds there.

When Phoebe was asked if she were aiming to jump in the Classic’s Grand Prix ring soon, her mother cautioned, “We’re not in the Grand Prix yet, Jack.”

Brianne Goutal, who rode Nice de Prissey clean in the first round, had one knockdown in the jump-off to finish second in the Hampton Classic’s Grand Prix. Later, at the press conference, she said with a smile that she was tired of being a bridesmaid. Sunday’s was her third runner-up finish here. Durell Godfrey
Sue Ellen Marder O’Connor and her sister, Nancy Marder Banfield, switched riding helmets for fancy hats at the Hampton Classic Sunday morning. With Banfield as her coach, O’Connor had three second-place finishes in adult amateur divisions and a fifth-place finish in the adult hunter classic. Jack Graves