Scott Sweetnam, winner of the $70,000 Longines Cup at the...

Scott Sweetnam, winner of the $70,000 Longines Cup at the Hampton Classic Horse Show in Bridgehampton on Sept. 1, 2018. Credit: SocietyAllure / Rob Rich

The eyes of the equestrian world will be on Bridgehampton this  week, as some of the nation's best riders and horses compete in what has become an annual rite of summer on Suffolk's East End: the Hampton Classic Horse Show. 

The 47th annual event, which opens Sunday, has transformed in recent years into one of the largest outdoor horse shows in the United States, attracting an estimated 50,000 people for the weeklong event that features more than 200 competitions and a who's who of A-list celebrities, from Billy Joel, Brooke Shields and Jimmy Fallon to Jennifer Lopez and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen. 

"The Hampton Classic is really a fixture on the horse show calendar for the top riders in the country, if not the world," said Shanette Cohen, executive director of the event. "We attract a lot of professional competitors, but the vast majority of people who compete here are amateurs, both adults and children."

The Classic, which is held at the 60-acre Bridgehampton showgrounds, will play host this year to hunter, jumper and equitation classes in six show rings with the athletes, human and equine, vying for in excess of $1 million in prize money. 

At least seven Olympic veterans, including five-time U.S. Olympian and seven-time Hampton Classic Grand Prix winner McLain Ward, are expected to compete in this year's event, officials said.

"We always attract some great riders, but this year I think it's the best we've had in a really long time," Cohen said. "Maybe our best ever when it comes to people who are ranked really high."

The festivities kick off Sunday with "Local Day," featuring the Long Island Sportsmanship Award presentation and the Hampton Classic Leadline, where dozens of riders, between 2 and 7, parade their ponies. 

The week also includes a competition for individuals with disabilities, dozens of jumper and hunter events, and it culminates next Sunday with the $425,000 Longines Hampton Classic Grand Prix, in which top riders steer their mounts over imposing obstacles against time.

In addition to the riding, the Classic features more than 75 vendors, international food options, an annual Adoption Day on Monday for rescued dogs, cats and horses, and pony rides and petting zoo animals for children.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the Classic has become "synonymous" with summers in the Hamptons.

"This event is iconic at this point," Schneiderman said. "It's part of the Hamptons brand and experience. It sort of culminates the summer season. And it's a real celebration of our agricultural roots. The equestrian community out here is extremely large and an important part of the fabric of our local community. … It's a world-class event." 

The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the following year organizers faced a host of challenges linked to poor weather as the remnants of Hurricane Henri came storming in just before the Classic.

Last year, organizers unveiled a new $1 million state-of-the-art all-weather Grand Prix arena surface. And while no hurricanes are in the forecast this year,  the National Weather Service says there is a chance of rain Tuesday,  with daily high temperatures  through the week expected to be in the 70s. 

"It's grown over the years to be a preeminent competition and also the place to be seen," Schneiderman said. "Everybody is at the Classic. Lots of celebrities. Lots of important people. But a lot of regular folks in the community also participate, compete and come as spectators." 

Daily admission to the Classic is $20 per carload. Admission is free on Monday, and seniors and members of the military are admitted free on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Grandstand tickets for the Longines Hampton Classic Grand Prix are $55 per person for reserved bucket seating.

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