Steven Saumell and MTM Coco Save Best for Last in $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby at HITS Saugerties :: HITS


Steven Saumell and MTM Coco Save Best for Last in $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby at HITS Saugerties

Saugerties, N.Y. – Sept. 2, 2023 – Competition in HITS Saugerties’ newly renovated arena THE Ring kicked off Saturday morning with the $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby as the first class of the day. Of the 30 horse and rider combinations vying for the top prize, Steven Saumell and MTM Coco topped the judges’ cards, winning it all after earning two scores in the 90s for a two-round total of 182.

Steven Saumell and MTM Coco. Photo by: ESI Photography

“[MTM Coco] is a fun little quirky mare,” remarked Saumell after his win. “It definitely took some time to get to know her. We’ve had her now for two years, and we actually started doing her in the jumpers before we transitioned her into the Hunter arena. She has the scope to do the jumpers, but just not enough blood. [MTM Coco] did a couple international derbies with Brian Feigus, and after those we then transitioned her over with me. We do the Amateur Owner Hunters and now these national derbies.”

From the time they stepped foot in the arena to the time they left, Saumell and MTM Coco wowed the judges with their smooth and consistent rounds. The duo started off strong by picking up the highest first-round score of 90.5 after being the last competitors to go in the classic round of the derby.

“[MTM Coco] just needs someone to stay out of the way, be relaxed, and let her do her thing so she can be nice and steady,” explained Saumell. “She doesn’t do anything crazy and doesn’t pull out any last-minute moves. She’s really fun!”

Paris Levy and Closeau. Photo by: ESI Photography

The third to go in the handy, Saumell and MTM Coco earned the highest score of the day with a brilliant round that garnered a 91.5 for a total of 182. Their high marks would make them the leaders for the remainder of the class, with few riders coming close to catching them. Paris Levy and Closeau were the only pair who almost took over Saumell and MTM Coco’s lead with their rounds by earning an 87.5 in the first round and a 91 during the handy for a total score of 178.5 – which would become the second-highest score of the day. The third-place award would eventually go to Grace Wilson and Fact Check, who received a first-round score of 87 and a handy score of 86 for a total of 173.

Grace Wilson and Fact Check. Photo by: ESI Photography

“I am riding with Emil Spadone, so when he had to go to another ring during the handy round we moved up in the order,” stated Saumell. “So we went in thinking, ‘Be nice and calm, be smooth, take everything in stride,’ and it seemed to work out, which was nice!”

Saumell’s cool and collected mindset seemed to pay off after he and MTM Coco were crowned victors of the $5,000 USHJA Jr/Am National Hunter Derby at the end of the morning.

Steven Saumell and MTM Coco. Photo by: ESI Photography

“THE Ring is awesome,” concluded Saumell. “The footing is amazing. Worldly Martin did an awesome job! We can't say enough good things about what they did, and I feel now we have more people showing up [to HITS Saugerties]. A couple of weeks ago we were sold out, so I think everyone's really happy with the improvements.”

Following the $5,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby was the $5,000 USHJA National Derby in the afternoon where Hannah Isop piloted MTM Muffin to the top of the leaderboard. Like Saumell and MTM Coco, Isop and MTM Muffin received the highest marks of the day in their class, scoring an impressive 93 in the first round and a 96 in the handy for a two-round total of 189. Michael Desiderio and Bel Ami were right behind Isop and MTM Muffin after also earning two scores in the 90s. Their first-round score of 90 and handy score of 94 gave them the second-highest score in their class with a 184. Last but not least, David Wilbur and Karaat S pulled out all the stops and slipped into third as the last competitors in the $5,000 USHJA National Derby. The final participants to receive two scores in the 90s, Wilbur and Karaat S attained a 91 and 92 in the classic and handy rounds, respectively, making their total score amount to a 183.

Hunter action at HITS Saugerties will come to a close next week after HITS-on-the-Hudson VIII. This week, Friday through Sunday will feature several special classes for Hunter riders to participate in, including the $1,500 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, $50,000 USHJA Junior/Amateur National Hunter Derby, $50,000 National Hunter Derby, and finally, the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. For more information, visit