Kelli Cruciotti Wins First Five-Star Class at Week 7 of WEF

The seventh week of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) saw the return of FEI international five-star competition in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, on Wednesday, February 20. Fifty-eight combinations contested the two-part course for the $36,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI 5*, but none could overcome Kelli Cruciotti (USA) and Zidante.

Wednesday’s modified power-and-speed format vanquished rider after rider with time faults running prominently throughout the competition. Only 11 horse-and-rider combinations successfully navigated a fault-free round through the track designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA). Of those 11 combinations, Cruciotti and the Serenity Farm’s 15-year-old KWPN mare (Cantos x Midante) managed to remain untouchable with an efficient time of 24.60 seconds over the second phase of the course.

Kelli Cruciotti and Zidante. Photo © Sportfot.

“Today was pretty surreal for me because I’ve never won an open class here at WEF, whether it was a two-star or five-star or any star,” commented Cruciotti. “This horse is so special to me because she was my first junior jumper, and she and I have really grown up through the ranks together.”

Cruciotti said that while her mare may be slightly older than some of the other competitors, they have developed a system to keep her at the top of her game.

“When I got her she was only doing the 1.30m classes and I never thought she would do the High Juniors, let alone five-star classes, but my whole team is so amazing at bringing horses along slowly so they have the confidence to succeed,” she explained. “She doesn’t have a natural 1.45m scope, so she really has to believe she can do it. We usually rest her for a few weeks prior to showing, and then will enter her in a 1.30m class the week before to make her feel like she can get around the course easily; then she will typically just hack and trail ride to keep her fitness leading up to the show.”

She pointed out that time faults were her biggest concern for her round as many prior entries had suffered in either one or both of the phases.

“I’m the first one to tell you I can be a slow rider, so I knew I couldn’t have time faults in the first phase,” explained Cruciotti. “The first phase was not a given for anyone, and it definitely got a lot of competitors, and the jump-off was long but the numbers were set, so you really had to commit to them and hope your horse was careful because everything came up very fast.”

Mark Norman of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Ringmaster Steve Rector, and Kelli Cruciotti. Photo © Sportfot.

Mexico’s Carlos Hank Guerreiro and H5 Quantador 3 finished less than half a second behind Cruciotti to take home second place. He and the 11-year-old Westphalian gelding (Quinta Real x Circe) crossed the timers at 24.86 seconds, while Marilyn Little (USA) placed third with a time of 24.98 seconds. Little was with longtime partner Clearwater, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Tricolore-W) owned by Karen O’Connor.

Final Results: $36,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI 5*

1 ZIDANTE: 2004 KWPN mare by Cantos x Midante
KELLI CRUCIOTTI (USA), Serenity Farm: 0/0/24.60

2 H5 QUANTADOR 3: 2008 Westphalian gelding by Quinta Real x Circe
CARLOS HANK GUERREIRO (MEX), H5 Stables: 0/0/24.86

3 CLEARWATER: 2007 Holsteiner gelding by Clearway x Tricolore-W
MARILYN LITTLE (USA), Karen O’Connor: 0/0/24.98

4 BULL RUN’S FAUSTINO DE TILI: 2005 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Berlin x Bijou Van De Vijfheide
KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers Five LLC: 0/0/25.22

5 CAILLOU: 2007 Warmblood mare
LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Miguel Madero & Luis Pedro Biraben: 0/0/26.37

6 FARRERO: 2010 KWPN gelding by Boss x Bo
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Hillside Farm: 0/0/26.59

7 JIVA: 2009 Belgian warmblood mare by Concorde x Energy Van’t Broekend
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/26.62

8 Z DIAMANTY: 2007 Holsteiner mare by Diamant D. x Gorina
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Z Group, Javier Salvador Stables, Diamante: 0/0/26.84

9 SO WHAT HP Z: 2010 Zangersheide mare by Sandro Boy x Caretina HP
LUIZ FRANCISCO DE AZEVEDO (BRA), Santa Cecilia Stables: 0/0/28.02

10 DUTSBOY: 2008 KWPN gelding by Veron x Unicum
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Stone Hill Farm: 0/0/28.78

11 CHACCIAMA: 2007 Oldenburg mare by Chaco-blue x Warriama
RODRIGO LAMBRE (BRA), Rodrigo Lambre: 0/0/31.20

12 IBABCO: 2008 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Nabab De Reve x Via Darco
SANTIAGO LAMBRE (MEX), Santiago Lambre: 1/1/25.69