Summer in the Hamptons officially ended last Sunday with the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show.
Here, at one in the afternoon, some of the finest horses and riders in the world competed in the climax of the horse show, the $300,000 Grand Prix jumping event. Many attendees, particularly the women, arrived in fabulous finery for the occasion—big hats and low-cut gowns—as they strolled up and down the corridor in the main VIP tent, meeting and greeting friends. But the real event was in the arena. It was more about seeing and being seen than watching a show.
For others, however, it’s a sport. And so here is what happened that day from that perspective.
I was seated at the Dan’s Papers table behind the low arena wall, just 10 feet from Jump 7. This gave me a breathtaking view of the riders urging their 800-pound steeds in their lunges over the jump. Riders would speak softly to their horses, gently adjust the reins, and urge them on. The two are one for these brief efforts.
This year, the favorite was McLain Ward, a U.S. Olympic rider and his steed HH Callas. He has won this event six times in the last 20 years, more than any other participant. A local favorite was Georgina Bloomberg, the equestrian daughter of the former Mayor of New York. Her father was there to watch, as he generally is when she competes.
Thirty-two entries would compete. McLain Ward would be 10th to ride. Georgina Bloomberg 14th.
Before the event, each rider walked the course to size up these jumps. Most concluded that the course, designed by Alan Wade, was fair and possibly easy. Perhaps eight or nine entries would complete the course in the appropriate time without a “fault,” to advance to the jump-off. But then the wind came up. It would be harder in one direction and easier in another. This made it much more difficult.
As it turned out, only three entries completed it clean. They were McLain Ward aboard HH Callas, Brianne Goutal aboard Nice de Prissey—both representing the United States—and Daniel Bluman aboard Ladriano Z, representing Israel.
Only half as many jumps were set up for the jump-off. And the time frame required was shortened.
Brianne Goutal went off first and took her time. About halfway through, her horse, Nice de Prissey, kicked off a railing. A fault. She completed the course in 46.18 seconds.
McLain Ward decided to press his horse to a faster pace. It would be something of a gamble, but the rider after him, Daniel Bluman, had had a sensational week, taking two first-place trophies in other events. For Bluman to win a third would be remarkable. McLain could think of only one way to beat him. Try to do it clean and so fast that Bluman would be pressed to rush. Rushing could lead to a mistake, and that would be it. McLean did his very best. He raced through all the jumps clean until he had just 20 yards and two jumps to go. HH Callas kicked down the top rails on both of them. The entry’s fast time of 44.10 was now irrelevant.
The crowd quieted down for the last of the jumpers. If he could ride it clean, he would win.
Bluman came out aboard Ladriano Z very slowly with a high step. He knew what he had to do. As he began through the course leisurely, without incident, the people began to urge him on. He did it. And that gave him a Triple Win. For Daniel Bluman, Ladriano Z, owner Alexa Schwitzer of Muttontown, New York, and for Israel, that was a triumph.
The crowd began talking excitedly, the prizes were awarded out on the grass and the photographers took their pictures. And then everyone headed for their cars. Summer was truly over.