Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

HH Azur Writes Another Chapter In Her Special Story At The Hampton Classic

Bridgehampton, N.Y.—Aug. 28  

One turn can make or break a jump-off round, and for McLain Ward, a risky slice back to the third fence paid off in spades in the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier.

“Very few horses can do that turn, and she did it beautifully. I knew it was an option. I walked it and it was in the back of my mind if I needed it. I had a horse that could do it and she did it beautifully,” Ward said.

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Bridgehampton, N.Y.—Aug. 28  

One turn can make or break a jump-off round, and for McLain Ward, a risky slice back to the third fence paid off in spades in the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier.

“Very few horses can do that turn, and she did it beautifully. I knew it was an option. I walked it and it was in the back of my mind if I needed it. I had a horse that could do it and she did it beautifully,” Ward said.


Ward and HH Azur on their way to victory in the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier. 
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

The class was the highlight of Friday at the Hampton Classic, a day full of typical Hampton’s style: sunny skies, top-class horses, and ill-advised high heels tottering precariously around the show grounds.

By 2 o’clock the grandstand and VIP tent were filling up to watch the grand prix. Fifty horse and rider combinations faced off to earn their share of the prize money—and a spot in Sunday’s $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix. 

It wasn’t the liverpool or daunting Hermés-sponsored oxer that proved menacing for the field. Fence 5B, a simple-looking black and white plank, was seemingly invisible to many of the horses as it dropped time and time again. The last fence, a high, red vertical, also ruined many otherwise clear rounds. In the end, a star-studded group of 11 riders had clear rounds and would jump off. The field narrowed to 10 when Margie Engle elected to save her mount, Royce, for another day.

The jump-off didn’t lack excitement with a battle between Ward and Shane Sweetnam, the Irish rider who has been red hot this week and currently leads the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge at the Classic. 

When McLain and Rothchild—a duo that’s seen their fair share of grand prix wins—put in a clear round at 42.56 it seemed that would seal the win. But Daniel Bluman and Conconcreto Believe stopped the clock a few 100s of a second faster than Ward and briefly moved into first. 

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Sweetnam and Chaqui Z then lit up the turf and were the new leaders. But Ward and HH Azur, the last combination to go, made a risky slice to the third and sealed the blue. 

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are certainly on Ward’s mind and he sees HH Azur as his ticket to the Games. “We set a game plan for her leading up to Rio with certain benchmarks. She not only reaches the marks but continues to blow them away,” he said. He added, “This is the beginning of a very special story and so far it’s shaping up to be fairytale. We’re hoping we can write the rest of it well.”

Want to know more about HH Azur and why she’s so special? Check out the Ringside Chat we did with McLain Ward earlier in the year, or see the July 27 print issue of The Chronicle of the Horse, where Ward discusses her development in depth. 

Rothchild pulled a shoe during the jump-off. Ward noted that they’d have to examine his foot and discern his soundness before deciding if he’ll compete again this weekend, in either the $40,000 Longines Cup on Saturday or the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, Presented by Longines, on Sunday, which Ward has won six times.

Ward said that he’d planned to ride HH Azur on Saturday and Rothchild on Sunday. “But we’ll see how he’s feeling,” said Ward.

Earlier in the day, riders in the Young Jumper Championships East Coast Regional Finals were writing chapters in their talented mounts’ stories, too. The briny sea breeze was a welcome relief as the third and final round of the $20,000 SHF Enterprises 5-Year-Old Finals began under the morning sun.  Fifteen talented youngsters vied for their share of the prize money, the field having already been narrowed down from Rounds 1 and 2 earlier in the week.  Of the 15, six were clear and invited back for the jump-off. 

It was Taylor Flury on Aliboo Farm’s budding superstar Catania Saflo Z (ChippendaleZ x Landor S) that put in a lightning fast clear round to win the title—besting Tiffany Morrissey and Carpriccio by a margin of more than two seconds. 

So did her ride go to plan? “It did. At first I though it was a little slow,” Flury said. “I was just trying to keep it smooth since this is the first time the 5 year-olds have jumped off this year. But she’s naturally a fast horse and everything came up just right.” 


Taylor Flury rode Catania Saflo Z to the top of the 5-Year-Old Young Jumper Championships East Coast Regional Finals. Photo by Shawn McMillen

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Winning seems to be what Taylor and “Mini Mouse” (whose favorite treat is a toss-up between Skittles and applesauce) do best.  They’re leading the USEF nationally and have qualified for the FEI Young Horse World Championships in Europe coming up in September.

As for the mare’s future, Taylor is confident there’s a long career ahead for her. “She’s a sleeper,” she said. “When you look at her you don’t know exactly what she can do.  But she jumps better the bigger the jumps are.  Hopefully, grand prix is in her future.” 

Among the contenders for the $30,000 6-Year-Old Young Jumpers Championship title was last year’s 5-year-old champ, Eddie Blue (Zirocco Blue VDL x Marlon).  Eddie—with Devin Ryan aboard—and six others put in clear rounds and returned to jump-off. There was no doubt the big grey had come to play when he effortlessly sliced the second fence—a high, narrow vertical—rolled back to a big oxer-vertical combination, and galloped on at a fast clip.  The pair became Hampton Classic winners for a second time, edging out Laney with Julie Welles aboard. 

Ryan had nothing but compliments for Eddie Blue. “You’re only as good as the horse you’re on,” he said. “He’s this unbelievable athlete that’s just born with it. When he goes in the ring his ears perk up and he starts to put on a show; you can’t train that in a horse.” Ryan hopes to start Eddie in the grand prix during his 8-year-old season and is confident the horse has a big career ahead of him.

There was a short break before the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier, allowing just enough time for spectators to visit the boutique garden and food vendors. French shoemaker Galet took home the “best booth award” for their tough-to-miss orange Citroen that sits center stage. Gleaming new Land Rovers and Jaguars were also on display for those looking for a new set of wheels. 

See full results from the Hampton Classic…


Galet won the best booth award for this set-up!
Photo by Ashley Fairfield


Boats on display—part of what makes the Hamptons special! 
Photo by Ashley Fairfield


There’s shopping at the Hampton Classic—lots and lots of shopping! Photo by Ashley Fairfield


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