Devon, Pa.—May 28
“I was kind of like a kid in the candy store like ‘Oh, I’ve got my white pants on.’ I’ve always dreamed about doing a class like this in front of this many people. To have such a great result is a dream come true!” Kelli Cruciotti said about getting ready for the $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon.
The 17-year-old rode in her first grand prix ever two weeks before. Last week, she graduated from high school. And she was taking to the ring with the likes of Olympians and veterans McLain Ward and Peter Leone.
And lo and behold, the teenager beat them all. Cruciotti, in the first grand prix victory of her career, became the youngest winner of the Grand Prix of Devon in the class’s 37-year history.
Kelli Cruciotti on Chamonix H. Photo by Molly Sorge
“I can’t believe this. We’ve been doing the under-25 in Wellington and she’s unbelievable. She’s the best horse I could ever do this on. It hasn’t sunken in at all,” Cruciotti said.
Cruciotti hails from Elizabeth, Colo., and is the daughter of trainer Cindy Cruciotti. She has trained with her mother her whole life, but also gets help from Peter Wylde in the jumpers. She’s been riding Chamonix H, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood, for two years. The mare has experience at the Nations Cup and grand prix level with international riders Helen Persson and Olivier Philippaerts, but she’s not the easiest ride.
“Starting out it was really getting to know each other but I think we’ve reached a nice happy medium and she trusts me and I trust her, so that helps a lot,” Kelli said.
|Want to know more about Cruciotti? She was the Chronicle’s One To Watch for Devon, and you can read that article here.
It wasn’t just Kelli flying the flag for youth this evening. Michael Hughes, just 18, claimed second on MacArthur, while Devin Ryan took third on an 8-year-old horse, Cooper. “The youngsters kicked butt tonight!” said course designer Michel Vallaincourt.
“I think my goal was just to have a nice round, just a nice maybe four fault round,” Kelli said. “I didn’t really have any expectations. When I made the jump-off, I didn’t have much to lose. Going into the jump-off [trainer Peter Wylde] said go medium and nice. Luckily everything just kind of showed up off the turn. I turned back really tight to the double, and she really came through for me. I came out, and Peter was like ‘that was a nice medium.’ It was more like a 10! It’s amazing to win at a show like this. It’s just unbelievable. I’m lucky to be here.”
Hughes acknowledged that he left the door open a bit for Kelli in the jump-off. “I thought I had a good gallop to [Fence 1]. McLain [Ward] told me to do nine strides in that line, but I got halfway down, and I didn’t really see nine. I should have just kept going and could have done the nine to the blue. Then I was a bit wide everywhere in the turns,” he said.
Michael Hughes on MacArthur. Photo by Molly Sorge
Ryan, however, was happy with a semi-conservative approach aboard Cooper, an 8-year-old in his first season of grand prix. “He won the 7-year-old classes in here last year. I’ve brought him here since he was a 5-year-old,” he said.
“The atmosphere, the ring and the crowd—it’s never bothered him. Any ring he’s stepped into he’s always been really brave and game and wanting to go. I just started moving him up the levels this year into the grand prix. The only reason I planned on doing him tonight and actually not my older horse is because I know his mentality for it and the crowd and everything. It doesn’t faze him. I didn’t feel I was overfacing him or anything.”
Devin Ryan on Cooper. Photo by Molly Sorge
Want to know more about Kelli Cruciotti, including why trainer Peter Wylde is such a fan of her? Make sure to read the June 15 print issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.