- "The sun shines bright on my old Hamptonian home..."
If the Hamptons actually went looking for a defining song, it could search through the song lists of Hamptons related songwriters that range from Cole Porter
to Billy Joel
to P. Diddy
. A song by Stephan C. Foster
, who wrote "My Old Kentucky Home," would most likely not be one of them. However, on Saturday, May 2 most of the crowd that gathered at Starr Boggs'
annual "Derby Party" in Westhampton Beach raised their voices in unison with their equine loving friends in the South, as Kentuckians ushered in the world's most venerated horse race, their beloved Kentucky Derby
. However, a pair of rewritten verses of the song (penned by Mike Carroll
, Paula Loughlin
and Jake Yara
) also found their way to the voices of Hamptonians. Led by Quogue's Jim Campbell
, the packed crowd belted them out as they celebrated the best pre-Memorial Day party on the East End.
Legendary jockey Willy Shoemaker.
Raising the bar on this year's Kentucky Derby celebrations in the Hamptons, and at Starr Boggs in particular, was the last minute inclusion in the field of "Nowhere To Hide," Kentucky bred, but owned by Leonard Riggio
of My Meadowview Farm of Water Mill. A regular at Starr Boggs and one of Starr's good friends, several years ago Riggio bought a horse and named it "Bogey Boggs" in honor of one of the Hamptons' most revered chefs and gave Starr part ownership of the horse.
Like Starr, the generosity of Riggio's nature should not surprise anyone that knows him in the Hamptons. Owner of Barnes and Noble and Game Stop, he is a winner of the Frederick Douglas Medallion, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and founder of The Riggio Foundation and the DIA Art Foundation. He does all that along with sitting on the boards of almost two dozen charities, including the Children's Defense Fund, the Black Children's Community Crusade and the Italian American Foundation. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Riggio founded Project Home Again.
"He built 20 beautiful homes for these poor people and gave them away free of charge. We watched the first family move in last Christmas," Starr recounted. This is a good man who loves horses and racing with a passion.
Riggio always had an interest in thoroughbreds, but for years at a non-participatory distance. As Starr tells it, the genesis came out of his daughter's personal illumination at the Hamptons Classic. "Parents usually drag their kids to events and the kids can't wait to go home, but at her first Classic it was the other way around, Lenny couldn't drag her home. She fell in love with the horses." As the story is told, Riggio went on to create My Meadowview Farm and his daughter, Stephenie Riggio
, went on to become one of America's premiere hunter/show riders. Beyond creating one of the Hamptons most beautiful horse farms, as a horse owner Riggio has become one of the major players in thoroughbred racing.
Trainer Nick Zito with "Nowhere To Hide." Photo courtesy of EveryJoe.com
One of his many thoroughbreds, "Noble Causeway," ran in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Although a Riggio horse has not been back since, there were high hopes for the Derby this year. Instead, a string of bad luck with "Nowhere To Hide" finishing fourth in his last three races after winning his maiden race seemed to make the trip to Kentucky unlikely. However, due to scratches and injuries to other horses in the field, "Nowhere To Go" moved up and became eligible to run.
The horse's world renowned trainer Nick Zito
gave Riggio a call and told him he should stake "Nowhere To Hide" in the Derby. "Whether you want to call it spiritual or not, someone told us to be number 20. If you are a sportsman, and Mr. Riggio is a sportsman, and you're handed number 20, you are almost compelled to run." So at 50-1, "Nowhere To Hide" was the last horse entered in the famed Run for the Roses.
According to Starr, "He is a long shot, the last to get in, but he's not out of his class. Hey, it's horse racing, you never know." Riggio called the chef a half an hour after entering the horse, "Starr are you sitting down? Well, don't fall off your bar stool, 'Nowhere To Hide' is going to the Derby." Riggio himself was on his way to the New Orleans Jazz Festival at the time to have dinner with his friend Tony Bennett
A fisheye view of the 1963 Derby finish.
Starr's passion for horse racing is more than palpable. Although growing up on a farm on the Virgina coast, he didn't get involved with the sport until about 15 years ago. "I love the sport, I love watching the horses develop. This year, I spent more time at the training tracks in my off season than I did on the golf course."
He went on to describe his first visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs
this year. "To walk out to the back of that track and see the horses training, as they train right on the main track, it is unbelievable." There with Zito - both Starr and the world renowned trainer found themselves with tears in their eyes after watching a video of the history of the Derby that ended with images of dew-dropped roses and the voice of legendary jockey Woody Stevens
saying, "We go to work every day of our whole lives just to get to this race."
Editor's Note: 'Mine That Bird' won the jewel in the 2009 Triple Crown with a 50 to 1 long shot. Running from the 8th post, Mine That Bird exploded in the final stretch, winning by several lengths. 'Nowhere To Hide' finished 17th in the pack of 20, a respectable first showing at the Derby.
Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com