Hampton Classic: A Big Step for Zafira

The fact that Zafira was a long strider proved to be advantageous
Georgina Bloomberg and Juvina registered highest on the applause meter after going clean in the first round on Sunday’s Grand Prix course. They finished third over all. Durell Godfrey

   Kent Farrington, 32, of Wellington, Fla., became the fifth rider in the Hampton Classic Horse Show’s 38-year history to win back-to-back Grand Prix championships on Sunday.
    Farrington, who prevailed in a five-rider jump-off that included Richie Moloney, a 31-year-old Irishman who lives in Riverhead, and Georgina Bloomberg, 30, the New York City mayor’s daughter, who is due to give birth on Christmas Day, had initially intended to ride the defending champion, Voyeur, in the weeklong hunter-jumper show’s biggest event, “but he was a little tired,” the winning rider was to say later, so he went instead with a 9-year-old mare, Zafira, owned by Haity and Jim McNerney.
    “It was a big step for her,” Farrington said, “and she answered the question,” with her first Grand Prix win.
    Answering a question in a press conference with the top three that followed FTI’s $250,000 class, Farrington said the fact that Zafira was a long strider proved to be advantageous in the Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge’s longer-than-usual course.
    Only the above-named and Kevin Babington and Brianne Goutal made it through the first round’s 16-effort test (two of whose double combinations, 7a and b and 3a and b, proved particularly treacherous), while three others in the field of 34 entries — Roberto Teran and Woklahoma, Catherine Pasmore and Bonanza Van Paemel, and Candice King and Kismet 50 — were prevented from doing so because of one time fault.
    Farrington took home an $82,500 first prize, though the runner-up, Moloney, who rode Slieveanorra in the Grand Prix, was right up there purse-wise given the $50,000 he won Sunday, his win aboard Carrabis Z in Saturday’s $40,000 Lon­gines Cup, and his second-place finish in Friday’s $50,000 Grand Prix qualifier on Slieveanorra. Those wins put him over the top as far as leading-rider points were concerned, vaulting him ahead of McLain Ward, who held the lead going into the Grand Prix. As a result, Moloney won the $30,000 Longines Leading Rider Challenge prize as well, finishing with 229 points to Goutal’s 177, Ward’s 169, and Farrington’s 158.5. “It’s the best week I’ve ever had in my career,” the native of Ireland said.
    It was the first time Bloomberg, a frequent competitor at the Classic who considers it her “hometown show,” and who rode Juvina on Sunday, had placed among the Grand Prix’s top three. That finish, worth $37,500, broke a spell, she later told an inquirer, for usually she fared better on days when her father, Michael Bloomberg, was not a spectator. The applause that greeted her entrance into the ring and her clean round registered highest on the meter.
    As for her pregnancy, she said, in reply to a question, “I plan to be in the gym in January, and back in the saddle in February.” She had said before the Classic began that it would be the last show for her until next year.
    The Grand Prix offered Rothchild and the two-time Olympic gold medalist Ward (a six-time Grand Prix winner here) an added opportunity to continue a quest to win a $200,000 bonus offered to the rider and horse who won grands prix at Devon, Pa., here, and in Lexington, Ky. They had won at Devon, in May, and only a tipped rail at the last fence (the 16th effort) prevented them from getting to the jump-off.
    That rail shivered when Farrington and Zafira sailed over it six trips later, but stayed up.
    Farrington now joins Rodney Jenkins, Margie Engle, Michael Matz, and Ward as back-to-back Classic Grand Prix winners. Engle competed Sunday, on Indigo, a 13-year-old Dutch warmblood stallion, but after knocking down rails at 3a and 5, and a refusal at 7a, retired.
    Among local riders who did well during the week in Bridgehampton were Stony Hill Stables’ Katarina Ammann, Grace Burns, and Dylan Murphy. Ammann, on Yes, No Maybe So, was the grand short stirrup champion in a field that comprised 111 riders. Burns, on Pocket Aces, was a short stirrup division champion, and Murphy, on Sweet William, won a blue ribbon in a children’s equitation class.
    Ammann’s grand championship was “a first for Stony Hill,” said Stony Hill’s trainer, Aisha Ali, who added that given this success and Stony Hill riders’ championships at Saugerties, N.Y., and Wel­lington in the winter equestrian festival, “We’re on fire!”
    Further on the subject of championships, Sue Marder-O’Connor and Tour Guide won the local amateur-owner division, and Stephanie Riggio and Compliment won the adult amateur-hunter 18-35 division.

Left, there were smiles all around when the Grand Prix’s top three were interviewed afterward in the Longines chalet. Right, It wasn’t a gift, but anyway. Jack Graves and Durell Godfrey Photos
Daniel Ammann, pinning ribbons on Yes, No Maybe So on Aug. 28 while his 8-year-old daughter, Katrina, looked on, was to become even prouder of her when it was announced later that the Stony Hill rider was the short stirrup division’s grand champion at the Hampton Classic. Jack Graves Photo