Kelli Cruciotti, age 17, competed in just her second grand prix at Devon, and she and Chamonix H were the winners of the prestigious $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon.
“I can’t believe it,” expressed Cruciotti at the end of the night. “She’s unbelievable. She’s the best horse I could learn to do this on. It hasn’t sunk in at all.”
In front of a packed house, Cruciotti navigated a seven-horse jump-off to claim the first major win of her budding career, becoming the youngest rider to ever win the historic event. Course designer Michel Vaillancourt narrowed down a field of 28 entries, which included Olympians McLain Ward, Peter Leone and Beat Mandli, to just seven riders for the tiebreaker.
The first rider to return for the short course was Callan Solem of Chester Springs, PA, with Horseshoe Trail Farm’s VDL Wizard. The pair set the pace to beat with a clear round in 41.534 seconds. Aaron Vale soon one-upped them with Equi-Sport LLC’s E.S. Finou 4 with a faultless round in 40.606 seconds.
Devin Ryan and the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Cooper took over the top spot when they made it around the course in 40.058 seconds. With tight turns to each obstacle, Cruciotti and Chamonix H became the ones to beat with a blazing time of 38.678 seconds.
“Going in to the jump off Peter [Wylde] said go medium and nice,” noted Cruciotti. “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!’”
Kaitlin Campbell tried to catch the time on Rocky W but had a rail in the combination for four faults in 39.892 seconds. Michael Hughes, age 18, with Christina Fried’s MacArthur raced through the timers in 39.498 seconds to take over second place. Alison Robitaille with Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Cassinja, had a rail to take home the Richard E. McDevitt Style Award and the sixth place ribbon.
When Cruciotti returned to the center of the Dixon Oval to accept the Celeste McNeal Harper Perpetual Trophy, it was with a mixture of joy and shock. The young rider, who graduated high school the week before, earned multiple top placings in the hunters and equitation, but she only competed in her first grand prix two weeks prior during the Kentucky Spring Classic, and she had no expectations of leading Thursday night’s victory gallop.
“I think my goal was just to have a nice round, just a nice maybe four fault round,” smiled Cruciotti. “I didn’t really have any expectations. When I made the jump-off, I didn’t have much to lose. It’s amazing to win at a show like this. It’s just unbelievable. I’m lucky to be here.”
Kaitlin Campbell and Rocky W, now 17, won the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake. The Royal Dutch Warmblood in past years carried Campbell to both a Junior Jumper Championship and an Amateur-Owner Jumper Championship at the Devon Horse Show, and this year the impressive duo rode away with the Open Jumper Championship.
Of the 25 combinations Olympian McLain Ward and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild had the first clear round, setting the pace to beat at 40.236 seconds. Then 2013 Idle Dice Stake winners Campbell and Rocky W overtook Ward's time by a full second when they broke the beam at 39.007 seconds.
"Going after Rothchild you pretty much have to go for broke and hope that you get lucky," admitted Campbell.
Callan Solemof Chester Springs, PA took home the third place award with B Amelusina for Horseshow Trail Partners, choosing to keep a conservative pace with her young mount.
Campbell, formerly of Bucks County, PA, and Rocky W returned to the center of the Dixon Oval to accept the Open Jumper Championship, tying with Kelli Cruciotti and Chamonix H. The Leading Lady Rider Challenge Trophy also went to Campbell. Mclain Ward, in addition to placing second and sixth in the Idle Dice, won three events earlier in the week to capture the Leading Open Jumper Rider award for the third time in four years.
Kelley Farmer earned the Devon Grand Hunter Championship in 2013 with Back Story; in 2014 with Scripted, and this year aboard Kensel LLC’s Mindful.
The pair earned the High Performance Hunter championship at last year’s Devon Horse Show, early in their partnership, and again this year.
By Wednesday afternoon, the hunt for the grand championship award had come down to a tight race between Farmer and Mindful and the 2015 Leading Hunter Rider, Scott Stewart and his Green Conformation Hunter mount, First Light.
