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Stephanie Danhakl swept the top three places in the $10,000 Hermès Hunter Classic Sunday morning at the Hampton Classic, the final hunter competition at the 43rd edition of the horse show.

Danhakl, originally from Pacific Palisades, CA but now a PhD student at Boston University, took first with Golden Rule, second with Enough Said and third with Quest. Phoebe Topping of Sagaponack, NY finished fourth with Celebration.


Stephanie Danhakl with Golden Rule, winners of the $10,000 Hermès Hunter Classic. © Shawn McMillen

“I knew I had a shot because I’ve had these three horses for a long time and they’ve been always very solid for me,” said Danhakl following the prizegiving ceremony in the beautiful Anne Aspinall ring. “They are familiar with this class because it’s always one I look forward to throughout the year, and it’s a horse show I look forward to throughout the year.”

Many riders find the gently rolling surface of the ring a challenge, but not Danhakl, who embraces the open space such a large ring allows.

“I love riding out on that field and I love the natural obstacles which are all set far apart. You can get a good gallop going. You’re not counting strides, you’re just galloping like you would in a hunt field.”

The larger ring certainly suited Golden Rule who, at 18 hands tall, is larger and has a much longer stride than most hunters. Of her three in the competition Sunday, Golden Rule is the one Danhakl had her hopes on the most.

“I was hoping he would win because we haven’t had the best year,” she explained. “He’s recovering from white line fungus in his hoof, so we have been taking it slowly with him all summer, but I feel like he went as well has he ever has today. He’s also 15-years-old, so I’m not sure how many years I have left with him. I really cherish every ride we have together. He’s such an amazing horse. I always know he’s going to try his best.”

The final Hunter Championship awards of the Hampton Classic were presented following the completion of the Hermès Classic.


Canada's Sam Walker, here with Waldo, was named the Best Junior Equitation Rider. © Shawn McMillen

There was a tie for Grand Hunter Championas True Story ridden by Holly Orlando and Private Life ridden by Scott Stewart each finished with 50 points. Stewart was named Leading Hunter Rider, receiving the Charlie Weaver Memorial Trophy.

The Best Junior Rider on a Horse with accompanying Kathy Scholl Trophy was presented to Grady Lyman, and Best Junior Rider on a Pony went to Alexa Lignelli, receiving the Horse Haven Trophy.

Competing at the Classic for the first time, Canada’s Sam Walker, 16, was named Best Junior Equitation Rider. Trained by Missy Clark and John Brennan as well as his parents Dee and Scott Walker, he was awarded the “Gordon Wright Trophy,” sponsored by the friends of Gustav Leidlof. In winning one of the Classic’s subjective awards, Walker was chosen by the judges rather than ranked by points won to receive the award.

“I feel so honored that the judges chose me out of so many amazing junior riders this week,” commented Walker. “I’ve been working hard on my mental game this summer -- sometimes I get a little caught up in my head, thinking ‘maybe I should be doing this or that’ when what I really should just doing is going in the ring and riding. This week I was really focusing on that, going in and riding and responding to how my horses were feeling on that particular day. I think I’ve really improved on that this year, and it really helped me this week.”

The 43rd Hampton Classic featured over 200 classes in six beautifully manicured show rings. One of the most spectacular equestrian events in the nation showcasing the highest levels of hunter-jumper competition, the world-class event hosts hundreds of top riders and horses from all over the nation and world.