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Kelli Cruciotti wins first 5* class at week seven of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival

Thursday, 21 February 2019
Winter Equestrian Festival 2019 – Week 7

Photo © Sportfot. Kelli Cruciotti and Zidante. Photo © Sportfot.

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 CSI5*, but none could overcome Kelli Cruciotti (USA) and Zidante.

Week 7 will play host to various five-star classes as well as top national hunter, jumper, and equitation competition. “Saturday Night Lights” will feature the second five-star grand prix of the season: the $391,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix CSI5*. WEF continues through March 31 and hosts some of the best national and international riders in the sport.

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.

“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.”

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.

Competition will resume Thursday, February 21, with the seventh round of the $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup to be held in the International Arena. For a full list of daily results, please visit

Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions

Photo © Sportfot

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