They say equestrian riding is a rich man's sport. But $10 and a pair of comfortable shoes are all you need to enjoy the Hampton Classic, a showcase for some of the world's greatest riders and horses.
"You don't need to know anything about the sport to enjoy it," says Bonnie Comley, a Broadway producer who spends summers in East Hampton. She and her husband, Stewart Lane, have three children riding: This is the eighth year for Leah, 12, and first for 4-year-old twins Frankie and Lenny. "Being so close to gigantic horses leaping over those heights is exciting. There's pomp and circumstance - and a danger element."
And it's a gorgeous setting. "The Grand Prix field is one of the most magnificent in the world," says Hampton Classic executive director Shanette Barth Cohen.
What to expect:
ABOUT THE EVENT
The sport dates from English fox hunts in the early 18th century - as land owners began putting fences up around their property, riders learned to jump them.
The weeklong Hampton Classic begins as the littlest (as young as 3) are led around the ring by the older riders. As the week progresses, top international riders vie for the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix. Sunday, Sept. 5, is the finale of the Classic - and the Hamptons social season. Under the VIP tents, where tables start at $7,500 for eight, it's the last chance for the social set to wear their frothy frocks and hats.
LAY OF THE LAND
Five competitions go on at once, but the real action is in the Grand Prix ring. Of the nearly 60,000 people who attend, there are plenty who never set foot in the grandstand. They shop, eat and bring the family. The kids' playland area is open daily. Dress casually and remember where you park.
Hunter competitions are about the form and style of the horse; equitation, the rider. Jessica Springsteen is "one of the greatest equitation riders we have ever seen," Bauman said, "and that has nothing to do with being the daughter of Bruce Springsteen." For the Grand Prix and other jumper classes, the scoring is objective - get over the fences and make the time.
The first thing we heard about this year's Classic: Madonna is coming (the avid equestrian bought Kelly Klein's horse farm down the road in 2009). The second thing we heard: That's doubtful.
"It's been a rumor for the past three years," says Classic publicist Meg Schermerhorn, "but we have yet to see her."
Too bad, but there will be other famous faces:
Victoria de Lesseps, daughter of "Real Housewife of New York" LuAnn de Lesseps, will show on opening day. Kelly Ripa's 9-year-old daughter, Lola, and "Real Housewife" Kelly Killoren Bensimon also will be in the ring this year.
Count on famous parents - from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Springsteen and Patty Scialfa - to cheer on their offspring.
Regular spectators in years past include Alec Baldwin, Christie Brinkley, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. Martha Stewart, Matt Lauer, Robert Duvall, Bill O'Reilly and Carson Daly also have made the scene.
Aside from schmoozing and watching the riders, milling around the more than 70 luxe booths in the Boutique Garden is a popular pastime. Check out the adult-size rocking horse by Pucci Manuli (price tag: $8,000) or a landlocked Northrup and Johnson yacht. Buy a Jaguar, a Land Rover or just some equestrian-themed souvenirs.
WHEN | WHERE 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 5, 240 Snake Hollow Rd., Bridgehampton
INFO 631-537-3177, hamptonclassic.com
ADMISSION $10 (or $20 for carload) except Monday, when admission is free for all and Sept. 4, when children younger than 12 are free. Reserved grandstand seats for Sept. 5 Grand Prix are $20-$30.