Brian Feigus and Nessaja Named $100,000 USHJA International Derby Winners at HITS Championship

Saugerties, N.Y. – September 10, 2023 – Sunday marked the final day of competition for the HITS Championships at HITS Saugerties, but the action was at its peak. Saturday, the top hunter riders in the nation gathered to showcase their mounts during the classic round for the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. On Sunday morning, the top twelve competitors returned for the handy round for the opportunity to demonstrate their mount’s brilliance. In a very competitive group of horses and riders it was Brian Feigus with his Grand Prix horse Nessaja who impressed the judges the most to garner the highest scores of the day. They found themselves sitting in fourth after the classic round and on Sunday morning used Nessaja’s background in the jumpers to make smooth inside turns and showcase a brilliant hand gallop  to jump to the top of the rankings.

Brian Feigus and Nessaja. Photographed by ESI Photography.

“I've actually had [Nessaja] for two years. He's my jumper and we were actually fourth in the night class in Kentucky a few weeks ago. We did the 1.40m here last week, but  made a last minute decision to do the International Hunter Derby instead.” 

Sunday’s $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby handy course gave riders many options to show off their mounts. Riders were given high options at fences one, five, six and nine in addition to a trot jump at fence 7. The course provided multiple moments where riders had the option to demonstrate inside turns and could pick the bending track best suited for their horse. 

Brian Feigus and Nessaja. Photographed by ESI Photography.

“I think it makes it a little more challenging for the handy when the horses have to walk in there cold, versus going right back in there for a second round. For me, I think it helped and almost made it a little easier for me to take the lead,” explained Feigus. “My plan going into the handy round was just to go for it. I was sitting in fourth place and I felt like I could really go for the win. I wanted to make it hard for the top three to try to catch me. Fortunately it worked out and it all kind of came out the way I had hopped.”

As the ninth trip to go in the handy, Feigus and Nessaja earned the highest score of the day with a brilliant round that garnered a three-panel score of 292 and with a classic round score of 265 for a total of 557. Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze topped the judges card after the classic round with a three-panel score of 277.5, a handy score of 270 and a total of 547.5, which eventually earned the pair the reserve title. The third-place award went to Hannah Isop and Clem Brecourt, who received a classic round three-panel score of 267 and a handy score of 275 for a total of 542.

Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze. Photographed by ESI Photography.

Being from Florida, Feigus is a regular at HITS Ocala and expressed his excitement to get back to the venue, “I'm super excited to go back home. It's my home now, and I can't wait to see the new improvements on top of the ones they did last year. It's going to be amazing and it's a very homey feeling for me. I can't wait to go back!”

The $100,000 USHJA Hunter Derby marked the conclusion of the derby competition at HITS Saugerties, but the HITS team is already looking ahead to 2024. One more week of competition remains at HITS Saugerties as riders prepare for the 2023 Marshall and Sterling Insurance League Finals. Exhibitors can also join HITS in Ocala, Florida, for the 2024 winter show season at HITS Post Time Farm. For more information visit

Hannah Isop and Clem Brecourt. Photographed by ESI Photography.