Established in 1954, the Butler Handicap has steadily gained back its initial prestige since its re-launch at the Greenwich Polo Club (Greenwich, Connecticut) in July 2016. Incorporated into the 26-goal lineup last year at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, this year’s competition featured a four-team single-elimination format. While superficially the teams remained unchanged from the C.V. Whitney Cup, many player variations took place for similar, yet fresh, tournament play. Despite these shifts, the semifinal double-header on Wednesday, March 7, yielded a repeat final as Colorado defeated Daily Racing Form – DRF Bets 14-11 and Valiente overtook Grand Champions Polo Club 9-6.
Colorado Earn First Spot in Butler Handicap Final
Daily Racing Form – DRF Bets (DRF) entered the Butler Handicap with the same lineup from last week’s C.V. Whitney Cup, eager for a second opportunity to overcome a Valiente organization and make it to a 26-goal final. They were met by Colorado who reinstated Rob Jornayvaz and Juan Britos from earlier 20-goal tournament play. With a team handicap of 25 goals, Colorado was awarded one goal to start the game. DRF began the match firing on all cylinders as 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa made three consecutive goals. DRF ultimately shut Colorado out of the first with a solid 4-0 score. Colorado’s first goal of the game came early in the second off of a Penalty 2 conversion by Diego Cavanagh. DRF countered with an incredible effort, scoring three consecutive goals to gain a notable lead over their opponents 7-2. A quick downpour did not slow down play as a nearly opposite third chukker ensued. Colorado got their feet underneath them and scored three of their own, shutting down DRF to narrow the gap 7-5 at halftime.
Colorado came back in the fourth with renewed energy, eventually overcoming the early DRF onslaught to lead 9-8 at the end of the period. Riding exceptional horses and displaying amazing teamwork, Colorado slowly pulled away from their rivals in the fifth scoring three goals to DRF’s one. An aggressive and hard-fought final chukker, two goals apiece were traded in the last minutes of regulation time and Colorado walked away victorious with a final score of 14-11.
Valiente Maintains Winning Streak to Secure Second 26-goal Final
At the pristine Valiente Farm, a newly-structured Grand Champions Polo Club (GCPC) team, now including U.S. Polo Assn. Brand Ambassador Juancito Bollini and 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, took on recent C.V. Whitney Cup champions, Valiente, headed by Bob Jornayvaz. Rated cumulatively at 24 goals, GCPC received two goals in handicap versus 26-goal Valiente. The two Valiente 10-goal former rivals showcased their skills early. Adolfo Cambiaso chipping away at Grand Champions’ initial lead with the only goal of the first chukker. In the second, Facundo Pieres took over the scoring with a field goal, followed by two penalty conversions to take the lead 4-3 over GCPC. Trading goals, the teams remained close moving into the half, maintaining the gap 5-4. Grant Ganzi pulled through for GCPC in the second half scoring two goals, but Valiente laid down the hammer in the fourth and fifth chukkers with four goals, each player contributing to the final tally. Valiente secured their second final appearance defeating Grand Champions Polo Club 9-6.
Photo: David Lominska/USPA