Year after year, exhibitors look forward to the “Richest Weekend in Show Jumping”, the HITS Championship held at HITS-on-the-Hudson, and 2021 was no exception. Many top riders from around the world made their way to HITS Saugerties in an attempt to win one of the five finals, highlighted by the $400,500 FEI CSI5* Grand Prix.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, FEI competitors entered the Grand Prix Stadium with hopes of winning the biggest class of the HITS Saugerties season. The riders took to a course designed by Germany’s Werner Deeg that proved to be challenging, with only three able to jump a clear first round, but Deeg was pleased with the outcome. In his words, Deeg’s goal was to “produce good sport” with a course laid out on “the best footing in the world” that required rhythm throughout. There was no particular spot that caused trouble, but with a time allowed of 93 seconds, the course tested strength and stamina of horse and rider alike.
Securing what is by far the biggest win in her career to date was Megan McDermott aboard Entano. The duo was the first to return for the jump-off, which required choosing the right strategy knowing that there was tough competition to come. McDermott’s chosen approach was to hold back her “amazing” horse just enough to go clean and force her competitors to do the same. McDermott and Entano pulled it off, posting a fault-free time of 48.69.
David Blake and Keoki were next to take their shot, but with 12 faults and a time of 50.61, they couldn’t overcome what McDermott had accomplished.
The final competitors in the jump-off were Maria Costa and Presence. As everyone at the ring watched with bated breath, the duo pulled the second to last rail to finish in second place with four faults in 48.85, ensuring the win for McDermott.
In that moment, it was hard to tell who was more stunned – the 25-year-old winner from South Salem, New York, or her incredibly proud parents. “We’ve been coming here [to HITS Saugerties] since the Green Ponies,” said her beaming mother, Susan. “It feels amazing!”
McDermott’s competitors were quick to compliment her chosen strategy, with Blake saying that “Megan had a good tactic” and Costa saying that “her plan worked perfectly to put the pressure on.”
Similarly to McDermott’s win, Costa’s runner-up finish was a highlight in her young career, and she was quick to credit her horse. “He’s absolutely incredible!”
Blake wanted to be sure to compliment Deeg’s challenging course, saying “It should be a hard course at this level.”
For his part, Deeg was most interested in focusing on what the day’s results mean for the sport. “What we have seen here today is the future. I think there is a change of generation at the moment.”
HITS President & CEO Tom Struzzieri agreed, noting that the outcome will be a good springboard for McDermott and Costa’s careers in particular. He also stated that “The sport needs classes like this,” and announced that “We plan on having a 5* again next year at this horse show.”
Diamond Mills $200,000 Hunter Prix Final
A strong field of competitors was welcomed to the Grand Prix Stadium for the culminating rounds of the Diamond Mills $200,000 Hunter Prix Final. Posting the four top scores in the third round and returning for the fourth round were Jimmy Torano, Hannah Isop, Patricia Griffith, and Jennifer Jones.
After winning last week’s $5,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson VII, Torano and Laskano took home an even bigger win in the final. Their cumulative score of 357.5 was comprised of the highest third round score of 179 and a nearly identical fourth round score of 178.5. Their performance was incredibly strong, as they finished on top in the first two rounds as well.Isop and Believe followed closely behind in second place with a total score of 356. Third place was awarded to Griffith and Tradition with scores totaling 352. Jones, last year’s winner, placed fourth aboard Cantinori with an overall score of 347.5.
Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final
On Sunday morning, the top 25 Junior and Amateur riders from Rounds One and Two returned for the final rounds of the Platinum Performance $100,000 Hunter Prix Final with a clean slate. Naomi Bennett, Katelyn Coveney, Emma Kurtz, and Kim Storey posted the four highest scores in the third round, enabling them to advance to the fourth and final round that would determine the winner.
Using trainer Sarah Barge’s guidance, Bennett rode Marvelous to the win. The team posted the highest scores in each of Sunday’s rounds, earning a 175 and a 179 for a blue-ribbon total of 354. Along with the largest share of the $100,000 purse, Bennett received a bucket of Platinum Performance products, a cooler, a saddle pad, and a custom trophy.
Second place was awarded to Coveney and MTM Fashion, while third went to Kurtz and Cariatide. Coveney and Kurtz both earned overall scores of 345.5, with the tie-breaker giving Coveney the higher placing. Storey and Highlighter rounded out the top four with a score of 326.
$15,000 Green Hunter Prix
Taking home top honors in the $15,000 Green Hunter Prix at the 2021 HITS Championship was Tracy Fenney and MTM Farm’s MTM Last Word. The duo topped the field on the first day with matching scores of 87 and added even better scores of 87.5 and 89 on day two for a winning total of 350.5. Second place went to Cassandra Kahle and Levitating with an overall score of 349. With a total score of 345, Brian Feigus and MTM Coconut finished in third. Fenney landed a second mount in the top four, scoring 343.25 aboard MTM Plus One.
BlackBarn $25,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner/Amateur Jumper Prix
Just prior to the $400,500 Grand Prix, Junior and Amateur jumper riders took their turn in the spotlight for the BlackBarn $25,000 Jr/A-O/Am Jumper Prix. Seven horse-rider pairings went clear in the first round and returned for the jump-off. Riding Stella Levista, Caroline Mawhinney was the fastest of four to jump double clear, posting a time of 41.99 to take the win.
Just prior to Mawhinney and Stella Levista’s second trip, Alexandra Worthington and Carrow Indoctro posted a fast time of 44.69 that ultimately held on for second place. Amy Shafmaster and one of her two mounts in the jump-off, Umbrella per Wilgen Z followed in third with a time of 47.3. Mawhinney also landed two in the jump-off and finished fourth aboard Dollar Girl, completing the shortened course in 48.42.