As has been true for the last several years, Scott Stewart was the man to beat in the Anne Aspinall Ring, home of the hunters at the 40th annual Hampton Classic. Horses he rode or trained won two championships and three reserve championships.
The 2015 Hampton Classic professional hunter champions were:
Huntland First Year Green: champion-Mirror Image/Amanda Steege; reserve-Catch Me/Scott Stewart.
Second Year Green: champion-Zaretina/Jamie Taylor; reserve: Casimir/Jennifer Bauersachs.
Green Conformation: champion-Wisdom/Amanda Derbyshire; reserve-First Light/Scott Stewart.
High Performance Hunter: champion-Cleaveland/Jennifer Bauersachs; reserve—A Million Reasons/Scott Stewart.
Regular Conformation: champion-Lucador/Scott Stewart; Lucretia/Taylor Adams.
“The Hampton Classic is always a great show to come to, and the horses went great out there,” said Stewart, of Wellington, Fla.
Stewart said the reason his horses perform so well at the Hampton Classic is simple: “We don’t get to jump on the grass more than one or two other times during the year, so the horses are really interested in this environment, and it shows in the way that they jump here.”
He added, “When the weather is good, like it is today, they always jump the best on natural grass footing. There were some really good scores this week-probably the best scores we’ve had for this year. I got a 95 on Lucador, and there have been a bunch of horses in the 90s–and that doesn’t happen every week.”
Stewart also credited hunter course designer Phil De Vita for designing courses that allow horses to show off their stride and their scope. “Here you have to ride more forward because he makes the oxers wider than usual, so you have to come at them a bit more. You have to have momentum,” he said.
Dr. Betsee Parker’s Lucador, 7, won the green conformation championship in 2014, “but the 95 he got today was the best he’s ever gone,” said Stewart. “He’s brave and he’s scopey, so he really rises to the occasion in this kind of environment.”
Rivers Edge’s Wisdom, who Stewart trains but handed over the reins to Derbyshire so he could ride First Light, is 7 and has been with Stewart since he was 3. “He used to be a little bit quirky. He’s always gone well at the shows, but at home he can be a little bit opinionated. He’s a real showman, though. I was really happy with him. He was pretty much all business here.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Samantha Karp rode Zentina B to the blue ribbon in the $2,500 Marshall & Sterling Children’s, 15-17, Hunter Classic. Karp, 18, of Wellington, Fla., bought Zentina, a warmblood mare, last November to be her first jumper. But after a few weeks, Karp decided she didn’t like riding jumpers; she wanted to stick to hunters.
“So we decided to try her in the children’s hunters, with my other horse, so that I wouldn’t have to sell her,” Karp said.
Fortunately, Zentina took to being a hunter like a fish takes to water–she won the children’s hunter championship at her first show and then was the reserve circuit champion at Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival.
Karp thinks that Zentina excelled immediately because “she tries so hard. Everything she does, she gives you 110 percent. The second she steps in the ring, it’s game on for her.”
Karp also believes that showing as a hunter is less stressful for both horse and rider. “This is what I love to do, so I think it was easier for me to try to work with her at something that I love, rather than me trying to learn something I didn’t really like,” Karp said. “But we’ve really developed a good partnership in doing the hunters together, because I’ve been able to teach her what I know, and she’s been teaching me what she knows. It’s made me more confident.”
Zentina used her jumper background to propel her to the top of the Children’s Hunter Classic. The regular children’s hunter classes were held in Hunter Ring 2, but the classic moved to the much larger Anne Aspinall Ring.
“So the jumps were pretty spooky for a children’s hunter rider. We don’t get to have much experience being in a ring that huge with jumps that impressive, but with my horse, when there’s something challenging, it only makes her work harder,” said Karp. “When Tina walked in there, it just made her work even harder. And she just jumped everything a little higher and showed what she was made of.”
Karp had never ridden at the Hampton Classic before. “I love it. I love the big rings. I love the grass, and the courses were great,” she said. “And I really like the feeling you get at this show. Everyone seems so happy to be here. I’ve been wanting to come here for a long time.”
Emily Sun, of Scarsdale, rode her own Balthazar to win the $2,500 Marshall & Sterling Children’s, 14 and Under, Hunter Classic. Like Karp, Sun, a 10th grader at Scarsdale High School, trains at Heritage Farm.
Sun has only owned Balthazar, 16, for about three months, and she was excited by his performance in the grass-covered Hunter Ring 2. “He really showed himself off this time,” she said. “I didn’t know he could jump so well! That ring really made him kick up his heels.”
Sun added, “But he’s always a really good boy. He was just really great in the classic.”
Sun showed for the first time at the Hampton Classic in 2014, but she said she didn’t win any ribbons. The difference, she said, is Balthazar. “He’s made me a lot more confident. He never does anything bad,” she said.