Only two horse-and-rider combinations made it to the jump-off of the $425,000 Longines Hampton Classic 5* Grand Prix on Sunday: 2018 World Equestrian Games Team Gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) and two-time Olympic veteran Daniel Bluman (ISR).
In the end, only Bluman finished on a double-clear score, claiming the Hampton Classic Grand Prix title for the second time aboard his 2022 FEI World Championship and 2023 FEI World Cup Finals mount, Ladriano Z. Bluman is now one of four riders to have won the Grand Prix on three occasions, having topped the field in 2017 with Ladriano Z and 2021 with Gemma W
Prior to the Grand Prix, World #5 ranked show jumper McLain Ward (USA) presented the legendary 17-year-old Belgian mare HH Azur to the competition ring for the last time. Ward announced “Annie’s” retirement earlier this summer following an eight-year partnership that spanned 25 FEI Grand Prix wins at the 4* and 5* levels. Among her many accolades, Annie helped Ward secure the Team Silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, Gold at the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha, and Team Silver at the 2017 FEI Nations Cup Final.
“She always had a real regal way about her, which is why I call her the queen,” Ward said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some great top horses. She’s in the top two or three at the very least; one could even argue that she’s the best. I’m very privileged to have gotten this time with her.”
Immediately after Ward, Annie, and their friends and family retired from the ring, the first of 40 starters representing 12 countries challenged Alan Wade’s $425,000 Longines Hampton Classic 5* Grand Prix course. The highly technical track featured 17 jumping efforts set at 1.60m, and spectators watched with bated breath as the first 30 riders racked up faults around the ring.
Sternlicht was the first to successfully complete the task aboard Starlight Farms 1 LLC’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Faquitol-S (Verdi TN x Carolus H). Bluman wasn’t far behind with the 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding he co-owns with Blue Star Investments and Over The Top Stables LLC, guaranteeing the crowd a jump-off.
“Ladriano Z is a veteran of the sport,” Bluman said. “He’s been around and felt amazing the other day in the qualifier. I actually like when the course goes with not too many clear rounds. Ladriano is a big horse and I had to take a lot of risks to try to win, so I was actually more motivated to see just Adrienne’s clear round before me.
“Adrienne had a beautiful round, so I just focused on what I had to do,” he continued. “I had to ride a very fast track around the course in case I knocked one down so I could still finish in second. Ladriano is a very special horse, and it’s been rare in his entire career that he has more than one rail down. I was very confident and very grateful for this horse today.”
Sternlicht’s partnership with Faquitol-S only began at the end of 2022, and despite being an older horse, he completed his first 5* grand prix with her in April. “He’s the only horse I have jumped to this level this year,” Sternlicht said. “I think he keeps getting better. For me, it’s so rewarding to see the horse improve, and it gives me more confidence in myself because I believed in him from the start. I was just thrilled for him and my team today.
“I think the course was pretty delicate everywhere,” she added. “Alan is such a master at course building, and part of the reason is because every single fence comes into play out there. That’s a huge testament to his designs.”
Finishing third with the fastest four-fault round in 79.70 seconds was Luis Fernando Larrazabal (VEN) aboard Condara (Conthargos x Cartogran), Victoria Heurtematte’s 11-year-old Mecklenburg mare.
“It was my lucky day to have the fastest time with four faults,” Larrazabal said. “Normally, you don’t take a podium spot with a rail down. I’m very grateful to have that little bit of luck today, and I’m so happy with my mare. I knew she could do it from the first time I sat in the saddle. She’s a special mare who always wants to jump. I committed to my plan early on, and even though she got a little excited toward the last fence, I’m very happy with her performance today.”