The 2023 Hampton Classic Drew Crowds
It may have been Labor Day Weekend for some people in the Hamptons. But for a certain horsey set, it was the Longines Grand Prix, the culmination of a week-long series of competitions. Before this there were ponies on leadlines and ponies over fences. Hunters. Jumpers. Younger riders. Two-star sanctioned competitions that would help determine who could go on to the next level.
And then there was Sunday’s five-star international Longines cup Grand Prix. At stake was $425,000 in prize money, to be divided among the top 12 finishers. The VIP tables, bought for $30,000 apiece, were filled in the Grand Prix tent. You could find Patti Scialfa, Brooke Shield, Mayor Bloomberg, Ramona Singer, Candace Bushnell. Along with other parents, horse fanciers, society types, locals, government officials, business men and women, realtors, models, celebrities, reporters, fashion-world stars, designers and hangers on.
All on a glorious day in Bridgehampton. Even among the VIP tables there were distinctions: second row; for Douglas Elliman, which sponsored some of the more extravagant competitions, ringside; and beyond that, for say guests of Longines, chalet tables.
Even among those tables there was a competition before guests arrived for best table décor. The winner, with plates depicting horse heads surrounded by carrots, was the jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth. The dinner plates were done by the ceramic artist Anthony Dominici, and are available at her website for $1,200 a piece. As a nice touch, Neuwirth was herself a competitive rider growing up, and now trains at Bridgeport farms. Jill Brooke has gorgeous photos of the best Hampton Classic table settings on her website at Flowerpowerdaily.
Irene Neuwirth at her winning table with John Bragg of Bridgeport Farms (Instagram)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was very much a presence, but his daughter was not competing in the Doings that day. Georgina Bloomberg now is the owner of the New York Empire Team, which competes on the Longines Global Champions Tour. One of the riders on her team, Spencer Smith, was riding in the Grand Prix on Tulara Colmine, They finished 26th out of 36. Georgina Bloomberg rode the horse for much of the early part of the season, in Wellington and events under the watchful eye of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.
Bloomberg’s team will compete in Rome next week before flying to New York for an international competition on Governors Island on September 22-24. Right now Empire is in 11th place, well behind the top teams from Munster, Germany and Paris, France. Georgina Bloomberg, in return for Lugano Diamonds being one of her team’s sponsors, has a new look: she is Lugano Diamonds’ first brand ambassador:
Back to the Hampton Classic. We didn’t see a lot of diamonds, but we did see hats.
And of course Patti Scialfa was there with her daughter, Jessica Springsteen, a gifted equestrian. She was a member of the US Olympic Team in 2020. And she has scored significant rides in competitions around the world. This was not going to be one of them, although she was riding the stallion Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, who was her mount for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She finished last, except for a rider who was eliminated and two who retired from the field. She had the slowest time, and 29 faults.
And yet Jessica Springsteen was all smiles. Why? Because just two weeks earlier she and Don had won the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in London. She was last today, but she and her horse were first two weeks ago.
At events ranked 5*, as this one and the London event were, members of the US Olympic Committee are on the ground, judging horses and riders, making decisions about who makes the team for the 2024 Olympics. Photographers on the course were cautioned not to get in the way of the horses and riders or the Olympic Committee members.
As was mentioned with the 2022 Hampton Classic, a great deal of time is spent by the riders walking the course, which is not revealed to them ahead of time. When they come to the Grand Prix, it is the first time they will see the order of the jumps and obstacles. That is why they are given the time to walk the course, and measure out the number of strides they will take from one obstacle to the next.
That means that guests in the tents have plenty of time for schmoozing, drinking and dining. Much more so than at the Hampton polo matches.
But eventually the actual competition did begin. If some were expecting a dual between last year’s two competitors in the jump off, the newcomer, Karl Cook on Kalinka and Daniel Bluman on Gemma W., that didn’t happen. Karl Cook and Kalinka had a lightning fast first round — 77 seconds, but 12 faults. That put them in 20th place, and out of the money.
Others had hopes for McLain Ward, who had been on the US Olympic team five times, including twice when it won the gold medal, in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. Not this time. Ward made a choice to take a leisurely 82 seconds, hoping for a clear round. But he ended up with 8 faults. That was a popular number: eight riders ended up with 8 faults, including six who landed in the money.
So it wasn’t Ward, and it wasn’t Karl Cook. It was in fact Bluman once again with a clear round. And one other rider: Adrienne Sternlicht, the 30-year-old daughter of Barry Sternlicht, top honcho of Starwood Capital.
Adrienne may be a billionaire’s daughter, and that made it possible for her to own a horse like Faquitol-S. The two of them whipped through the 40 obstacles in the first round of the competition in 79.72 seconds without knocking down a rail.
Consider that for a moment. The first 30 riders out on the course, no matter what their speed, each had one fault. A few were a second faster. Karl Cook, as noted, did it in 77.42 seconds, but with 12 faults. And then consider what these athletes were doing in a little more than a minute. They were running and jumping over rails and hedges, water obstacles, making sharp turns, sometimes leaping two jumps in a row. A total of 40 of them. That’s making a jump, leap, turn, every two seconds. Horse and rider communicating. Not falling. (Remember that a rider was paralyzed at this event in 2019, after a fall.)
Adrienne Sternlicht and Faquitol-S made it through the shortened jump-off course, but knocked down one rail. That left it to Daniel Bluman to do one thing: ride a clean round on his big bay gelding, Ladriano Z.
He did it, and shaved more than a second off of Adrienne Sternlicht’s time. His reward? Lots of points toward his overall FEI total, and $140,250 — his share of the $425,000 cup. Sternlicht got $85.000 for second place. And a surprised Luis Fernando Larrazabal of Venezuela received $63,750 for third place. He had 4 faults, and a time of 79.70 seconds — in the first round, which seemed a long time ago.
That made him the third-fastest rider with the fewest faults.
The money stretched down to Schuyler Riley on her bay gelding, Robin de Ponthual. They got a measly $4,250. A week later Riley and Robin de Ponthual won the $73,800 CSI2* Grand Prix in Traverse City, Michigan. Karl Cook — remember him? — won the $145,100 Agero CSI3* Grand Prix for the Jumper Tournament at the same horse show.
Daniel Bluman made a trailer trip up river to Saugerties where on that same Sunday, September 10, he won the $300,000 FEI Grand Prix CSI4* competition. To do that he beat the second-place finisher, McLain Ward, by less than 2/10ths of a second.
These superb athletes — both human and horse — go out week after week — around the country and around the world. Next chance to see them in New York City: September 22 on Governors Island.
— Linda Lee
Linda Lee is a former editor and writer at The New York Times