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Hampton Classic Final Had a Familial Ring

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 17:05

Kevin Babington’s severe fall Friday hangs over competition

Mario Deslauriers, on Bardolina 2 above, won Sunday’s Hampton Classic Grand Prix for the first time in 15 tries, besting his 20-year-old daughter, Lucy, on Hester, and Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue in a jump-off.
Durell Godfrey

Perhaps it was a sign of good things to come when Mario Deslauriers and his 20-year-old daughter, Lucy, tested the completely redone two-acre grass Hampton Classic Grand Prix’s ring earlier this summer and pronounced the footing to be very good indeed.

For it was the Deslauriers who wound up going head to head in Sunday’s $300,000 Doha Inc. Grand Prix jump-off, along with Devin Ryan. They were the only ones to enjoy fault-free trips among the 39 horse-and-rider combinations who vied in the Grand Prix’s first round.

It was a particularly tough course of 14 efforts, a fitting one, its designer, Michel Vaillancourt, was to say afterward, for a four-star competition, a test from which only the best horses and riders would emerge.

The Deslauriers, father and daughter, have gone head to head in jump-offs before, trading wins. It was his turn this time. Jack Graves

McLain Ward, a seven-time Grand Prix winner here, fell a bit short, with one knockdown and one time fault, as did Georgina Bloomberg, another crowd favorite, with one fault as she and Chameur 137 passed through the triple in front of the V.I.P. tent.

During the riders’ walkthrough before the 1:30 p.m. start, Peter Leone, who was the first to go that day, said that “it’s one of the toughest courses we’ve seen in a long time.” Of the verticals, more were 5 feet 3 inches high than were not, he said. The triple (a vertical followed by two oxers), he said, came up very soon, posing striding questions, and there were, moreover, “spooky questions” at the end of the course too.

Dana Trotter and Balou’s Boy finished fifth, seventh, and seventh in the Classic’s Adult Amateur Jumper division, which attracted 73 competitors. Marianne Barnett

It was the first time in the weeklong show, Leone said, that any of the riders had seen a water jump, a wall (the 11th effort), and a double Liverpool (two successive fences with water underneath the rails, the 12th effort).

Leone agreed when told Bloomberg had said the horses would be tired at the end of the course, and thus would be, he said, “flat . . . strung out” by the time they tried to scale the penultimate Doha Inc. vertical and the Longines oxer at the finish.

As Bloomberg had predicted, there were more knockdowns at the penultimate Doha vertical — 14 by one count — than anywhere else on the course, and, moreover, there were eight knockdowns at the final effort, the Longines oxer, tying it with the triple as second-most troublesome.

The jump-off was pared down to eight efforts, and Ryan, on Eddie Blue, went first, dropping a rail on the second fence. Mario Deslauriers, on Bardolina 2, went clean, for the second time that afternoon, in 42.82 seconds, putting pressure on his daughter and Hester, the last to go.

And go they did, zipping around the course faultlessly — until tipping the first rail over at the last jump. Later, Lucy Deslauriers, who is soon to enter her sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania, said she and Hester had gone into that last fence too quickly. A little slower — their time was 39.60 — and they probably would have won.

She and her father compete against each other frequently, and have gone head to head in jump-offs “a couple of times in the past,” trading wins.

For his win, Mario Deslauriers received a $99,000 check, and Lucy received one in the amount of $60,000. They each received Longines watches as well, and jeroboam-size bottles of Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel wine. A press release on the competition said that “she had to ask her mom to carry her wine — she’s not old enough to drink yet.”

When asked at the press conference by the Classic’s publicist, Marty Bauman, whom he was rooting for, Mario Deslauriers, a native of Canada who had never won the Grand Prix in 15 tries, by his estimate, said, with a smile, “Well, she won [the Grand Prix Qualifier] on Friday. . . .”

When Lucy’s mother, Lisa Tarnopol Deslauriers, who owns her daughter’s horse (and who is the chairwoman of the Classic’s board), was asked the same question as the press conference was nearing its end, she, a former Grand Prix rider herself, said, “I root for safe.”

Celebration, with Phoebe Topping of Swan Creek Farms above, was reserve champion in the Small Junior Hunter division. Celebration’s owner is Yvetta Rechler-Newman. Durell Godfrey

In saying so, she was alluding in particular to a severe fall Kevin Babington, an Irish rider — one of the circuit’s nicest and most popular ones, according to Shanette Barth Cohen, the weeklong show’s executive director — had suffered during Friday’s Grand Prix qualifier.

On Monday, Barth Cohen reported that Babington, who in 2007 became one of the first JustWorld International ambassadors, agreeing to donate some of his prize winnings to better the lives of children in countries where JustWorld worked, was to undergo surgery on his neck at N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center in New York City Tuesday.

Babington’s wife, Dianna, has been posting messages on Facebook, one of which was read to the Classic’s crowd. In it, she said her husband had suffered “a spinal cord injury in his neck. . . . It is too early at this time to know anything for certain. . . . Please know that at my lowest moments, the messages of love and support are carrying me through this. Thank you, and please keep visualizing Kevin as you always knew him. I believe in positive energy.”

The Facebook page is open to the public, and reportedly donations toward Babington’s medical bills can be made through it.

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