The last week before Labor Day in the Hamptons marks the unofficial end of summer with one of the year’s most prestigious and exciting events. The 42nd Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show returns to Bridgehampton, featuring some of the country’s top riders in events spanning eight days. With six show rings, a Boutique Garden with more than 70 vendors, diverse dining options, not to mention some of the most stunning and popular horses in the equestrian circuit, there’s much to be enjoyed at this year’s Classic.
“Whether you are a rider or spectator, there is something for everyone at the Hampton Classic Horse Show,” said Shanette Barth Cohen, the horse show’s Executive Director. “Our world-class venue draws the best horses and riders, including Olympians, from across the nation and around the world to compete for coveted titles and top prize money. Everyone can enjoy world-class competition, high-end shopping boutiques and gourmet cuisine in one location. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Throughout the week, spectators will have the opportunity to watch top riders and horses compete in more than 200 classes for riders of all ages and abilities. Hunter, jumper, and equitation classes are offered from leadline classes all the way to the grand finale that is the grand prix show jumping competition. The Hampton Classic also offers competitions for riders with disabilities.
The history of the Hampton Classic spans more than 75 years. When first organized in the early 1900s, the show, known as the annual Horse Show in Southampton, took place in the fields overlooking Lake Agawam. There were several dormant phases in the Show’s history with the first and second World Wars, and revivals here and there making the show a Hamptons social event with high society members often in attendance.
When in the 1960’s and 70’s horse shows began to become more competitive with show jumping growing in popularity and riding itself a sophisticated sport, it was suggested by Marie-Christophe de Menil in 1976 that the Hampton Classic revamp itself to go from a local show to an “A” rated event in an effort to attract the top riders and horses in the country. A year later, the Hampton Classic formally incorporated the Southampton Horse Show.
The Hampton Classic has continued to evolve over the years, and has become one of the most prestigious competition shows in the country. Presently located at Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton, the event is expected to draw riders and spectators from near and far, and local Hamptonites who enjoy one of the summer’s last and biggest events of the season.
There are several riders fans will surely be watching on the edge of their seats this year during the Grand Prix finale. McLain Ward, who has won several Hampton Classic Grand Prix competitions, some in consecutive years, will be returning again. The gold medal Olympian from Brewster, New York got his start at a young age. At 14, he was the youngest rider to win the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Show Jumping Derby and the USET Medal Finals, and also made his Grand Prix debut that year. Now a seasoned veteran of horse shows and the Classic itself, attendees are looking forward to watching him compete.
Irish-born rider Kevin Babington from Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania won the Hampton Classic Grand Prix in 2014. After moving to the United States, Mr. Babington earned the leading rider title at the National Horse Show in New York. For several years he rode sport horse Carling King, by the legendary Clover Hill, garnering several international wins. Spectators will be eager to see how the winning rider performs this year.
Another name Hampton Classic fans get excited about is Georgina Bloomberg. She got her first Hampton Classic win at the age of 12 as the Grand Champion in the pony hunter class. The daughter of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only a competitor to watch at this year’s Hampton Classic, but also a philanthropist and author with a successful series of young adult equestrian themed novels. Her love for horses extends even further as she sits on the board of the Hampton Classic.
After successfully introducing the Jump for Charity at least year’s Classic, the event will return again to feature select riders to ride for charities chosen by Hampton Classic staff in the $86,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier by Longines. These riders include Georgina Bloomberg and McLain Ward among others.
“It is truly an honor to be a part of this effort and try to raise money for a local charity that aids the community on a daily basis. It will definitely motivate me when I enter the ring that Friday, but whether or not I succeed in earning the prize for my charity, I will feel proud to have helped this worthwhile effort,” said two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and six-time Hampton Classic Grand Prix Champion McLain Ward.
Charities include the Center for Therapeutic Riding of the East End, Equestrian Aid Foundation, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, and Team Fox, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
“It’s tradition for The Hampton Classic to give back to the community and this year we are really excited to continue the Jump for Charity program we initiated last year,” said Ms. Cohen. “This will not only raise money for charities, but also generate an even greater amount of excitement around one of our featured classes. We are especially grateful for Sea Shore Stables’ sponsorship of this program.”
Attendees will also have a chance to enjoy additional offerings spread across the showground’s 60 acres, including the Boutique Garden featuring the finest wares from around the world. Shopping at the Hampton Classic is somewhat of an event itself, with Hamptons vendors this year including artist Phillip Michaels, fashion designer Carina Hildebrandt, East End Foodies Inc., Gretchen Scott Designs, Marders, The Styleliner by Joey Wölffer, and more.
Several mouth-watering food vendors will also be in attendance, offering dishes like Thai and Asian specialties from Boa Thai Asian Fusion, Greek fare from G&L Gyro Corp, and seafood servings from Noah’s on the Road, among others.
Among those who have attended the Classic in recent years are Matt Lauer, Jerry Seinfeld, Kelly Ripa, Sofia Vergara, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, Julianne Moore, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Brooke Shields, and Jennifer Lopez.
The Hampton Classic, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, opens on Sunday, August 27 and runs through Sunday, September 3. For those who can’t make it to the showgrounds, you can watch the excitement live with complimentary live webcasts online. Visit hamptonclassic.com for more information.