Fantast was fantastic to open the 44thannual Hampton Classic Horse Show, taking Adrienne Sternlicht to top spot in the $30,000 Land Rover Jumper Challenge presented by Jaguar, Sunday afternoon. They bested fellow American Molly Ashe-Cawley and Berdien by a mere four one-thousandths of a second, stopping the clock in 63.661 seconds to Cawley’s 63.665.
Adrienne Sternlicht and Fantast, winners of the $30,000 Land Rover Jumper Challenge presented by Jaguar, opening day at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. © Shawn McMillen
Of the 29 starters in the field, just seven were able to deliver clean rounds over the impressive introductory course designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC.
Sternlicht, team gold medalist at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, had the advantage of going after several others had gone, giving her the opportunity to see the jumps and evaluate the Hampton Classic’s newly renovated Grand Prix field following the million-dollar investment and rebuild over the past year.
“I had the advantage of knowing my horse is quite seasoned at speed classes,” explained Sternlicht following the victory gallop. “He has great foot speed, so it may not look like he’s moving fast. Often times I can add a stride through the turns and still know that I’m getting across the jumps. I tried to play those strengths and leave out strides where I could. The new field feels amazing, it’s really firm and really consistent across the whole surface. As riders we really favor that.”
McLain Ward, her 2018 WEG gold medal teammate, and Olympic silver medalist Peter Leone agreed and emphasized how dramatic the improvements are with the new footing.
“It was PERFECT,” stated Ward. “Absolutely spot on. Not a single blade of grass was out of place.”
Leone exalted, “It felt like jumping on a tumbling mat! There was life and spring to it – it is just so exciting to ride on a field like that.”
Runner-up Cawley had even more reason to appreciate the improvements in the footing as her horse was competing with just two ‘studs’ for traction in her shoes, similar to the cleats soccer players wear to maintain grip on grass surfaces.
“Berdien is just eight years old and she got a little green and star-struck at the beginning of the course,” explained Cawley. “She was really comfortable by the end of the course. It’s a tall order to go in and go full-tilt right off the bat when you haven’t competed at that level before. She hesitated a little in the turn from the second to third jumps and I had to kick her to go forward – she went, but that hesitation was more than enough to lose the four 1000ths of a second behind Adrienne.”
Michael Levitan, President of Jaguar Land Rover Long Island, makes the presentation to Adrienne Sternlicht following her win in the $30,000 Land Rover Jumper Challenge presented by Jaguar. © Shawn McMillen
Third place went to Geoffrey Hesslink with HH Casey Jones, who finished in a time of 64.389 seconds.
Monday’s schedule at the Classic features the Finals in the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities, presented by BNB; in addition to Animal Welfare and Adoption Day. Thirteen animal shelters will have dogs and cats on-site and available for adoption from 10am-2pm. A special presentation of horses available for adoption, facilitated by the EQUUS Foundation, will take place at noon in the Anne Aspinall ring. Monday’s admission is free.