There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a unique year, but that didn’t stop the top riders and horses from making their way to HITS-on-the-Hudson for the 2020 HITS Championship. The Richest Weekend in Show Jumping began at HITS Saugerties in 2010 and is an event exhibitors look forward to year-after-year.
The HITS Championship is host to five finals, offering single handedly, the most prize money in hunter and jumper classes in the world. The main event of the HITS Championship is the annual $500,000 Grand Prix, sponsored by long-time HITS partner AIG.
“We are excited that AIG teamed up with us to be the title sponsor of the $500,000 Grand Prix at the HITS Championship,” said Tom Struzzieri, President and CEO of HITS, Inc. “They have been a partner of ours for a decade, previously sponsoring the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Thermal. This was a nice spot to add them in on the East Coast and we look forward to continuing this partnership far into the future.”
Along with the AIG $500,000 Grand Prix, the HITS Championship is host to the Diamond Mills $250,000 Hunter Prix Final, Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final, $15,000 Green Hunter Prix, and Black Barn $25,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner/Amateur Jumper Prix.
AIG $500,000 Grand Prix
On Sunday afternoon, 51 riders were welcomed to the Grand Prix Stadium for the AIG $500,000 Grand Prix, which is the biggest prize money jumper class in the world this year. Four riders from the first round jumped clear over a challenging course designed by Florencio Hernandez of Mexico City, Mexico. “I was thinking with this course to have five or seven clean. I didn’t want to make it too easy with this prize money, but still keeping it National Standard,” said Hernandez. “I was happy with the four that came back and how the course worked out today.”
Securing the victory in the unprecedented Grand Prix was Ben Maher and EXPLOSION W. This is only the second show that Maher has competed in this year and he stated he was probably a bit more nervous today than he usually is. Maher was just under the 88-second time allowed in the first round as he crossed the timers in 87.793, but nonetheless posted a qualifying ride for the jump-off.
“He [EXPLOSION W] jumped incredible and it had everything in it – a wide oxer, liverpool, the three combinations – and you need a very good horse to be able to jump that and that is why he is so special.” Amanda Derbyshire was the first to jump-off and posted a clear and careful round in 56.343. Maher followed her and rode with confidence as he cleared jump after jump in a commanding 50.985 to take the lead by over five seconds.
“It’s been a quiet season and he [EXPLOSION W] had only jumped one Grand Prix earlier in the year. This being the biggest prize money Grand Prix in the world was one of the reasons we decided not to go back to Europe this summer,” said Maher. “The show grounds have been amazing and management and the entire staff couldn’t have been more helpful. It’s my first time here and it’s definitely a place I’ll remember!”
Derbyshire, who finished second in the 2019 edition of the Saugerties $500,000 Grand Prix, hung onto second place with CORNWALL BH. Hunter Holloway, one of the youngest riders in the class, had an unfortunate rail at the combination aboard PEPITA CON SPITA for a four-fault score in 54.670. Last to go in the jump-off, and finishing in fourth place, was Charlie Jayne aboard AMICE Z. Jayne retired partway through his round after a rail at the first fence, saving AMICE Z for another day.
$15,000 Green Hunter Prix
Taking home top honors in the $15,000 Green Hunter Prix at the HITS Championship was Amanda Steege and PHIL, for owner Niki Holtzman-Hayes. Steege first rode PHIL at HITS Ocala this Winter for Stal de Eyckenhoeve, “He is a real character and his name suits him perfectly,” commented Steege. “I just wanted to go out there and have a good time, and give him [PHIL] a good experience. My hope was that he would go as well as he did all the other rounds this week. If anything, I think he raised his game tonight.”
Steege topped the field the first day with scores of 90 and 88 and added remarkable scores of 95 and 90 on the second day for a total of 363 and the blue ribbon. “This particular week, I loved the courses, especially in the outside course and certainly showing in the Grand Prix Ring is always a thrill,” added Steege. “The Diamond Mills [Hunter Prix Final] and Platinum Performance [Hunter Prix Final] are something we always look forward to the whole year and I find these two classes to be very intense and even nerve-wracking because of the format of the class. With the first two rounds and then a clean slate for Sunday, you’re hoping to get in and save your A-Game for the final rounds.”
