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Kelli Cruciotti and Monterrey Take a Risk to Earn the Reward in $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Summer in the Rockies III

RELEASE: June 24, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Mary Adelaide Brakenridge for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Kelli Cruciotti and Monterrey, winners of the $15,000 USHJA International Derby (Mary Adelaide Brakenridge for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International)
Kelli Cruciotti and Monterrey, winners of the $15,000 USHJA International Derby (Mary Adelaide Brakenridge for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International)
Parker, CO
- Kelli Cruciotti and Monterrey pulled out all the stops to seal the victory in the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the final day of Summer in the Rockies III at the Colorado Horse Park. Cruciotti made a risky move to kick off the handy round, taking a challenging inside route to the first fence, and reaped the rewards with high marks from the judges.

"Risks should be rewarding if they do it correctly, and some did it really well," said Scott Starnes, who designed the hunter derby courses.

"I took a chance today with the handy, and my horse was wonderful," Cruciotti said. "The course designer gave you options so you could go out and be handy, but the options that he gave you were especially hard. That was exciting to have in a course. I was very lucky that my horse was as handy as he was to the first jump. It was particularly challenging because it was such a short approach to a jump on an angle."

Cruciotti bested a field of 18 top hunter competitors to claim the win, with Jessie Lang and Margot Snowdon's C. Quito taking second and Erin Murphy and Patricia Murphy's Showtime finishing third. Cruciotti began with an impressive effort in the first round, earning scores of 83 and 84, plus four bonus points for choosing all of the higher options on course, from the two judges' panels. The combined score of 175 put them into second place after the first round.

"I thought the first round course was nice, with a lot of long bends and long gallops," Cruciotti said. "The course designer wanted to see you open up your stride and catch the distance off the gallop, and then make it smooth and make everything match."

"I was trying to find a course that would have a nice flow and give everybody a chance to get around and get a decent score, all the way from the ponies on up to the international class," Starnes said of his first round course. "I wanted to make it work for everybody and be as fair and fun as possible."

Sitting just ahead of Cruciotti in first going into the handy round was Jennifer Hulkko on Lisa Martinez-Bates' Brego, who received scores of 85 and 83 from the panels to total 176 with the high-option bonuses added in. Not far behind in third was Erin Murphy on Showtime, who chose the lower options but scored 84 and 86 for a total of 170.

As the top twelve competitors returned for the handy round one by one in reverse order of their standing, riders got increasingly daring and creative in an effort to lay down a big round and move up in the rankings. With each new high score posted, the pressure on the remaining riders increased.

The three riders before Cruciotti all scored handy bonuses of 6 or 8 points, reflecting their efforts to take the more difficult ground-saving tracks. But Cruciotti stepped it up another notch by taking bold inside routes such as the one to the first fence. Her willingness to take a risk and her seamless execution netted her perfect 10-point handy bonuses from both panels.

"A lot of people didn't even notice it was an option," Starnes said of the track Cruciotti took to the first fence "If you rode it correctly and sliced it just right, it would even set up for the turn after. She did it pretty flawlessly and her bonus points showed that. It was gutsy on her part. She did it right off the bat and continued to take all the inside turns and higher options, and she did them all quite well."

Both panels rewarded Cruciotti with a score of 88 in addition to the handy bonus and option bonus, which added up to a total score of 204 for the second round and 379 overall that would clinch the victory. The single rider to go after them, first-round leader Hulkko with Brego, ran into trouble at one fence in the handy and wound up in 10th.

"I've always loved doing the hunter derbies," Cruciotti said. "My horse is especially good at them. He's very versatile in all the rings - he can do all the divisions and he does them all extremely well, which is very unusual for a horse. That's one of the reasons I love to do it on him. He's just so solid, and he always gives you a great feeling around the course. He's a one-in-a-million horse."

Starnes said he designs his courses to fit horses and riders at different levels, from seasoned competitors to those who might be competing in their first hunter derby. "I tried to make it so they could make it as difficult and challenging on themselves as they wanted," he explained. "The opportunity was there to take some risks and get extra points, but that can always backfire. That's what we're trying to look for in the handy, with all the bonus points available - give them options but not force them to take them if they're not ready."

