Karen Polle and her long-time partner, With Wings, topped a star-studded field in the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, Presented by Longines, to take the biggest prize at the 40th Annual Hampton Classic.
Polle, 23, who lives in New York City and rides for Japan, was one of only four entries to reach the jump-off and she completed it fault-free in 47.96 seconds to claim the win. Todd Minikus, of Wellington, Fla., took second place on Babalou 41 (4 faults/43.89 seconds), Chris Sorensen of Canada took third on Bobby (4 faults/46.23 seconds), and Meagan Nusz, of The Woodlands, Texas, took fourth on Dynamo (8 faults/47.58 seconds).
“This is definitely the biggest win in my career, and I can’t believe it,” Polle said. “I can’t believe I won the Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic!”
Minikus, who actually trained Polle for a season, said, “She’s always been a very good rider. And With Wings is a very special horse-they’re a great match. Japan is lucky to have her. The one thing that she forgot, though, is that when you’re in the jump-off, you have to let the old guy win. So today she wasn’t the best of students!”
Polle, who’s entering her senior year at Yale University, claimed her Japanese citizenship in 2014. She’s hoping to qualify for the Japanese Olympic team in 2016 and when Japan hosts the Olympics in 2020.
The three top-placed riders each received a Longines timepiece. Sorensen, who earlier in the week won the award from the Classic and Equis Boutique for Best Turned-Out Horse and Presenter at the FEI jog, told Juan-Carlos Capelli, Longines Vice President and Head of International Marketing, “Thank you for the watch, because I’ve been trying to get one of these for a long time. I’ve been close but not quite done it.”
Course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil explained that he intended to create a challenging course, with so much prize money at stake and a field that included half a dozen Olympic riders and four previous winners. “This is a proven international event,” he said.
“It’s always a long grand prix course here, and I always try to incorporate the double of liverpools and the open water, because you don’t see those very often and they are part of our tradition,” said Jorge, who’ll be designing the show jumping courses for the 2016 Olympics. “It takes a special horse.”
Capelli presented a fourth Longines timepiece, and a $30,000 check, to dans of Ireland, winner of the Longines Leading Rider Challenge. Sweetnam was the only rider who scored points in all 10 of the week’s open jumper classes, winning two of them. Sweetnam’s total of 355 points easily outdistanced Minikus (170) and Paul O’Shea (165).
“This award is a great thing for the riders, because we don’t often get this at a show. So I started from the first of the week to push for it,” said Sweetnam, who competes for his native Ireland but lives in Wellington, Fla.