Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Dobbs Dominates At The Hampton Classic

Hillary Dobbs outrode a star-studded field on her way to the top of the $200,000 FTI Grand Prix CSI-W.

Last year’s Hampton Classic Horse Show did not end well for Hillary Dobbs. She took a hard fall off Corlett nine fences into the biggest class of her career and limped off the grand prix field shaken
and sore.
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Hillary Dobbs outrode a star-studded field on her way to the top of the $200,000 FTI Grand Prix CSI-W.

Last year’s Hampton Classic Horse Show did not end well for Hillary Dobbs. She took a hard fall off Corlett nine fences into the biggest class of her career and limped off the grand prix field shaken
and sore.

So when she and Corlett returned to Bridgehampton, N.Y., Aug. 24-31, and outran 32 other riders to take the blue ribbon in the $200,000 FTI Grand Prix CSI-W, she felt redeemed.

The win capped off a stellar week for the Sussex, N.J., rider, having won the $50,000 Carolex Grand Prix Qualifier two days earlier aboard Corlett and the $20,000 Nicoloc Time Challenge on Marengo, both owned by the Dobbs Group.

Both Corlett and Dobbs’ second top mount, Quincy B, performed beautifully in the qualifier. Quincy pulled one rail to finish with 4 faults, leaving Dobbs in the enviable position of selecting which of her mounts to take in the first CSI-W of the season. In the end, Dobbs decided on the 11-year-old brown mare rather than the more seasoned Quincy. 

“It was a tough but great choice to have to make,” she said. “I’ve got two very talented, reliable horses. My gut feeling was to go with Corlett, and I’m glad we did. She felt confident all week.”

Five riders contested the jump-off, and no one held anything back in the race for the $60,000 top check. Chris Kappler set the pace aboard VDL Oranta with an efficient but beatable clear round. Brianne Goutal challenged the course second and flew around with Onira.

“I heard everyone saying that Brianne was so fast,” said Dobbs, who trains with Missy Clark and John Brennan. “I knew that I had to catch the right angle on jump 1, and maybe that was the place to make up some time. So I took a shot there, a risky turn and a risky angle, but when Brianne’s going flat-out like that you have to take some chances.” 

Dobbs, 22, found a faster track aboard Corlett to notch her sixth grand prix win of the year and become the only rider besides Joe Fargis to win both grand prix classes the same week. Goutal settled for second on Cloverleaf Farm’s Onira, and Kirsten Coe took third on Laura King-Kaplan’s Starlight.

Dobbs’ win comes on the heels of a stellar year in her riding career. Last fall Dobbs made her international debut in Argentina, anchoring the United States’ gold-medal effort at the Nations’ Cup in Buenos Aires with a double-clear performance and donned her red coat once again to help the U.S. team grab gold at the Nations Cup in Wellington, Fla., this winter. This summer Dobbs shipped two horses to Europe, riding Quincy in the Hickstead (Great Britain) and Falsterbo (Sweden) Nations Cups and winning the Swedbank Derby in Falsterbo aboard Corlett. It was her second trip to Sweden, having traveled to Gothenburg to watch the World Cup Final and walk the course with George Morris after winning the Maxine Beard Show Jumping Developing Rider Award. 

“This summer really opened my eyes to what world-class horse shows are like,” said Dobbs. “It’s been such an incredible learning experience to compete against such incredible talents from all over the world. Every time you go in the ring you learn something.” 

Both Dobbs and Goutal, 19, acknowledged that finishing well as up-and-comers in a field that included many former Olympians made the win extra rewarding. “It’s just amazing to compete with all the big guns of the sport,” said Goutal, who competed at her first FEI World Cup Final this April. “It’s really great when all goes well, but we have a lot to learn still.”

Hampton Classic Tidbits

•    Jacqueline Lubrano topped the $10,000 Wölffer Estate Equitation Classic, a challenging two-round class, which made use of the grand prix field’s natural obstacles. The 17-year-old tacked up her junior jumper, Lennox, for the classic. Before the big class Lubrano and other Beacon Hill students loaded up their mounts for a two-hour trek to Beezie and John Madden’s farm to squeeze in some practice over natural obstacles. “Having a chance to school in a big field over banks and water made a big difference,” said Lubrano. “You don’t normally have many opportunities to practice like that, and I felt much more prepared than in the past. It was definitely worth the trip.” Beacon Hill’s Stacia Madden and Max Amaya picked up a $2,500 trainer award for coaching Lubrano to the win. 

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•    Todd Minikus and Pavarotti jumped to the top of the $30,000 Sotheby International Realty Challenge. The win helped Minikus take the second highest check behind Hillary Dobbs in the $30,000 Vox Rider Challenge, which rewarded the top four open jumper riders according to prize money.

•    Ken Berkley rode Gina Day’s Sambalino to the blue in all five green conformation hunter classes, winning the division championship as well as the grand hunter championship honors.

•    Lillie Keenan positively dominated the Pony Hunter Classic, taking home nearly the entire $2,500 purse by piloting ponies to the first, second, third, fourth and eighth spots. She topped the class on Casey Green’s Beau Rivage. She also earned the large pony hunter and grand pony hunter championships aboard Chansonette Farm’s High Cotton and the small pony hunter championship with Pink Floyd. Stablemate Allison Toffolon picked up the medium pony hunter title aboard Heritage Farm’s Blu Venture Rainbeau.

•    Heritage Farm trainer Patricia Griffith’s name was engraved on the Peconic Per-petual trophy as the Leading Hunter Rider. Griffith rode Laura King-Kaplan’s Vida Blue to the working hunter championship and King-Kaplan’s North Country to the reserve.

