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Ben Maher & Explosion W Ignite Again to Win $500,000 AIG Grand Prix at Hits Saugerties

Saugerties, New York, USA – September 06, 2020 – 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.

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 (GBR) 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. 

“It’s been a quite 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!”

Ben Maher (GBR) & Explosion W during the awards ceremony

“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 (GBR) was the first to jump-off and posted a clear and careful round in 56.343 seconds. Ben Maher (GBR) and the 11-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding (Chacco-Blue x Balou du Rouet) followed her and rode with confidence as they cleared jump after jump in a commanding 50.985 to take the lead by over five seconds. Derbyshire, who finished second in the 2019 edition of the Saugerties $500,000 Grand Prix, hung onto second place with Cornwall BH 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 (USA) aboard Amice Z. Jayne retired partway through his round after a rail at the first fence, saving Amice Z for another day.

“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.

For full standings & results, please click here.

Source: Press release from Hits Horse Shows

Photos: © ESI Photography