Saugerties, New York, USA – September 11, 2022 – Only one rider had all the answers in the $405,300 Hits Grand Prix CSI 5* during the Hits Championship. Hunter Holloway (USA) piloted Pepita Con Spita to the lone double clear effort during the marquee event of the Hits show jumping season as the field was narrowed down. Four advanced to the jump-off, but only Holloway and Pepita Con Spita were able to leave every fence in the cups to capture the lion’s share of the prize money.
“This has always been a very special stop and on our tour each year,” said Holloway after leading the day’s lap of honor. “I’ve been coming here since I think I was like 12 or 13, so I’ve been a long time coming, and I’ve been showing in this class since I was 14. It means a lot to be able to come here and win this class, and we will definitely be back next year!”
Great Britain’s Mark McGowan (GBR) set an exacting track for the world-class field of riders competing in Sunday’s $405,300 Hits Grand Prix CSI 5*. It featured an oxer-vertical double combination to a line that opened with a triple bar followed by a liverpool vertical to a square oxer. Riders then continued to a vertical-oxer-oxer triple combination followed by a rollback to a liverpool oxer and the final line into the crowd. Only four were able to master the first round and advance to the tiebreaker, where they had to jump the double combination and make several sharp turns before a long gallop to the final wide oxer once again.
“The course was based on what I’d seen over the first few days,” commented McGowan. “I had a bit of scope to play with the height today, so it was between 1.55m, 1.60 min places. I think I gave the riders room to get to the fences; I didn’t overcomplicate it. The lines were the lines, and there wasn’t too much in the way of power off a corner. I was letting them get to the fences and cope with the height. We could have had six or seven clean today, but we had four, and we had a very good winner, so I was absolutely delighted with that.”
Holloway was third in the return order for the jump-off with Pepita Con Spita, but they were the only pair to complete the shortened track without error, leaving each rail safely in its cups and taking home the championship title for the season.
“I had Amanda [Derbyshire] and Will [Simpson] both in front of me, who are very fast riders, but luckily for me and unlucky for them, they [each] had a rail today, so it made my job a bit easier,” admitted Holloway. “I was just trying to make it smooth, double clear. My horse is naturally fast – she’s wonderful. I just trusted her natural, quick foot speed to be enough and maybe put a little pressure on Jessica [Leto], the last to go, and hope that it was enough to seal the win today.”
Pepita Con Spita is an 11-year-old Westphalian mare owned by the Hays Investment Corp, and Holloway has worked closely with her over the last three years to develop a strong and successful partnership. “She’s a really catty, brave mare,” noted Holloway. “She’s full of heart, and she gives it her all every time she steps out into that ring. She is naturally very fast as well, but I think her heart and how much she tries for her rider is just really special.”
Will Simpson (USA) and Chacco P were the pathfinders in the first round and the first to return for the jump-off. They had an unfortunate rail at the second fence as they turned toward the double combination, but set the Great American time to beat at 55.56 seconds, which would hold up for third place.
“’I’m thinking about the combination, and next thing I know, my horse has a back rail down,” commented Simpson. “I was really happy with my horse and really happy with the class today. It was a lot of fun and great course design!”
Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) was next, representing Great Britain with Cornwall BH. With two riders behind them, they kept their pace up, but it came at the expense of a rail at vertical towards the end of the jump-off. Their time of 51.78 seconds put them ahead of Simpson to eventually earn the second-place prize.
“I started to jump off pretty well, but then the last line there was a leave out in eight, and I think I got a little flat in that and that’s why I had the rail,” said Derbyshire. “I just kept on going because I know in these classes there are not many clears. I really enjoy this class because everyone is like striving to jump the first clear round. I think it was a perfect number today – it’s a notoriously difficult week. I think it was a great day for everyone and I know we’ll all be back.”
The final rider to compete in the jump-off was Jessica Leto (USA) aboard Cimbura, who made their five-star debut during this same event in 2021. This time the pair advanced to the short course where they gave it their all but lowered the height of two fences for the fourth place honors.
“I started with a lot of pace because Hunter was double clear and had a really good time,” commented Leto. “I just wanted to start right out the gate with a lot of speed. I think I got a little bit deep coming into the seven to the combination and had that down and then just wanted to finish without having too many rails after that.”
The $405,300 Hits Grand Prix CSI 5* marks the conclusion of the show jumping season at Hits Saugerties, but the Hits team is already looking ahead to 2023. “We really appreciate the riders all coming this year,” said Show Manager Rian Beals. “We are going to hold another five-star the same time next year with the same prize money. We have big plans for Ocala this winter, and we will have big prize money at the end of the year!”
One more week of competition remains at Hits Saugerties as riders prepare for the 2022 Marshall and Sterling Insurance League Finals. Exhibitors can also join Hits in Ocala, Florida, for the 2023 winter show season at HITS Post Time Farm. For more information and the complete class listing visit www.hitsshows.com.
Final Results – $405,300 Hits Grand Prix CSI 5*
1) Hunter Holloway (USA) & Pepita Con Spita – 0 / 0 – not informed
2) Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) & Cornwall BH – 0 / 4 – 51.78
3) William Sampson (USA) & Chacco P – 0/ 4 – 55.56
Source: Press Release by Rebecca Walton for Hits Horse Shows
Photos: © ESI Photography / Rebecca Walton