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Irish riders shine brightest in the Grand Prix Ring at the Hampton Classic

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Darragh Kenny continues his great form at the Hampton Classic.With a victory in the $10,000 Open Jumper class, Irish rider Darragh Kenny, who lives in Ocala, FL, led an Irish sweep in the Grand Prix Ring at the Hampton Classic. On Gatsby, his jump-off time of 36.629 seconds nipped Shane Sweetnam on Cyklon 1083 (37.45) and Sweetnam again on Buzonder (38.38). The 39th annual Hampton Classic Horse Show runs Aug. 24-31, in Bridgehampton, NY. The Hampton Classic features world-class equestrian competition, with more than 100 classes of competition including jumper, hunter, equitation, short stirrup and leadline classes, as well as competitions for riders with disabilities.

Gatsby's owner, Allison Toffolon, usually shows him, but she's gone off to college and left him to Kenny to show. Gatsby finished second in the $10,000 Newsday Open Jumper class on Tuesday, so Kenny entered this afternoon's class with an optimistic attitude. "He's quite a careful horse, so if you can jump clean, you always have a chance," said Kenny. "As for the difference between today and yesterday-I don't know. It was my day today. It will probably be Shane's day tomorrow."

Wednesday's victory put Kenny well into the lead in the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge, a prize that goes to the rider who amasses the most points in the 10 classes that comprise the Hampton Classic's Open Jumper division. Sunday's $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, presented by Land Rover, counts for twice as many points as the other classes. Kenny leads the Longines Rider Challenge with 140 points, ahead of Lillie Keenan (90), Sweetnam (85), and Jeffery Welles and Richie Moloney (75 each). Moloney, Tuesday's leader, didn't score any points on Wednesday.

Kenny said that he's pleased to be leading in the race for the cash, but that he doubted he could maintain his place since he won't be riding in Sunday's big grand prix. That's because he's leaving New York on Saturday night on a flight to France, where he'll be riding on the Irish team for the first time at the World Equestrian Games. "So I think that's going to kill my chances of winning the Longines award," Kenny said with a smile. "I love to do this grand prix, but I think I have a pretty good reason to miss it this time."

Keenan, of New York City, rode Quick Shine to the top of the $10,000 Wolffer Estate Open Jumper, the day's first class. Keenan's time around the course (57.914 seconds) eclipsed the rest of the 60-horse field, with Jeffery Wells finishing second on KM What Ever RV (58.296) and Richard Spooner finishing third on Dark Knight (58.997).

Keenan, 17, rode one other horse in the class, and she said she entered the Grand Prix Ring prepared to ride for victory with Quick Shine, 7 years old. "He's a young horse for these classes, but he's a horse of such quality that I was prepared to take a shot today," she said. "With a horse like this, it's fun to be a part of their development."

Keenan, who has won hunter championships, equitation titles and jumper classes at the Hampton Classic in the past, said that she doesn't expect to be among the top riders in the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge-this year. "I'm starting to ride more in the open division, so it's certainly an honor to be in the standings at all. I'm not really set in my string to really be a part of that yet, but maybe in the future," she said.

The Classic's world-class field of Grand Prix riders competes daily in the Classic's open jumper division, which features an FEI-recognized Grand Prix on three consecutive days, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 29-31: the $50,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix Qualifier, presented by Longines, on Friday, the $40,000 Longines Cup on Saturday, and Sunday's $250,000 Grand Prix and FEI World Cup™ Qualifier, presented by Land Rover, a qualifying competition for the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April.

The Grand Prix is also part of the Taylor Harris Triple Crown Challenge which awards a $200,000 bonus should the same horse-and-rider combination win the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon, $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, and the $250,000 National Horse Show Grand Prix. The rider who accumulates the most points in the horse show's Open Jumper division wins the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge.

For those who can't make it to the show grounds, a complimentary live webcast of all Grand Prix ring classes will air on the Hampton Classic website, produced by ShowNet and courtesy of Longines. In addition, WVVH-TV, the official Long Island television station of the Hampton Classic, broadcasts up to five hours of competition and highlights each day during the Classic. These broadcasts can also be seen on line at www.wvvh.tv. Most of the Classic's other classes will also be available on ShowNet.biz.

Further information on the Hampton Classic Horse Show is available at the Hampton Classic website at www.hamptonclassic.com or by calling 631-537-3177. Hampton Classic Horse Show, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation.

Source: Press release from hamptonclassic.com

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