Hampton Classic horse show opening draws 5,000 visitors by noon

Spectators gather in Bridgehampton to cheer on riders and horses during opening day at the 39th annual Hampton Classic on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

The 39th Hampton Classic Horse Show got underway Sunday in Bridgehampton, marked by sunny skies, pastel-clad guests, and a new farmer's market with food from Long Island businesses.

The day's events began the weeklong equestrian show containing about 120 separate competitions and culminating in a $250,000 top prize, at the Grand Prix and FEI World Cup Qualifier next Sunday.

Marty Bauman, a media officer for the event, said that by about noon, 5,000 visitors had arrived, on par with opening days in recent years.

The show could attract a total of as many as 60,000 visitors by week's end.

Sunday's events are Long Island-focused, he said. Competition was open for Long Island-based horses only, save for a $50,000 grand prize Hunter Derby, Bauman said. They are riding in hunter and equitation competitions on the 60-acre property where the competition is held.

"It's their day," said Bauman, of the horses from Long Island stables.

Local riders who travel the East Coast year-round for competitions say they treasure the Hampton Classic, with amenities such as grass fields for the hunter competitions.

Dennis Suskind, president of the show's board of directors, said this year organizers sought improvements, such as revitalized grass rings that were refertilized and treated with a new watering system.

Veteran rider Brooke Chasin, 33, of Plainview, who trains riders at the North Shore Equestrian Center in Old Brookville, said the Classic "has been my favorite horse show my entire life."

Chasin, who competed Sunday, said, "It's nice to be here as a professional."

Lisa Rex, 55, of Westbury, and Holliday Ryals, 53, of Bayville, operate Somerset Farms in Old Westbury, and both oversaw students competing Sunday. Rex competed, too.

"It's one of the foremost horse shows in the country and it's right here in our backyard," Ryals said.

Rep. Peter King was dressed in a pink-collared polo shirt bearing the initials of his granddaughter, KatieMae Sweeney, a competitor Sunday morning. KatieMae, 5, of Wantagh, began training after seeing news coverage of last year's event, her family said. Sunday morning she won the lead line competition in her age division, riding a Welsh thoroughbred named Clover, whose show name is Lil' Bit of Luck.

"She was very determined," said King (R-Seaford). "Nobody else in the family rides at all.

"It was a great day," he added. "My first time out here."

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