Ah, the Hamptons. Weekend home to elite city-dwellers just trying to take a breath, Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa, and, of course, the most fabulous end-of-summer party for equestrians everywhere: The Hampton Classic.
The annual tradition, which takes place over Labor Day weekend and signifies the end of the summer season, is anything but short on pomp and circumstance. With perfectly maintained grass rings and stiff competition, including a leadline class judged by Olympian Joe Fargis, the Hampton Classic is a can't miss event for riders from around the world.
Photo by Kiley Bates
Sure, the shopping is fantastic and the VIP areas top-notch (although those should not be overlooked), but that's not what draws big names like Beezie Madden, Georgina Bloomberg, Shane Sweetnam, and McLain Ward.
The Hampton Classic appeals to professional riders for one major reason: the unique Longines Riders Challenge, which awards a $30,000 cash prize to the rider who accumulates the most points in the nine open jumper classes occurring over the course of the show.
It was Shane Sweetnam who hit the jackpot last week, winning the $75,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier, the $70,000 Longines Cup, and finishing second in the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix CSI4*.
Photo by Shawn McMillen
"I like coming to the Hampton Classic because it's one of the biggest and most prestigious Grand Prix of the year," said the Irishman. "The atmosphere is always great, big crowds, and the rider's bonus is a great incentive for us to push ourselves to try to win."
For New Yorker Georgina Bloomberg, the Hampton Classic feels like a homecoming of sorts. "I like performing in front of a crowd and [the Hampton Classic] is one of the best for that," says Georgina, who won the Boars Head Jumper Challenge aboard Paola 233. "The show draws a big crowd of people who have never been to a horse show or make the Hampton Classic their one show of the year."
Photo by Victor Cangro
Like Georgina, Kelli Cruciotti appreciates the New York tradition. "The Hampton Classic always holds a special place in our schedule," says Kelli, who won the Jaguar 1.40m jumper class aboard Grandy De Laubry. "It is a show we look forward to every year. It really is a special place to end the summer!"
Photo by Shawn McMillen
Though it is a perfect way to say sayonara to the warmer months, the Hampton Classic also served a special purpose this year: for many top athletes like Shane, it was the last stop in their show schedule before they head to Tryon for the World Equestrian Games next week.
Now that it's over, it's time to pack up our swimsuits, head back to the Big Apple, and prepare to hunker down for winter. To the Hamptons: we'll see you in a New York minute.
Feature photo by Shawn McMillen