Kevin Babington of Ireland, riding 9-year-old Hanoverian mare Shorapur, earned the fastest fault-free jump-off time (39.16 seconds) and claimed the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix title (presented by Land Rover) in an exciting climax to the 39th Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show on Sunday, August 31.
The Hampton Classic ran from August 24-31, offering competition in six rings for more than 1,500 horses. The Hampton Classic Grand Prix was an FEI-sanctioned qualifying event for the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April.
Brianne Goutal of New York City rode Nice De Prissey 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 was the only other rider to reach the jump-off and he guided Whitney to fourth place with 8 faults in 38.58 seconds.
Moloney’s third-place finish put him on top in the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge for the second consecutive year, earning 300 points from the week’s 10 open jumper classes. Fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny had held the lead with 283 points before leaving the Classic on Saturday night to join the Irish team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France; his total through Saturday held up for the runner-up spot with Quintana finishing third and Shane Sweetnam of Ireland taking fourth.
“It was nice to go into the jump-off knowing that I’d done it already,” Moloney said. “I had a great week, and winning the Longines award was a great way to finish it off.”
Guilherme Jorge of Brazil designed all the courses in the Grand Prix Ring, and the track he set for the Grand Prix 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, with challenges worthy of a $250,000 World Cup qualifier,” he said. “I was happy that the faults were spread out over the course.”
Moloney led off the jump-off round in front of the 15,000 fans surrounding the Grand Prix Ring. He said that Freestyle De Muze, 10, is relatively inexperienced at this level 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 that with only four in the jump-off, 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-to-last fence, the Longines oxer.
Quintana’s plan was clearly to better Moloney’s time, and he did it easily, but with two rails, leaving the door wide open for Babington.
“I had planned to go medium fast, even before I watched Richie and Ramiro go,” said Babington. “It was a careful jump-off-you had to jump all the jumps before you worried about your speed. But she’s a naturally fast mare, so I can have a fast time without even trying.”
Goutal, 25, said that she “didn’t want to go crazy fast, but I think I played it a little too safe.”
Kenny Wins $40,000 Longines Cup
The Hampton Classic also offered FEI-sanctioned grand prix events on Saturday (the $40,000 Longines Cup, presented by the Crown Family) and on Friday (the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix, presented by Longines).
Kenny was victorious in the $40,000 Longines Cup after he galloped Picolo to the fastest fault-free ride in the jump-off (40.32 seconds). Quintana, riding Versus, had taken the lead at the start of the jump-off with a clean ride in 41.73 seconds and his lead held until the last ride of the day. Lillie Keenan, of New York City, finished third with a clean ride in 42.53 seconds on Balance.
Kenny accepted a Longines Conquest Sport Timepiece from Juan-Carlos Capelli, Longines vice president, head of international marketing. “I’m especially glad I won this class, because I’ve always wanted a Longines watch,” he said. “I’m very glad to be riding for Ireland in my first World Championship, but I didn’t want to miss this show, because this is a very important show to me. I’ve been aiming for this class especially with Picolo, because he’s been coming up to it perfectly. I thought all week that he was capable of winning it if I could set him up right.”
Setting him up for the Longines Cup included winning the $20,000 Hampton Classic Jumper Challenge on Tuesday.