Riders of all ages and ability levels who compete at the Hampton Classic often have the same expression when they’re in the ring — features fixed in deep concentration, a stern game face on as they engage in the kind of mental and physical focus riding a horse over a series of jumps requires.
That look often remains even after their turn is over; at a show where the competition is top notch, even a seemingly flawless round can leave plenty of riders empty-handed, outside of the top 10 who walk out of the ring with a silky ribbon affixed to their horse’s bridle.
There was still plenty of that on Opening Day at the Hampton Classic on Sunday, but more than a few riders also seemed to be having a lot of fun, some clearly smiling even as they were flying over jumps, others sharing a laugh with a trainer or fellow exhibitor in the schooling rings.
Being back at a show that many riders will easily declare as their favorite of the year was likely the cause for high spirits. The Classic welcomed back exhibitors to its showgrounds on Sunday for the first time since 2019, after a year hiatus due to COVID, and it seemed to be a triumphant return, even for riders who were not lucky enough to walk away with a blue or tri-color championship ribbon.
Of course, for those who did, it was even more special. Opening Day is also known as Locals Day, with the majority of classes geared specifically for riders who live on Long Island or stable their horse at a barn in either Nassau or Suffolk County for at least 75 days out of the year. It was a great day for Adriana Forte of Water Mill. She won the local junior hunter division, sponsored by Miller and Associates, with her horse, Memorable, and also claimed the Grand Local Hunter Championship by earning the most points in all the local hunter divisions. Memorable is owned by First Blue LLC, based in Bridgehampton, and Forte trains with Jenna Weinfurt of First Blue LLC. Forte earned the South Fork Perpetual Trophy for her efforts.
Justine Ryan of East Hampton was champion in the amateur-owner hunter division, sponsored by Health Rover, aboard Monalisa, owned by Lisa Ryan. Justine trains at Wölffer Estate Stables in Sagaponack. In the local hunter non-pro division, Brett Lieb — a Southampton native who now calls Wellington, Florida, home — was champion aboard Goodman, owned by Bridgehampton barn Twin Oaks Stables, where Lieb trains with Kate O’Donnell.
Brooke Chasin of Huntington took the blue, red, and yellow tri-color in the local hunter pro division, sponsored by the East Hampton Star, with Jalisco, owned by Erin Brody, also earning the Eddie Horowitz Memorial Trophy, sponsored by North Shore Equestrian Center. Chasin and Jalisco were champion in Section B of the pro division, while Molly Sewell of Wellington rode Ellin Berman’s Einstein to the champion ribbon in Section B. Laura Bowery, who operates Sea Aire Farm in Bridgehampton, was reserve champion in both sections
The youngest riders were on display in the Grand Prix ring in the morning in the leadline class. In the 2 to 4 age group, Piper Goldberg of Dix Hills and Caramel and Cookies, Blue’s Clues and Mia Dubin of Brooklyn, and Eliza Strong of East Quogue and Q-2 were class winners. In the 5 to 7 age group, Nadia Vanessa Almansa of Hampton Bays and Oopsie Daisy, Charlie McCabe of Brooklyn with Sunny Side, and Emilie Good of Laurel Hollow and Tinkerbell were class winners.