HAMPTON CLASSIC: Eyeing a Fault-Free Ride

“Our entries are as full as they’ve ever been”
“They’re sweet — just like big dogs,” Shanette Barth Cohen said of Mike and Kerry Gaynor’s Clydesdales Sam and Ike, whom she and her husband, Bryan, took out for a ride at Wolffer’s stables Sunday morning. Jack Graves

   Shanette Barth Cohen, the Hampton Classic’s executive director, who used to face a wall, has a corner office now, with a window, a door through which she can escape, and a low-slung guardian lapdog named Jackson, but she won’t feel entirely secure until Opening Day has come and gone without incident.
    Last year, if you remember, forewarnings of Hurricane Irene’s arrival impelled the Classic’s staff to lower the 100 tents that had been raised to house the hunter-jumper show’s 1,600 horses, and to put them up again once the storm, which brought with it gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, had passed through.
    During a conversation the other day, Barth Cohen said she’d been quite proud of the 36-hour-straight effort everyone had put in. “I got to drive a tractor, one of the show secretaries operated a fork lift, Marty [Bauman, the show’s press officer] was raking . . . I still can’t believe our crew of 60 or 70 did all that, and then Cablevision, LIPA, and the town were very helpful in getting the power back on.”
    As a result, the weeklong show was shortened by three days, beginning on Wednesday, though there were no scratches when it came to the competitions.
    While she didn’t go to the Olympics, Barth Cohen watched the show jumping on a Webcast. The United States’ team, which included McLain Ward, a perennial winner at the Classic, and Beezie Madden, who’s also showing here next week, finished sixth. “It was a hard act to follow — the U.S. won the team gold at Hong Kong and Athens. . . . The last round was very tough with challenges all over the place.”
    Guilherme Jorge, the Classic’s Brazilian-born course designer, had been, she added, a member of the technical committee.
    Three Olympians, then — Ward, Madden, and Rodrigo Pessoa, a Brazilian — will be among the professional riders showing here.
    The Olympics were probably the number-one equestrian event, Barth Cohen said, in answer to a question, with the World Equestrian Games, which, like the Olympics, are contested every four years, and the World Cup Final, which is held annually, rounding out the top three. Asked where the Classic might fit in, she said, “We’re a World Cup qualifier — we’re an important event.”
    As for what was new this year, she said, “We’ll have a $50,000 hunter class in the Grand Prix ring on Opening Day [this Sunday, following the opening ceremony at 1:30] sponsored by the United States Hunter Jumper Association. . . . We have 40 entries so far, there will be pros and amateurs.”
    “It will be a nice flowing course designed by Steve Stephens. It’s supposed to simulate a hunt field, and it’s the horses who are judged — how beautifully and smoothly they go. There’ll be two rounds with the top 12 advancing. The jumps will be 3 feet 6 inches and riders will have the option of trying 3-9 and 4-0 jumps for bonus points.”
    The leadline classes judged by the Olympian Joe Fargis, an Opening Day fixture for many years, are to be held on the morning of Grand Prix Sunday in the Hunter-1 ring that is to be renamed in memory of the late Anne Aspinall, who won the Classic’s sportsmanship award in 2007 and who was for a long time a member of the Classic’s board of directors, a competitor in the show’s hunter classes, and who, with her sister, Emily, taught at the Topping Riding Club in Sagaponack. Hunter Ring 1 will be renamed the Anne Aspinall Ring at a ceremony on Opening Day at 7:45 a.m.
    The $20,000 Nicolock time challenge class, which offers spectators their first chance to see the pros in action, is to be held this Sunday, as it has been in the past, though the class is to get under way at 8 a.m. “We’ve got 30 signed up so far, though that number will probably go up,” Barth Cohen said.
    There would be “lots of things for kids” throughout the coming week, she added, “not just on Optimum Kids Day [Saturday, Sept. 1] with its free pony rides, circus performers, and the Laughing Pizza Band. . . . The Wildlife Center of the Hamptons will bring with them birds of prey, the Riverhead Marine Research organization will be here every day, Stony Brook University’s Children’s Hospital will put on a show called ‘Mission Nutrition,’ the A.S.P.C.A. on Monday will have dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs, and horses up for adoption. . . . “
    “Our entries are as full as they’ve ever been,” she said in reply to a question about the economy, “and our corporate sponsorship has become more robust, though there has been some belt-tightening among our personal sponsors.”
    Twenty dollars will still get a carload of spectators into the grounds, off Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton. “And people can now buy grandstand tickets for Grand Prix Sunday online, at $25 for the bench seats and $35 for the bucket seats.”
    Asked, in parting, what the weather report was, Barth Cohen smiled and said, “I don’t know . . . I heard it was going to be beautiful.”