Upper Marlboro, MD – Capital Challenge Horse Show (CCHS), presented this year by Well Placed Smile, honored Kelli Cruciotti of Elizabeth, CO, as the champion of the incredibly competitive Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships in The Show Place Arena today. With more than 100 entries in the class, the largest Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships held at CCHS in the past 10 years, many highly touted equitation riders from around the country vied for top honors, with Cruciotti and her mount Darius, owned by Serenity Farm, ultimately besting the tremendous class.
Cruciotti and Darius are forming a new partnership, as the dark bay 2008 Warmblood gelding is a recent addition to the Serenity Farms team arriving in the United States this past July as a second equitation prospect for Cruciotti. In only their third competition together, Cruciotti sealed her first equitation finals win with two solid rounds and a brilliant test portion of the division to take top honors.
“To be honest, I’m a little surprised,” said Cruciotti. “This is really only the third show we’ve done together, and we thought it would be a great place to give a younger horse experience in a big atmosphere. We figured that getting any sort of mileage with him would be beneficial, and he did absolutely everything we asked and was just incredible.” Five judges observed the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championship and their scores were averaged for each rider’s individual trip. Cruciotti led after the initial round of competition with a score of 90.60, in front of Ashton Alexander, of Ocala, FL, who followed with a 90.40. Katherine Strauss of Southampton, NY, who would take reserve champion honors at the conclusion of the division, rounded out the top three receiving an 89.57.
“I thought both courses were beautifully designed and perfect off of both leads. I think the first round was hard enough that you were able to show-off but not too difficult that people were getting eliminated,” explained Cruciotti. “I think the second round was a bit more difficult and the hard seven strides back to the bending three-stride line was a tough and coming off of the bigger oxer to the bounce was especially difficult off the left lead. I think it was a bit of a challenging moment for us and if I could have done anything differently, I would have gotten a bit closer to the oxer.”
In the second round of competition, the leaderboard shifted as Alexander moved in front of Cruciotti after a spectacularly smooth ride aboard Fernway Park, owned by Donald Stewart, leading the top three going into the final test portion of the class. Alexander, Cruciotti, and Strauss were called back for evaluation one last time, but a small canter stride at the trot fence left Alexander out of the champion position. Cruciotti was the first to complete the test portion of the three combinations and made the most of her time before the panel.
“I always think going first has its advantages in a class format like this. You can be the first one to go in and do some turns to show off and there was definitely an advantage doing the inside turn to the trot jump,” she explained. “The hand gallop was my favorite part of the whole test though. He was really great and I can’t say anything bad about it. He was perfect.”
Cruciotti finished with a total score of 272.10, followed by Strauss aboard HNM Investments’ Canterbury with a 270.77. Alexander and Fernway Park rounded out the top three with a total score of 263.00.
For more information on Capital Challenge Horse Show and to view a full show schedule, please visit www.capitalchallenge.org