Bridgehampton, NY, Aug. 31, 2014 - Kevin Babington of Ireland guided the young mare Shorapur to the fastest fault-free jump-off time (39.16 seconds) to claim the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, presented by Land Rover, in an exciting climax to the 39th Annual Hampton Classic.
Brianne Goutal of New York City rode Nice De Prissy to second place (0 faults/40.34 seconds), and Richie Moloney of Ireland rode Freestyle De Muze to third place, with 4 faults in 44.26 seconds. Ramiro Quintana of Argentina guided Whitney to fourth place, with 8 faults in 38.58 seconds.
The Hampton Classic Grand Prix was an FEI-sanctioned qualifier for the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April.
Richie Moloney's third-placed finish was more than enough to put him on top in the $30,000 Longines Leading Rider Challenge for the second consecutive year, earning 300 points from the week's 10 open jumper classes. Fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny held on to the runner-up spot with 283 points, even though he left on Saturday night for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France. Quintana finished third (195) and Shane Sweetnam of Ireland finished fourth (177.5).
"It was nice to go into the jump-off and know that I'd done it already. I had a great week, and winning the Longines award was a great way to finish it off," said Moloney, of Wellington, FL.
Kevin Babington's day ended better than it started: As the first rider in the ring at 8:00 a.m. for the 7/8-Year-Old Jumper Championships, he fell in the water jump. Since he was completely soaked, he had to wear his back-up jacket for the grand prix, the one missing the lowest front button. "Maybe I should start wearing this jacket for good luck," he quipped.
Guilherme Jorge's course proved considerably challenging to the 33 riders from five nations who attempted it. Jorge agreed with the three winners' evaluation that the second half of the course was especially demanding. "It was certainly a long course, but I was very happy that the faults were spread out all over the course," he said.
Moloney led off the jump-off round in front of the 15,000 fans who surrounded the Grand Prix Ring, sitting in the grandstands, the VIP tents and the corporate chalets. He said that Freestyle De Muze, 10, is relatively inexperienced at this level of competition and isn't a fast horse. Plus, he knew before the class that he only had to finish fourth to win the Longines Award, meaning he was guaranteed of that prize, even if he was the slowest rider.
So he approached the shortened course conservatively. Freestyle De Muze knocked down only the second-last fence, the Longines oxer.
Quintana's plan was clearly to better Moloney's time, and he did it easily, but at the cost of two rails. That left the door wide open for Babington. "I had planned to go medium fast, even before I watched Richie and Ramiro go," said Babington, who lives in Gwynedd Valley, Pa. "It was a careful jump-off-you had to jump all the jumps before you worried about your speed. But she's naturally a very fast mare, so I can have a fast time without even trying."
Goutal, 25, who has dual U.S. and French citizenship, said that she "didn't want to go crazy fast, but I think I played it a little too safe."
Babington said that this was the first 1.6-meter grand prix for Shorapur, 9, and that he'd only decided to enter her, instead of another horse, after she'd done a $10,000 class in the Grand Prix Ring on Friday. "I thought she felt a little too brave over those smaller jumps and that it was time to move her up," he said.
For 30 years, the Hampton Classic benefited from the guidance of equestrian manager Steve Stephens. Earlier this year, Stephens announced his retirement from the Hampton Classic, and he was honored by the show's staff in a center-ring ceremony before the start of the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix.
After a successful career as a grand prix rider, Stephens established himself as one of the leading course designers in the world. He was also the proprietor of Stephens Equestrian Designs, specializing in the design and manufacture of jumps for competition. All the jumps in the Grand Prix Ring, featuring many of the show's sponsors, were designed and built by Stephens Equestrian Designs.
In addition to managing the Hampton Classic, Stephens served as manager of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the National Horse Show. But it was because of Stephens that the Hampton Classic has achieved its position as one of the premier horse shows in the world.
In 2013, the USHJA honored Stephens with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and earlier this year, he was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.
The Hampton Classic, which ran Aug. 24-31, features six show rings, a Boutique Garden with more than 70 vendors, and a wide selection of dining options, on its 60-acre show grounds. The Classic's world-class equestrian competition attracts many of the nation's top professional and amateur riders including Olympic medalists.
Further information on the Hampton Classic Horse Show is available at the Hampton Classic website at www.hamptonclassic.com or by calling 631-537-3177. Hampton Classic Horse Show, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation.