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Highlight of the British Polo Season

The Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship is one of the most important tournaments of the British polo season. Since its creation in 1956, the tournament has gained in popularity and year on year it sees patrons and professional players from all over the world gather in Midhurst, West Sussex to compete for the coveted title of British Open Champions. The tournament is played annually over a two week period in July at Cowdray Park Polo Club, which is set within Viscount Cowdray’s 16,500-acre estate in Midhurst and is seen as the home of British polo, as the sport has been played there since 1910.

The tournament is considered to be the most prestigious polo tournament outside of Argentina and it is a well-known fact that all players aim to win the Gold Cup at some time in their polo-playing careers. The very first Gold Cup tournament took place in 1956, when an Argentinean farmer, Antonio Heguy, along with three of his friends, were invited to play by Lord Cowdray in his brand new tournament. The Argentineans arrived with homebred horses and proceeded to become the first team to win the Gold Cup under the team name of ‘Los Indios’. Since then the tournament has grown in size and popularity year on year. In 1995, Veuve Clicquot began sponsoring the event and this years Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup finals day on 20th July sees the 20th year of Veuve Clicquot’s sponsorship of the British Open tournament.

The list of competitors of the British Open reads very much like a Who’s Who, not only of the sport of polo itself, but also of the business world and a number of aristocratic families. Prestigious South American families such as the Heguys, Novillo Astradas and Pieres have all competed in this event. English participants include names such as the Vestey family, the Tomlinsons and Lord Waterford’s family – including his sons Charles and Patrick Beresford. Adolfo Cambiaso also experienced British polo for the very first time at this tournament in the 1980s, playing as a part of David Jamison and Antony Embirico’s team Tramontana. The team even holds the record of winning the title of British Open Champions five times. Prestigious high goal teams such as Kerry & James Packer’s Ellerston, Urs & Guy Schwarzenbach’s Black Bears, Lechuza Carracas, La Bamba de Areco, Zacara and Dubai have all had their moments of victory winning the Gold Cup.

Over the years the number of teams entering this high goal competition has varied, yet an increase in popularity and demand to play has been evident. So much so that in 2006, the 50th anniversary year of the event, an incredible and record breaking 20 teams entered the competition.

This year’s tournament took place between 24th June and 20th July and saw a total of 14 teams enter the competition. The competition began with a Memorial Trophy in honour of the late polo legend, Carlos Gracida. The semi-finals proved to be particularly exciting this year, with the all-English pro team Halcyon Gallery just missing out on a place in the final to Dubai, who in turn reached the final for the seventh time. King Power also gained a spot in the final after beating John Muse’s Lucchese. This is the first year that King Power have taken part in the Gold Cup and their performance has been truly outstanding.

Thousands of spectators were treated to a truly fantastic British summer’s day at the final on 20th July. With gates to the ground open from 10:30am onwards, gazebos were pitched and picnics set up around the perimeter of the field in anticipation of the final match of the tournament at 3pm. The shopping village provided spectators with a fantastic array of stands, which they could work their way round throughout the day. A number of different food stalls sold everything from burgers, to stone-baked pizzas, cupcakes and ice creams, whilst other stands offered a variety of polo equipment, clothing and even artwork or photographs.

The final of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup began at 3pm and promised to be a great match, with two of the world’s ten goalers, Adolfo Cambiaso and Gonzalito Pieres playing on opposing sides. Dubai was the first to put a point on the board, with a great goal from Rashid Albwardy. The chukkas up until half time remained relatively equal with some fantastic goals being scored by both sides. Dubai however just managed to obtain the upper hand, leaving the pitch for half time with a 7-5 lead.

Half time signalled the long-standing tradition of treading in or divot stomping, an important part of any polo match, and a task met with great enthusiasm as the spectators descended on to the pitch to help tread in the divots after the first three chukkas of the match.

The start of the fourth chukka saw the tension begin to increase as the two teams really stepped up their game in the hope of winning the coveted title of British Open Champions. King Power had a fantastic comeback in the fifth chukka, led by the team’s 10 goaler Gonzalito Pieres, who scored a penalty and a further three goals to level the score 10-10. Yet it was Dubai who managed to take control of the game and take the victory with a final score of 13-11.

Prize giving followed straight after the end of the match with the Gold Cup being presented to Rashid Albwardy by Lady Cowdray, as well as a Salmanazar (9 litre bottle) of Veuve Clicquot being presented by Jean-Marc Lacave, the President of Veuve Clicquot. Top Srivaddhanaprabha was presented with the Harper Spurs, which is the traditional presentation made to the patron of the runners up team. The Peter Holman prize for the Most Valuable Player of the Final went to Adolfo Cambiaso. Adolfo Cambiaso’s horse ‘Dolfina Primicia’ was also presented with the Best Playing Pony award on behalf of the Argentine Polo Pony Breeders a
Association. Gonzalito Pieres was presented with the Veuve Clicquot Saddle for the Highest Goal Scorer of the British Open Polo Championships, having scored 48 goals and just beating Diego Cavanagh’s 46 goals.

Diego Cavanagh (+7), of the winning Dubai team said of the victory, ‘We went into the game knowing that it was going to be tough. As a team we played a very tactically strong game. King Power made a comeback in the fifth chukka but ultimately we deserved the win!’

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Here, the teams of the 2014 Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup:

King Power (+22)
Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha (0)
Gonzalito Pieres (+10)
Pablo Llorente (+5)
Marcos Di Paola (+7)

HB Polo (+20)
Ludovic Pailloncy (+1)
Sebastien Pailloncy (+3)
Ignacio Toccalino (+8)
Pite Merlos (+8)

Talandracas (+22)
Edouard Carmignac (0)
Polito Pieres (+8)
Juan Martin Nero (+10)
Santiago Stirling (+4)

Lucchese (+22)
John Muse (0)
Lucas James (+7)
Nico Pieres (+8)
Luke Tomlinson (+7)

Black Bears (+22)
Guy Schwarzenbach (+2)
Facundo Sola (+8)
John Paul Clarkin (+8)
Patrick O’Dwyer (+4)

Zacara (+22)
Facundo Pieres (+10)
Lyndon Lea (+1)
Gonzalo Deltour (+7)
Matt Perry (+4)

EFG Bank Aravali (+22)
Karan Thapar (0)
Alejandro Muzzio (+7)
Joaquin Pittaluga (+7)
Jaime Huidobro (+8)

Halcyon Gallery (+22)
George Hanbury (+3)
Mark Tomlinson (+6)
James Beim (+7)
James Harper (+6)

UAE (+22)
Maitha Al Maktoum (0)
Lucas Monteverde (+8)
Pablo MacDonough (+10)
Ollie Cudmore (+4)

El Rosario (+22)
José Peñafiel (+2)
Francisco Elizalde (+7)
Salvador Ulloa (+7)
Rob Archibald (+6)

Dubai (+22)
Rashid Albwardy (+2)
Diego Cavanagh (+7)
Adolfo Cambiaso (+10)
Alastair Paterson (+3)

Thai Polo (+22)
Harald Link (0)
Juan Ambroggio (+7)
Nic Roldan (+8)
Tomas Garcia del Rio (+7)

Enigma (+22)
Jerome Wirth (+1)
Chris Mackenzie (+5)
Guillermo Willington (+7)
Guillermo Caset (+9)

El Remanso (+22)
Scott Luard (0)
Charlie Hanbury (+4)
Guillermo Terrera (+8)
David Stirling (+10)

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