The 42nd annual Hampton Classic Horse Show opened Sunday morning with some of the glitz and glamour expected of one of the season’s biggest events, which draws about 60,000 people annually.
“America’s Got Talent” singer Christian Guardino, 17, of Patchogue, belted out the national anthem midway through opening day, which included a $30,000 horse-jumping competition.
“This is beautiful here. I love it,” Guardino said from the VIP tent alongside his mother, Elizabeth Guardino. “It’s insane I’m actually able to be here and sing the national anthem and be here on Long Island.”
The eight-day event draws celebrities and horse lovers alike to a 60-acre expanse on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton every summer for the spectating, the people-watching and the shopping. About 70 boutiques opened Sunday with options of designer clothes, luxury cars and even boats.
The event’s first day was relatively quiet, with a half-filled grandstand. Many celebrities were expected later in the week, when riders such as Mary-Kate Olsen and Georgina Bloomberg, the daughter of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are expected to compete.
The majority of riders and horses competing Sunday were from Long Island for local day, which included competitions that judged riders on their style of navigating obstacles and competitions featuring children ages 2 through 7 as they paraded their ponies and horses.
“For the local community, they ride all summer and this is their big show,” said Shanette Barth Cohen, the horse show’s executive director. “They bring out their friends and family, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Riders from across the world competed in the $30,000 Boar’s Head Open Jumper Challenge, which judges how quickly and efficiently riders and horses can jump over obstacles of up to 5 feet high. Amanda Derbyshire, of Great Britain, and riding Lady Maria BH, won the event with a time of 58.467 seconds.
Some 15,000 people are expected to attend the final day of the show on Sept. 3 when riders will compete in the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix.
McLain Ward, a two-time American Olympic gold medalist, said the atmosphere of the event is “phenomenal.”
“This arena is very special, beautiful and challenging,” said Ward, of upstate Brewster. “That, coupled with the crowd, makes it a very special place to compete and, hopefully, win.”
Riders echoed Ward’s sentiments, noting that the Hampton Classic is one of the few competitions with grass rings.
Debbie Stephens, a rider from Glenmore, Pennsylvania, said she loves that the Classic includes events for the “novices” and for the “elite.”
“It also has such an aura about the whole horse show that it’s like a celebrity horse show, and not just for the riders,” said Stephens, who competes on the Grand Prix circuit. “You have the best in the world, but also the people who come to spectate . . . ”
The event started as a small, informal competition and has since become one of the most prestigious horse-jumping competitions in the United States, with six rings and more than 200 competitions, and one of the last swanky Hamptons gatherings of the summer.
Kelly Stackpole, who was showcasing a horse for adoption, said the event had only gotten bigger since she was last here 22 years ago.
“It’s electric,” said Stackpole, of the Connecticut-based Rising Starr Horse Rescue. “Everyone wants to be here.”