Peter Leone rode Select to the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon championship Thursday in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair.
"This show has one of the most exciting, electric grand prix in the country, and it's an educated crowd," said Leone, who lives in Greenwich, Conn.
Nine horses from a starting field of 21 qualified for the timed jump-off, and the first four to go in the jump-off knocked down rails.
Margie Engle rode Hidden Creek's Campella to a clean round and finished second.
"When I went in the jump-off, no one had been clean, and this mare is a little new to this, so I thought I'd be a little careful," said Engle, who finished in 38.244 seconds.
Riding Antares F, Andre Thieme of Germany took third in 38.685 seconds.
When Leone entered the ring, he knew the times he had to beat.
"I knew I would have to take a couple of chances to beat Margie," Leone said. He did just enough, and finished in 37.681 seconds to win.
"It's been a good 10 years since I've had a 1.60-meter horse," said Leone, who was a member of the silver-medal team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. "It feels so good to have a partner that wants to win."
Leone acquired Select last winter.
"His character is fantastic," he said. "That's why I could bring him along so quickly.
"When someday I stop riding in grand prix, I'll be able to say I won the Grand Prix of Devon."
"I've only been in this country for two days," Thieme said. "My showing at Devon was a late decision. I got a phone call from Antares' owners [Anne Hamilton and Seth Vallhonrat of Newtown Square]. . . . They think this horse is good enough to jump the big stuff in Europe, but they wanted to see him at their home show. I'm so happy about their decision."
"The footing is fantastic," Engle said. "It's expensive to put in footing like this, but the horses jumped fantastic over it. I only jumped one class on this horse before going in the grand prix."
Cismont Manor Farms and Mary Jane Hunt's Holden, handled by Kenny Wheeler of Keswick, Va., won the Best Young Horse for the second year in a row.
The Best Young Horse honors were the culmination of a day of Breeding classes for yearlings through Mares Suitable to Be Bred.
Kenny Wheeler won the Leading Handler Award.