•    Molly Ohrstrom’s Ovation earned top honors in the green hunter division for the second year running. Scott Stewart rode the 8-year-old warmblood to two blues on his way to the top of the second year green hunter division.

Dobbs and Goutal will each squeeze in one more show apiece before starting their fall semesters at Harvard University (Mass.) and Brown University (R.I.).

A Blue For Blue Stephanos

Rowlanda Blue Stephanos didn’t spend as much time in the tack this summer. The 28-year-old pared down her riding schedule in order to focus on her growing business, erasing nearly her entire show schedule. But when she rode And Then Some to the adult amateur hunter, 18-35, and grand adult amateur hunter championships at the Hampton Classic the sacrifices seemed worth it.  

The Sagaponack, N.Y., native started her winning ways early in the week, picking up the local non-pro hunter championship with And Then Some, owned by her mother Pamela Allardice. Blue Stephanos keeps her horse at her mother’s farm and meets up with trainer Timmy Kees at shows. But Blue Stephanos curbed her riding this summer in order to open a second location of her women’s clothing boutique, Blue, in downtown Sag Harbor, N.Y., an endeavor which has devoured every spare moment of her days.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” she said. “I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible at the shop, and we’re open until late—until 8 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends, so it hasn’t left an awful lot of time for showing this season. But the Hampton Classic has always been special to me, and I knew I’d squeeze it in—it’s our local show. It’s extra special to do well there after this busy summer.”

A hectic schedule is nothing new for Blue Stephanos. During the Winter Equestrian Festival she runs her flagship store on the show grounds, which over six years has grown from a tiny operation in a 12′ x 12′ tent to a busy boutique in a 50′ modular trailer. This past winter she kept her sister Paige Allardice’s junior hunter legged up and picked up the 3’3″ adult amateur hunter series championship in addition to keeping her shop up and running.

This summer’s easy show schedule had its perks—namely giving Blue Stephanos some time to work out the kinks with her still-green mount. When she stumbled across And Then Some a year ago, the gelding had just turned 5. He’d already spent some time in the pre-green ring with Tim Goguen, but Blue Stephanos knew that she had her work cut out for her. 

“We started off really slowly, and we spent a year getting used to each other,” said Blue Stephanos. “The biggest challenge has just been getting him more broke on the flat. He’s been fabulous. He’s got a heart of gold and would jump the moon for you.”

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Connection

When Casey Green first paired up with Savannah 2 1⁄2 years ago, they seemed an unlikely pair. Fresh from the pony ranks and just 11, Green had never ridden horses before. While Savannah came with miles in the first year ring, she hardly boasted the lengthy resumé of the average starter junior hunter mount.  

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But Green and Savannah proved themselves time and time again, most recently picking up top honors in the small junior hunter, 15 and under, division at the Hampton Classic. As an added bonus the pair finished up ninth in the $10,000 Hermès Junior/Amateur Owner-Hunter Classic.

“She’s my first horse ever,” said Green. “She’s one of those rare ones, really a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse, she means so much to me. I really feel like we have a great connection.”

The pair’s positive relationship helped them pick up tricolors right from the start this year at Littlewood (Fla.), the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), HITS Saugerties (N.Y.), Fairfield (Conn.) and Manchester And The Mountains (Vt.). 

In the beginning, trainer Lainie Wimberley took an occasional turn on Savannah in the professional divisions, but for the last two years Green has kept the Oldenburg mare to herself as they came up the ranks together.

The 9-year-old showed up in top form at the Hampton Classic. “Out in the field she’s so much fun,” said Green. “She has a bold canter and a big jump. She’s been fantastic all summer, and she’s been perfect here.”

Green, Westport, Conn., started lessons with Wimberley seven years ago and describes her as a “second mother.” A rising sophomore at Greenwich Academy, Green spends her summers on the road with the horses and commutes to Wellington on the weekends. This year Green bumped up her show schedule, picking up a few catch rides in the hunter ring and graduating to the jumper ring with her low junior mount S&L Pylos.

“It’s been fantastic having him to ride,” said Green. “I’m learning so much from both horses.”

A Perfect Finish

Scott Stewart’s Perfectionist lived up to his name, rising to the top of the $10,000 Hermès Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic with Samantha Schaefer aboard. Schaefer rode away with the lion’s share of the prize money, piloting Keli Colby’s Lazy Sunday to fourth and Manhattan Mortgage Company’s Corvet Z to sixth. 

“He’s the kind of horse that can walk in anywhere and go right around,” said Schaefer, Westminster, Md., of Stewart’s second year green hunter. “He really lives up to his name—and he’s great on the grass field.”

Schaefer and “Perfect” have been turning heads since they paired up in Florida this year, and Schaefer has been holding her own against her peers in the large junior hunter ring and professionals alike. She and the chestnut warmblood have campaigned successfully in the hunter derbies, finishing third at the $20,000 Wrenwood Farms Derby in Wellington (Fla.) and sixth at the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon (Pa.).

According to trainer Kim Stewart, the festive atmosphere of the Hampton Classic actually helped Perfectionist shine. “He goes the best when it’s a little more exciting, when there are prettier jumps and big crowds,” she said. “He’s always really great the first round in a spooky ring when the other horses are getting nervous. He loves people to watch him.”

While Perfectionist stole the spotlight on classic day, Schaefer’s other hunters held their own during the week. Both horses earned reserve honors, Corvet Z in the small junior hunter, 15 and under, division, and Lazy Sunday in the large junior hunter, 15 and under, division. 

Mollie Bailey

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