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Trotting Out for Oaks Fall Classic

September 21, 1993|KATHRYN BOLD

At a picturesque ranch in San Juan Capistrano, well-heeled horse lovers came to watch an elegant equestrian competition unfold beneath the spreading oak trees on Sunday.

For the third year, Joan Irvine Smith opened her ranch to what has become one of the country's richest horse shows, the Oaks Fall Classic. The weekend-long competition, a benefit for the UCI College of Medicine Foundation, culminated at the Grand Prix competition and Traditional Hunt Breakfast attended by several hundred of Orange County's movers and shakers. The benefit was expected to raise about $100,000 for the foundation.

The Horsey Set

Guests, who paid $150 each to attend the gourmet brunch, divided their time between watching the horses and eyeing each other.

"This has the atmosphere of a Sunday social, but it's not as stilted," said Tricia Nichols, brunch chairwoman.

The dress code called for "casual elegance," and in keeping with the equestrian theme many showed up in a kind of Armani-meets-Roy Rogers dress.

"You see everything from blue jeans to elegant outfits with hats," Nichols said.

Some of the women wore vintage straw hats with silk flowers, vests and Western-style broomstick skirts. The men trotted out their equestrian-print ties and cowboy boots.

Committee member Gayle Anderson dressed as a rhinestone cowgirl, in an elegant white suit adorned with crystals and a white cowboy hat. Mary Dell Barkouras, who also served on the committee, chose a hand-painted suede vest to go with her cowgirl skirt, boots and hat.

"This is an elegant equestrian event--not just a horse show," Barkouras said. "The purpose is to serve wonderful food in a beautiful setting."

Guests mingled under long white tents adjacent to the course, visiting food stations stocked with croissants, fresh fruit and made-to-order omelets that they could fill with everything from bay shrimp to caviar. For dessert, they indulged in build-your-own hot fudge sundaes. Later they watched rider Hap Hansen receive the $50,000 grand prize.

For Their Health

Proceeds from the weekend will go to UCI's planned Center for the Health Sciences, a complex that will include five research institutes focusing on neurosciences, genetics, cancer, cardiovascular disease and cell development and aging. Ground-breaking on the center is scheduled for fall 1994.

"This allows us to proceed with our plans at a time when the state has been cutting our budget," said Dr. Walter Henry, dean of the UCI Medical School, who attended with his wife, Maria del Carmen Calvo.

Henry was the personal physician of the late Athalie Clarke, Joan Irvine Smith's mother (who died earlier this year).

"She was a very warm, kind and thoughtful person. She was also incredibly strong," he said. "She was very supportive of the center, and I'm sorry she won't be here to see it."

Others attending were committee members Morton (Cappy) Smith and Arthur Hawkins; Laurel Wilkening, chancellor of UC Irvine; Thomas and Dorothy Doan, Delbert and Beverly Fisher, Barbara Harris, Bob and Cleva Howard, Kathy Jones, Russell Penniman, Beverly Ray, Mary Roosevelt, Roger and Candice Schnapp, Walter and Gerry Schroeder, Renee Segerstrom, Glen and Dorothy Stillwell and James Swinden.

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