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WELLINGTON, Fla. — Richard Spooner and Show Jumping Syndications International’s 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Cristallo (Caretino x Cicero), galloped to victory Feb. 25 in Saturday night’s $100,000 Fidelity InvestmentsĀ® CSI 3* Grand Prix at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. The pair was the fastest by over two seconds over Katie Dinan (USA) and Grant Road Partner’s Nougat Du Vallet, who finished second, and Great Britain’s Ben Maher on Tripple-X III, who finished third.

Sixty-six horse and rider combinations contested the night’s first-round course, set by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany. Seven advanced to the jump-off, which saw four clear rounds.

Brianne Goutal (USA) and Remarkable Farms LP’s Onira set the pace, first to go in the jump-off with a clear round in 41.41 seconds, which eventually finished in fourth place. Ben Maher (GBR) and Tripple-X III followedand upped the ante with their clear round in 39.50 seconds, which took third place. Dinan and Nougat Du Vallet completed another clear round, improving on the time in 38.93 seconds to finish second.

The lead changed hands for the final time as Spooner and Cristallo entered the ring. The pair blazed through the track in 36.77 seconds to earn the top prize.

“I saw Katie and Ben go first and they were super fast,” said Spooner. “I knew I had to go as fast as I possibly could, so that’s what I did. I felt like I was a little bit slow to the second jump, so I took a big chance to the combination and it paid off. That’s probably where I made up the extra time because I came in at a ridiculous angle to the combination. I had to slow down to the last jump though, because it was a little steady.”

Jeffery Welles (USA) and Aries, owned by Noel Love Gross finished the short course with a rail at the last fence in 37.80 seconds to place fifth. Alexandra Thornton (GBR) and Dunwalke LLC’s Caballero 84 finished with four faults in 41.75 seconds to place sixth. Catherine Pasmore (USA) and Pasmore Stables’ Vandavid were last to go in the jump-off and had two rails in 38.51 seconds to place seventh.

Spooner and Cristallo have had a successful partnership in recent years, although the rider admits it was not so easy at the start. Cristallo was difficult to turn, and it was not until Spooner’s wife, Kaylen, began riding the gelding under saddle that his rideability really improved. The pair has been a force to be reckoned with ever since and has won classes all over the world.

“My wife Kaylen has done a phenomenal job,” he said. “I stopped riding him on the flat and really doing anything with him two and a half years ago. My wife does everything, so I just get on him and show, which is quite strange for me because in general I do all of the work on my other horses. She has him where he’s turning left and turning right. Now I can go fast with him. He has a very difficult mouth and she has done an amazing job in getting him to relax and do his job. It’s like night and day, a different horse.”

The riders praised Petersen’s course tonight, Spooner especially complimentary.

“Frankly, I have to say that I loved the course,” he said. “Before I ever got on, when I walk a course like that, I get a smile on my face. I get a quicker step; I get this euphoric glow because I think we need to be challenged. I want to see difficult courses. When I saw the course, I was just excited because I knew it was going to be a challenge. I also know that Cristallo jumps better when it’s bigger and more difficult, in general.”

Cristallo also reacts in a good way to the exciting environment, showing under the bright lights in front of a big crowd of more than 4,000 spectators.

“It kind of picks him up in a way,” said Spooner. “He’s 14, so the richer the environment, the more legitimate the environment, then I think the more legitimate his performance.”

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