A pleasant sea breeze caressed the horses and riders and spectators as the 37th Hampton Classic opened Sunday — in stark, and welcome, contrast to the tropical storm that caused the weeklong hunter-jumper show to be foreshortened last year.
Opening Day, whose featured Grand Prix Ring classes were the $50,000 United States Hunter Jumper Association International Hunter Derby presented by MeadowView Farms and the $20,000 Nicolock Time Challenge, began at 7:45 a.m. with a ceremony in which Hunter Ring 1 was renamed in memory of Anne Aspinall, who died of cancer this past year.
As her sister, Emily, cut the ribbon dedicating the Anne Aspinall Ring, the some 40 attendees were told that “Anne played a key role in getting the Classic off the ground back in 1976 and served on the Classic’s board of directors ever since. . . . Everyone connected with the horse show world, and everyone who has ever enjoyed even a single day at the Hampton Classic over the last 36 years, owes Anne a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
“A leading figure at the Topping Riding Club in Sagaponack, she was one of the most respected hunter-jumper trainers on Long Island, helping to produce countless champions. . . . Anne Aspinall is someone who can never be replaced and someone who will be missed greatly by all of us.”
With the sun barely over the horizon, “local day” riders, as well as the pros, were seen to be warming up in numbers for classes in all five of the Classic’s rings.
At the Annex Ring, in which adult equitation classes were held, one could hear trainers at the rail calling out to their charges, “A little bit brighter. . . . Lower your heels, lower your heels, Renee. . . . Push those heels down, arch more. . . . Lower your hands now. . . . ”
Arguably, the horse that turned the most heads that day was Sam, a 4-year-old Clydesdale owned and ridden by Mike Gaynor, who, with his wife, Kerry, sponsored that day’s adult equitation classes.
“He’s 2,100 pounds — twice the size of the other horses at the show — and he’s 18 and a half hands, so I’m not surprised that he’s noticed,” said Gaynor, who when asked how he and Sam had done in that day’s adult eq B section, said, with a laugh, “I stayed on.”
The Gaynors keep three Clydesdales at Wolffer Stables not far from the Classic’s Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton, showgrounds — Sam, Ike, and Mike. The latter two 7-year-olds have been inseparable buddies since birth. “They’ve never been more than 30 feet away from each other.”
A fourth, Kyle, died recently. The Gaynors have established an adult equitation trophy in his name, the Kyle’s Courage trophy, which goes to the class’s champion.
“I became interested in Clydesdales about six years ago when I saw volunteer rangers — Shanette [Barth Cohen, the Classic’s executive director] used to be one, though she’s not anymore — riding them in Central Park. It’s an 860-acre park, and there are many areas that aren’t accessible to a vehicle. I’m one of the volunteers now, I do at least two patrols a month.”
Shane Sweetnam, who grew up in County Cork, Ireland, and who now lives in Wellington, Fla., won with Cyklon 1083 the $20,000 speed class, even though they had a rail down on the penultimate jump.
The 11-year-old stallion owned by Spy Coast Farm had “won a lot of money . . . in Switzerland, Canada . . . everywhere,” Sweetnam said afterward. Of the class, he said, “it was very competitive, especially the top six. . . . We won by two seconds.”
The Irish-born rider has been competing professionally since he was 20. “It’s my passion,” he said. “I’m lucky that it’s my job every day.”
As for the Grand Prix, the $250,000 class that ends the week, “I was in the top six two years ago . . . I’ve never won it. I hope to get closer this year.”
Sweetnam, aboard Spy Coast Farm’s Esquina Van Klapscheut, also placed fifth in the Time Challenge. Others in the top six were G&C LeRoy, ridden by Carolina Mirabal and owned by Gustavo Mirabal, Cyrina Z, ridden by the Irish-born Darragh Kenny and owned by North Star, Lincourt Gino, ridden by Peter Leone and owned by Monica Carrera, and Udento Vol, ridden by Kenny and owned by Lauren Tyree.
Kennzo, ridden by Molly Ashe-Cawley and owned by Kristen Abbatiello-Neff, was the $50,000 Hunter Derby champion. Inclusive, ridden by 14-year-old Victoria Colvin and owned by Betsee Parker, was the reserve. The winner received $15,000, the runner-up $10,000.
Today’s events are to include the $10,000 Sam Edelman Equitation Championship in the Grand Prix Ring at 1:30 p.m., the $5,000 Junior Jumper Classic, from 8 a.m., and the $5,000 Strong’s Marine Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic in Jumper Ring 2, as well as the $2,500 Marshall & Sterling Adult Amateur Hunter Classic in the Hunter 2 Ring at 1:30 p.m.
The main event tomorrow is the $50,000 Spy Coast Farm/Young Horse Show Series Grand Prix Qualifier in the Grand Prix Ring at 1 p.m.
On Kids Day, Saturday, the featured events will include the $30,000 Split Rock Farm 6-Year-Old Young Jumper Championship, the $30,000 Pilatus Cup, and the $20,000 SHF Enterprises 5-Year-Old Young Jumper Championship in the Grand Prix Ring.
On Sunday, the show’s final day, the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and F.E.I. World Cup Qualifier at 2 p.m. will be preceded by the $30,000 7 and 8-Year-Old Young Jumper Championship Finals and the $25,000 David Yurman Show Jumping Derby in the Grand Prix Ring. The latter class is part of a Show Jumping Hall of Fame series overseen by the Classic’s press officer and Hall of Fame executive director Mary Bauman.
Also on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m., there will be leadline classes for 2-to-4-year-old and 5-to-7-year-old riders in the Anne Aspinall Ring.