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 $400,500 FEI CSI5* Grand Prix. 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.”

Results here.