Cruciotti and Monterrey were clearly ready for the challenge. Cruciotti, who plans to ride in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in Kentucky in August, looks for ways to test herself in training and competition so she can continue improving. She trains with her mother, Cindy Cruciotti.

"I do a lot of repetition, working on the smoothness of the turns and challenging myself to make everything harder," she said. "It worked out nicely today, but sometimes you have to practice the harder things to be able to do them. So I think we'll just be doing more challenging courses, and hopefully he's ready for the next."

Along with the International Derby, Sunday at Summer in the Rockies III also offered a $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and the $2,500 CHP Pony Hunter Derby. The National Hunter Derby proved very popular, drawing 36 entries to compete over a lower version of the International Derby course, and Amanda Hauser and Calido's Son laid down two flowing, confident rounds to take the win.

Hauser made thoughtful decisions about which options would best suit her and Calido's Son and allow them to show off their strengths. She decided against tight inside options in some places, choosing instead to maintain a good forward pace and pick up points elsewhere.

"We decided to cut across that last jump, and jump it from left to right," Hauser said, crediting Calido's Son's history in the jumper ring with preparing him for tricky tests like that. "It helps with turning, and being able to jump across jumps."

"We discussed what we can and can't do, and I left it a little more up to her than usual about what options she wanted to take and what inside turns she wanted to do," said Heidi Hildebrand, Hauser's trainer. "She'd rather canter big and around and arrive with a good canter than turn short and not quite get there. The last jump, which we jumped at a big angle from left to right to end up toward the gate instead of the inside turn - that was a big move and she pulled it off really well. I was proud of her for the choices she made."

Hauser and Calido's Son scored 92 in the first round and 90 in the second for a total of 182. Meghan Felts rode Haley Fleming's Wesley to a close second place, earning an 89 and a 91 for a total of 180.

Hauser said she enjoys the courses and atmosphere at hunter derbies. "I like the courses a lot better," she said. "They're trickier and there are cooler jumps. I like having the bigger crowd and excitement. It definitely gets me a little more nervous, but once I'm in the ring I forget about everything else."

Carson Grisham showed similar focus and determination to ride not one but two ponies to the top of the ranks in the $2,500 CHP Pony Hunter Derby. She won the blue on the aptly named Woodland's Blue Haze and finished second with Incognito.

"This was my second hunter derby," said Grisham, who is 11 years old. "I think I have really matured in my riding since then. I spent a lot of time in the saddle improving, and it's really paid off."

Trainer Laurie Jueneman was pleased that Grisham stepped up in the handy round with Incognito. "She really just relaxed and followed his lead in the handy and got the high score in it," Jueneman said. "And her partnership is just gelling beautifully with the other pony. It takes time to develop a partnership, and it's been an exciting journey."

The day of hunter derbies marked the end of a very successful Summer in the Rockies III. The Colorado Horse Park's hunter/jumper series pauses for a weeklong break before resuming with Summer in the Rockies IV on July 3-7.

Results: Summer in the Rockies III - June 23, 2013
Number/Horse/Owner/Rider/Overall Score
Judges for the International Hunter Derby: Sue Ashe, Dale Pederson, Bobbie Reber, and Andrea Wells

720. $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
1. 1408/Monterrey/Kelli Cruciotti/Kelli Cruciotti/379
2. 734/C. Quito/Margot Snowdon/Jessie Lang/361.5
3. 798/Showtime/Patricia Murphy/Erin Murphy/353
4. 1400/Drumline/Nicole Lyvere/Nicole Lyvere/345
5. 1384/Quite Cool/Page Tredennick/Karen Stone/318.5
6. 924/Parrot Bay/Emily Ryan/Emily Ryan/308
7. 875/Metternich/Karen King/Laureen McKenzie/300
8. 957/Chimabue/Jennifer Betts/Jennifer Betts/299
9. 657/Jazzo/Kali Barnes/Kali Barnes/291
10. 1424/Brego/Lisa Martinez-Bates/Jennifer Hulkko/267
11. 648/Zygo/Alessandra Sozzi/Alessandra Sozzi/256
12. 925/Simply Said/Emma Willsky/Ashley Keeler/226