First Light and Mindful had each earned three wins and a second place over fences, so it all came down to the High Performance Hunter Under Saddle, in which First Light finished fourth and Mindful finished second.
Stewart has dominated the Leading Hunter Rider title, having won it 12 times, only interrupted most recently by Farmer who claimed the title in both 2013 and 2014. This year, the title returned to Stewart who earned the top accolade for the 13th time.
Maggie Jayne and The Answer, tenth in the order for the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, took over the lead and never relinquished it. Jayne and the 8-year-old gelding earned scores of 90 and 87 from the two judging panels, which, coupled with four high option points, gave them a first round score of 185. Thirty-two combinations followed Jayne and The Answer in the first round, including last year's winners, Kelley Farmer and Mindful, and 2013 winners Tori Colvin and Inclusive, but none were able to touch the leading score.
Second in the first round went to Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, PA, and Meralex Farm Inc.'s El Primero with a total from the two judges of 180.5 points, while Harrisburg native Jennifer Alfano and Helen Lenahan's Miss Lucy rounded out the top three with 180 points.
The Carriage Marathon was won by the Hillcroft Farm entry owned by Misdee and James Miller, a team of bay Dutch Harness horses driven by Todd Draheim, also the top team in the Four-In-Hand class for horses. The team also received the Robert & Virginia Weaver Challenge Trophy as the overall best turned out team.
Rachel Shoemaker of Malvern, PA, a fifth generation Devon exhibitor, earned her first blue ribbon and her first championship driving Willisbrook Farm's Rally Cart to the Single Horse Driving Championship. Shoemaker recalls being at Devon about 15 years ago to compete in Three-Gaited Show Pleasure classes and catching a glimpse of a stunning mare competing in a Park Horse class. Her family bought the mare, named Carrigan's Magic, and Shoemaker competed her for years before deciding she wanted to try breeding show horses. The result of Shoemaker's first breeding from Carrigan's Magic was Our New Dawn, a 6-year-old American Saddlebred mare, Shoemaker's partner for her Devon championship.
Harvey Waller sped to a win in the Scurry Driving class enroute to taking the Horse Pairs Championship with the H. Waller Spider Phaeton. The reserve honors in the Horse Pairs Championship went to Rich O'Donnell, who is President of the Board of Directors of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Inc. and Devon Horse Show & Country Fair Foundation. He drove the O'Donnell Spider Phaeton, which he owns with his wife, to victory in the Horse Pairs Pleasure Turnout.
Lisa Koehler's Koehler Gig, driven by Nicole Cable, received the Joseph M. Pierce Challenge Trophy for the Single/Pair Pony Driving Championship. The reserve championship in the competitive division went to Tara Miliziano-Crowley, driving her own Miliziano-Crowley Saylor Wagon.
McKayla Langmeier and the 8-year-old Warmblood gelding Cuba, owned by Missy Clark and North Run, were the Overall Large Junior Hunter Champions and the Grand Junior Hunter Champions.
Victoria Colvin, champion of both of the Junior 16 & 17 Hunter divisions, with Way Cool and Canadian Blue, was named Best Child Rider on a Horse for a record fifth consecutive time. Taylor St. Jacques was named Best Child Rider on a Pony.
Competing in the jumpers for the first time at the Devon Horse Show at age 14, Daisy Farish of Lexington, KY and Triviant led the victory gallop in Saturday night's $20,000 Show Jumping Hall of Farm Junior Jumper Classic, taking home the Junior Jumper Championship and the Leading Junior Jumper Rider Award.
Hunter Holloway, from Topeka, KS, and her mount Any Given Sunday won the R.W. "Ronnie" Mutch Equitation Challenge Trophy, presented each year to the junior rider who shows the most consistency throughout the two days and four equitation classes. She won the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Section C, the WIHS Equitation Classic - Jumper Phase Section A and the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Section C.
