Bridgehampton, NY - August 26 - A picture-perfect day welcomed competitors to the first day of the 37th Annual Hampton Classic today, as Shane Sweetnam, of Wellington, Fla., rode Cyklon 1083 to a narrow victory in the Classic’s first jumper class, the $20,000 Nicolock Time Challenge.
Sweetnam, 31, finished the timed event (in which jumping faults were converted to time) in 67.80 seconds. Sweetnam, who was the alternate rider his native Ireland’s show jumping team for the 2012 Olympics, moved to the United States in 2004 and rides for Spy Coast Farm. Louis Larrazabal, of Venezuela, , rode G&C Leroy into second place (69.40), while Darragh Kenny of Ireland rode Cyrina Z to third place (69.51). Peter Leone was the only U.S. rider to break in to the top five, finishing fourth aboard Lincourt Gina (69.64).
“This was a tough class. It’s a pretty big-money class, and all of us up there at the top were certainly trying to win,” said Sweetnam, who also rode Esquina Van Klapsheut to fifth place (69.66 seconds) in the Nicolock Time Challenge. “It’s a great way to start the Hampton Classic.”
The highlight of the opening ceremonies was presentation of the Long Island Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a Long Island horseperson who has demonstrated excellence in sportsmanship over a long period of years. Show President Dennis Suskind presented this year’s award to Barbara Clarke.
Before moving to Amagansett, N.Y., in 1969, Clarke was a performer in a traveling equestrian act, appearing at state fairs and festivals. Her tricks included Roman riding, chariot races, and the “death drag.” In 1970 Clarke and her husband moved to Swan Creek Farm in Bridgehampton, N.Y., where they still live and where she still teaches riding. In 1976 Clarke won the sidesaddle championship at the National Horse Show in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and he’s been a member of Long Island’s Smithtown Hunt for 50 years, at one time serving as the fieldmaster.
"Barbara has made an incredible positive impact on the lives of her students, both human and equine, and she has demonstrated true excellence in sportsmanship,” said Suskind.
Earlier in the morning the main hunter ring was renamed The Anne Aspinall Ring in honor of the first recipient of the Long Island Sportsmanship Award. Anne Aspinall, a longtime member of the Hampton Classic’s Board of Directors and one of the most respected hunter/jumper trainers on Long Island, died on Feb. 16, 2012, after a long battle with cancer.
"Anne was one of the original founders of the Classic back in 1976, and she served on our board and executive committee ever since,” said Suskind. ”Our sport, and anyone who has ever enjoyed even a single day of the Classic over these last 36 years, owes Anne a tremendous debt of gratitude. She will be missed greatly."
Following the presentation of the Long Island Sportsmanship Award, the National Anthem was sung by Sofia D’Angelo, 14. In 2009 D’Angelo rode High Spirits to the children’s large pony hunter championship at the Hampton Classic, and now she sings, plays the piano and guitar, and writes her own songs.
The 37th annual Hampton Classic Horse Show runs through Sunday, September 2 and features world-class show jumping competition, as well as magnificent shopping and a variety of entertainment attractions. The Classic features six show rings with more than 100 classes of competition for horses and riders of all ages. A wide range of jumper, hunter, equitation, short stirrup and leadline classes are all part of the Classic’s schedule, as well as competitions for riders with disabilities.
The highlight of the Hampton Classic is the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup™ Qualifier on Sunday, September 2. The Grand Prix, open to horses that successfully complete Friday's $50,000 Spy Coast Farm/Young Horse Show Series Grand Prix Qualifier, features Olympians, World Champions and other show jumping veterans, such as defending champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward. This year, the Grand Prix is part of the new Taylor Harris Triple Crown Challenge which awards a $200,000 bonus should the same horse-and-rider combination win the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon, $250,000 FTI Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic, and $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix at the Alltech National Horse Show. Ward won the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon on Antares F in May and now stands to win the $200,000 bonus should he ride Antares F to wins in the remaining two events in the Taylor Harris Triple Crown Challenge.
For those who can’t make it to the show grounds, WVVH-TV, the official Long Island television station of the Hampton Classic, broadcasts up to five hours of competition and highlights each day during the Classic. These broadcasts can also be seen on line at www.wvvh.tv.
All classes held in the Grand Prix Ring will also be available live throughout the horse show on webcasts provided by ShowNet. Access to this pay-per-view stream may be found on the Hampton Classic website at www.HamptonClassic.com, or via ShowNet membership at www.ShowNet.biz. In addition, most of the Classic’s jumper and hunter classes from all other rings will also be available, many live, through ShowNet at www.ShowNet.biz.
Two additional outlets, the USEF Network.com, Presented by SmartPak, and HRTV, The Network for Horse Sports, will both offer free live webcasts of the Classic’s featured event, the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup™ Qualifier on Sunday, September 2 starting at 2:00 p.m. EDT. These free live webcasts are available at www.USEFNetwork.com and http://www.hrtv.com/.
Photo: Shane Sweetnam on Cyklon 1083. ESI Photo.