Bridgehampton, NY - Olympic gold medalist Leslie Howard, of Darien, CT, rode Jeans Glove Varnel to victory in the $15,000 Speed Derby amidst the gray clouds and sporadic downpours, Friday morning at the Hampton Classic Horse Show.
The threat of Hurricane Earl kept the attendance to a minimum with only 18 deciding to participate. David Tromp was the first to go on Renoir Du Buisson, owned by Beyaert Farm. They had a clear round in a time of 84.705 seconds and set the standard for the class. The next few did not fare too well, but Callie Schott and Coral Reef Ambassador, owned by Coral Reef Ranch, edged out Tromp to become the new leader with a time of 84.065. It looked like Schott had the class won until Howard came in to ride. Jean's Glove Varnel did not miss a step negotiating the course in 79.239 seconds.
"Actually, she's a very sure footed horse and I don't think she slipped once," said Howard. "I'm sure there were horses that slipped, but she's pretty quick on her feet, so for me it wasn't a problem."
Howard was one of only four that went without incurring any jumping faults. Shane Sweetnam and Tangelo Z, owned by Spy Coast Farm, actually went faster than Howard, stopping the clock at 78.460 seconds, but they incurred eight jumping faults. Due to the rules of the speed class where faults are converted to time penalties, Sweetnam and Tangelo Z ended up with a score of 86.460 and fifth place. Howard's stayed on top of the leader board. Schott and Coral Reef Ambassador were second; Tromp and Renoir Du Buisson were third.
Because of the anticipated effects of Hurricane Earl, the staff at the Hampton Classic made several changes to the schedule in the interest of safety. As a result, the Grand Prix ring was finished before noon and the rest of the rings shortly thereafter. The majority of the horses left the show grounds on Thursday evening and others left on Friday. Some went home and others to neighboring farms that opened their barn doors to out-of-town horses. Some did choose to remain.
The Hampton Classic Horse Show is one of the most prestigious horse shows in the nation and features competitors at every level from young children in leadline to Olympic veterans. The Classic continues through Sunday when it culminates with the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and FEI World Cup Qualifier.
For those who can't make it to the show grounds, WVVH-TV, the official Long Island television station of the Hampton Classic, is broadcasting up to five hours of competition and highlights each day during the Classic. These broadcasts can also be seen online at www.wvvh.tv.
Hampton Classic Horse Show, Inc. is a 501.c.3 charitable corporation. It benefits Southampton Hospital and has contributed more than $1.5 million to the hospital since it began. For more information on the Hampton Classic Horse Show, please visit the Hampton Classic website at www.hamptonclassic.com or call (631) 537-3177.
Photo: Leslie Howard and Jeans Glove Varnel taken earlier this year by Randi Muster.