Kenneth Wheeler Sr. celebrated his 87th birthday as Richard Taylor showed his Arbor Hill to the Best Young Horse title.
Arbor Hill shipped from California to Taylor's base in Virginia in February 2014."He came to us on a stock trailer with a retired, blind in one eye racehorse, a retired equitation horse, a miniature mule, three pregnant miniature mares, and this horse rode from California to Virginia in the trailer’s dressing room," Taylor said. "He had hair so long we called him Fluffy. We made great progress with him last year."
This year's Leading Handler, Oliver Brown is a prior winner of the Leading Handler title who has been showing at the Devon Horse Show for more than 30 years.
Hillcroft Farm’s Misdee Wrigley Miller rode Moonbeams And Dreams to first place in the Three-Gaited Saddle Horse Amateur Stake. Her husband, James Miller, captured both the Single Roadster Horse Championship on Ring of Fire and the Five-Gaited Saddle Horse Amateur Stake on CH Fox Grape's Dauntless.
The Hicks family also impressed as Danny Hicks drove Janet Hicks' Jackie O to the Single Roadster Pony Amateur Championship. Rodney Hicks then picked up three wins: the Hackney Pony Championship with Ed Ochsenschlager's The Spiderman, the Single Hackney Horse Championship with Ed Ochsenschlager's Heartland Good, and the Harness Pony Championship with David & Kierstin Cater's Mimi.
Janet Sterba earned multiple tricolors as well, taking the Five-Gaited English Show Pleasure Horse Championship with CH Callaway's Born For This and the Fine Harness Horse Amateur Championship with CH Caraway's New York Minute, owned by Janet and Jeff Sterba. Ashlee Wheaton, of Nova Scotia, rode CH Extremely Fortunut to the Three-Gaited English Country Pleasure Horse Championship. Maureen Quackenbush, of upstate New York, competing at her first Devon Horse Show, clinched the Hackney/Harness Pony Pleasure Driving Championship with C B Party Girl.
Show attendance reached the highest levels of Devon’s recent history, as close to 125,000 spectators visited the grounds during the 11 days, while exhibitors increased by 7 percent. "Our goals are quite clear," said President Wayne Grafton. "In short, we want to heighten the Show's profile on a global scale and, equally important, make the necessary improvements to the facilities that will make Devon viable for the next 120 years.”
Devon Plans Multi-Million Dollar Improvements to Grounds
Devon’s Board of Directors gathered during the 2015 show to discuss making Devon a thriving event for future generations.
"Devon's future is the priority," said Chairman Wayne Grafton in a press release, "so the Board gathering proved fruitful for us because we were able to touch upon several ideas and explore many critical areas that need improvement."
"Our goals are quite clear, and are summed up in our mission statement," said President Richard O'Donnell. "In short, we want to heighten the show's profile on a global scale and, equally important, make the necessary improvements to the facilities that will make Devon viable for the next 120 years."
The Board discussion now leads to the creation of a long-term strategic plan - a visionary blueprint that is highlighted by a multi-year, multi-million dollar improvement to the Show grounds, with dramatic increases scheduled to the purses of the horse Show competition.
"The plan features additional box seats for patrons for optimum views of the Dixon Oval," said Grafton. "An additional structure will provide a phenomenal new VIP suite for our corporate guests who would now have incredible vantage points of both the Dixon and Gold Ovals."
"Beyond reinvigorating the property, we also anticipate the equestrian exhibitor community will be happy to know we plan on increasing the prize money of Thursday's Grand Prix Night and also establish an additional Grand Prix-like experience on Tuesday each year," O'Donnell noted.
Parking, an annual challenge during the Show, will be reengineered to better accommodate spectators and afford the stronger revenues for the organization. Vendors will benefit through additional shops.
The leaders were quick to point to this year's success as a benchmark to improve upon through the new plan.
"We could not be more pleased with the Show this year," said Grafton. "We are way ahead of last year on many fronts, especially at the gate and Country Fair sales as well as an increase in competitors."