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Hampton Classic horse show spotlights glamour

Kent Farrington rides Voyeur at the Hampton Classic

Kent Farrington rides Voyeur at the Hampton Classic horse show in Bridgehampton, as the winner of the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix. (Sept. 2, 2012) Credit: John Roca

In the grand prix ring at Sunday's Hampton Classic horse show, the sleek show horses and their riders competed over enormous jumps for ribbons and big money.

Inside the VIP tent that wrapped around two sides of the ring -- where tables could be bought starting at $7,500 -- there was another kind of show going on.

A brick walkway ran down the center of the tent and served as a catwalk for the handful of celebrities who were spotted -- and for those who aspired to be noticed. The click-clicking of a camera was enough for elbows to start jutting.

"You've taken my picture before," said Joy Marks, a Southamptonite, who described herself as a "true equestrian," after posing in her designer dress and elaborate purple "wedding hat."

Sunday capped the close of the celebrated horse show and social event in its 37th year in Bridgehampton. It also marked a triumphant return for the Classic, which last year saw a major reorganization because of Tropical Storm Irene, not to mention the year before with Hurricane Earl.

The weather was warm and sunny virtually all week this year, much to the relief of show organizers.

"We definitely don't want to be known as the hurricane horse show," said Shanette Barth Cohen, executive director of the Hampton Classic. "We were hoping for good weather, and thankfully we got it."

About 50,000 people attended the eight-day event, organizers said, with 1,600 horses competing. Though the event's sponsors and retailers seemed to play to the moneyed set, with Range Rovers on display and $475 Irish Gore-Tex boots and a $2,500 elliptical bicycle for sale, organizers stressed the admission -- $10 per person or $20 per car (extra for seats in the stands) -- made it accessible to all.

"Equestrian sports do have a reputation of being expensive," said Barth Cohen. "But it's not an expensive event."

Back inside the VIP tent, the dining tables where attendees noshed on lobster and fresh fruit were set with meticulous detail. This year marked the second time that staffers from a lifestyle magazine judged the tabletop decorations, with a trophy going to the winners.

"Some of the people bring in designers from Manhattan," said Marty Bauman, a Classic spokesman. "This is the Hamptons and this is a very special event."

Still, some hardened photographers grumbled at the apparent lack of A-list celebrities. Despite that, among the bold-faced names in attendance were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; his daughter Georgina Bloomberg; James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actor's Studio"; and Jill Zarin, a former cast member on "The Real Housewives of New York."

Alan Keeley, the show's ringmaster since 1991, marveled at how the event has changed over the years. Said Keeley: "It's gotten more and more glamorous each year."

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