Second place was awarded to Patricia Griffith and CAROUSEL, owned by Ashley Neudorff. Griffith posted impressive scores for a total of 359.5 for the red ribbon. Brady Mitchell and CASTING CALL claimed third place with a score of 352.5, followed by Cassandra Kahle and MAXLIGHT in fourth with a score of 360.75.
Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final
On Sunday morning, the top 25 Junior and Amateur riders from Rounds One and Two came back with a clean slate for the final rounds of the Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final. With nerves and excitement, Caroline Passarelli, Isabelle Greenbaum, Dylan Bazaar, and Christina Kourgelis who had posted the four highest scores in the third round, began preparations for the final round of the Hunter Prix in the Grand Prix Stadium.
Taking home the top honor was Greenbaum, who rides under the guidance of Brooke Chasin, and is a first time Platinum Performance Hunter Prix Final competitor, aboard WISDOM who returned to the fourth round with a score of 169. Greenbaum laid down a tremendous final trip to earn scores of 88 from each judge (176), for an overall score of 345. “I had some great rounds the first two days and was consistent, but didn’t end up getting a ribbon on either day,” said Greenbaum. “I wanted today to be the best it could be and it was. It feels amazing!” Along with the lion’s share of the $100,000 purse, Greenbaum received a bag of Platinum Performance products, the Winner’s blanket, and custom Winner’s trophy.
Second place was awarded to Kourgelis and CAYENTO with a score of 170.5 in the third round, added to a 143 in the fourth round for a total of 313.5. Coming in third place was Passarelli for her ride aboard LALIQUE. Pasarelli earned a 166.5 in the third round, but an unfortunate rail earned her a 91 in the fourth round and a 257.5 combined score. Rounding out the top four in the Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final was Bazaar and NASHVILLE scoring a 169 in the third round. A rail in the fourth round would earn her a score of 84, for a two-round total of 253.
Diamond Mills $250,000 Hunter Prix Final
A field of top competitors were welcomed to the Grand Prix Stadium for the final rounds of the Diamond Mills $250,000 Hunter Prix Final, the biggest prize money class for hunters in the world this year. Returning for the fourth round were Hannah Isop, David Wilbur, Amanda Steege, and Jennifer Jones.
It was Deja Vu for Jennifer Jones, who won last year’s Diamond Mills Hunter Prix final aboard VIRGO DC, as she posted the leading scores in both preliminary rounds of the Prix this year aboard HIGHLIGHTER to be in the enviable last-to-return position in for the third round. “We bought her to be a jumper and showed her in some jumper classes at HITS Ocala and just started showing her in the hunter classes the second week here [at HITS Saugerties],” said Jones. It was impressive scores of 90 and 89 (179) in the third round, combined with scores of 92 and 93 (185) from the fourth round that gave Jones the commanding five-point victory with a cumulative score of 164. “I just had in the back of my mind ‘I just hope I can do this like last year’, so I had a little extra pressure on myself,” said Jones. “This class is important for our business and of course the prize money is amazing! They [HITS] just did a beautiful job with it this year!”
Taking home second place was Steege, the 2018 winner of the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final. Steege piloted LAFITTE DE MUZE to scores totaling 178.5 in the third round and 180 in the fourth round for a 358.5. Third place was awarded to Wilbur and CHARISMO with scores of 176 and 180, totaling 356, and the white ribbon went to Isop and BELIEVE for their scores of 174 and 177, adding up to 351.
Black Barn Junior/Amateur-Owner/Amateur $25,000 Jumper Prix
An impressive field of riders joined us in the Grand Prix Stadium for the Black Barn $25,000 Jr/A-O/Am Jumper Prix. Five riders jumped clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. Hunter Champey was the only rider to jump double clear with her tidy and efficient jump-off in 44.464 aboard CAPRICE.
Second place was awarded to the faster of the two four-faulters, Nicole Bellissimo and GALANTHOS B jumped-off in 43.126, followed by Tori Corts and BON JOVI in third with their four-fault time of 43.444. Carolina Drummond and JOULES VD HOOGHOEVE had eight-faults and a time of 47.110 to take fourth place. Rounding out the jump-off was Madison Rauschenbach aboard GILETTE B with 12-faults and a time of 46.774.