7201. $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby - First Round
1. 1424/Brego/Lisa Martinez-Bates/Jennifer Hulkko/176
2. 1408/Monterrey/Kelli Cruciotti/Kelli Cruciotti/175
3. 798/Showtime/Patricia Murphy/Erin Murphy/170
4. 734/C. Quito/Margot Snowdon/Jessie Lang/167.5
5. 1400/Drumline/Nicole Lyvere/Nicole Lyvere/166
6. 875/Metternich/Karen King/Laureen McKenzie/160
7. 648/Zygo/Alessandra Sozzi/Alessandra Sozzi/160
8. 1384/Quite Cool/Page Tredennick/Karen Stone/155.5
9. 957/Chimabue/Jennifer Betts/Jennifer Betts/150
10. 924/Parrot Bay/Emily Ryan/Emily Ryan/150
11. 925/Simply Said/Emma Willsky/Emma Willsky/150
12. 657/Jazzo/Kali Barnes/Kali Barnes/134

7202. $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby - Handy Round
1. 1408/Monterrey/Kelli Cruciotti/Kelli Cruciotti/204
2. 734/C. Quito/Margot Snowdon/Jessie Lang/194
3. 798/Showtime/Patricia Murphy/Erin Murphy/183
4. 1400/Drumline/Nicole Lyvere/Nicole Lyvere/179
5. 1384/Quite Cool/Page Tredennick/Karen Stone/163
6. 924/Parrot Bay/Emily Ryan/Emily Ryan/158
7. 657/Jazzo/Kali Barnes/Kali Barnes/157
8. 957/Chimabue/Jennifer Betts/Jennifer Betts/149
9. 875/Metternich/Karen King/Laureen McKenzie/140
10. 648/Zygo/Alessandra Sozzi/Alessandra Sozzi/96
11. 1424/Brego/Lisa Martinez-Bates/Jennifer Hulkko/91
12. 925/Simply Said/Emma Willsky/Emma Willsky/76

721. $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby
1. 853/Calido's Son/Amanda Hauser/Amanda Hauser/182
2. 1357/Wesley/Haley Fleming/Meghan Felts/180
3. 1387/Barista/Anne Fitz/Laurie Jueneman/164
4. 819/Concierge/Elizabeth Richter/Madeleine Stover/163.5
5. 789/Harlu/Laurie Brants/Mickie Sage/158
6. 647/Uriela CWF/Audrey Slouka/Audrey Slouka/157.5
7. 1469/Almond Joy/Tavi Rainold/Ashley Keeler/153
8. 891/Van Gough/Mallory Hensley/Mallory Hensley/150
9. 899/Classic Contender/KAC Horses, LLC/Mindy Coretz/149.5
10.903/Wildrose/Kaelyn Cook/Kaelyn Cook/145
11. 709/Simply Irresistible/Abigail Grace Kelley/Abigail Grace Kelley/144
12. 897/Stonetown/KAC Horses, LLC/Mindy Coretz/140.5

722. $2,500 CHP Pony Hunter Derby
1. 1392/Woodland's Blue Haze/Carson Grisham/Carson Grisham/164
2. 1394/Incognito/Carson Grisham/Carson Grisham/157
3. 860/Harrington Park Quest/Rylee Shufelt/Rylee Shufelt/154
4. 710/Happy Endings/Annabelle Szymanski/Annabelle Szymanski/149
5. 877/Starburst/Chiara Gallegos/Chiara Gallegos/125
6. 652/Helicon Just Notice/Molly Rinedollar/Bailey Jerrett/118
7. 994/Whoopsie Daisy/Isabella Lombardo/Isabella Lombardo/88
8. 1395/A Hoof And A Prayer/Isabelle Carlson/Isabelle Carlson/83
9. 906/Ijump/KAC Horses, LLC/Josie Van Hooser/82
10. 654/Helicon Fun-N-Games/Molly Rinedollar/Elizabeth Latsis/63
11. 905/Rock Star/KAC Horses, LLC/Margot Kulberg/50

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