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Paisano Dragons defeat favourite team

The Thailand-based Paisano Dragons scored an upset victory in the final of the St Regis-sponsored Queen’s Cup Pink Polo Tournament held at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club on Sunday 14 December, downing the hot favourites Maple Leaf by three goals to two. The Paisano Dragons, led by Norwegian expatriate Anne Ringen (-1 goal), with Isabelle Larenaudie (0 goal), and the two UK-based professionals Bryony Taylor (1 goal) and Sarah Wiseman (1 goal), recorded a narrow but exciting victory over the Claudia Zeiberger-led Maple Leaf team which featured Sunny Hale, recognized as the number one female polo player in the world.

Favourites Maple Leaf had fallen to a three-goal deficit to Paisano Dragons by the last chukka, but with just one minute and 10 seconds left on the clock, they finally scored, thereby making the final minute a nail-biter for the estimated 1,000 or so spectators. At the restart a foul needed a decision from the umpires, the only males allowed on the field on horseback during the day. The French and Argentinian judges made a decision which favoured the Paisano Dragons, virtually ensuring they would be able to hold onto the ball for enough time to give them the victory. Sure enough, valuable seconds were gained by the Dragons, but then Sunny Hale rose to the challenge and managed to send the ball towards the Dragons goal. With literally seconds left on the clock, Maple Leaf scored their second goal, but time ran out and the Paisano Dragons hoisted the trophy. The victory was all the more amazing considering the Paisano Dragons team had never played together prior to this tournament, which commenced with preliminary rounds on Saturday 13 December.

The round-robin featured three teams, with the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club fielding their players under the sponsor’s banner. While St Regis played to the best of their ability, led by their professional, German national Eva Brühl (2 goal), they were ultimately outclassed by the likes of Maple Leaf and Paisano Dragons.

Prior to the 4:00pm start of the final round-robin competition, a fashion show on horseback took place with models showcasing the garments from leading brands such as Michael Kors, La Martina, Mind Millinery, and Fly Now.

The Queen’s Cup Pink Polo Tournament, which is a major charity event in support of the Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer, has grown in stature since it was first held in 2010. Organised by the owners of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Harald Link and Nunthinee Tanner, the event has taken on a special significance in recent times.

The Thai Royal Family was represented by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, herself a keen sportswoman, who presented the Queen’s Cup trophy to a very proud Anne Ringen.

Eva Brühl, rated one of the top 15 female players in the world, was playing for the fourth time in Thailand, but this was her first Pink Polo competition. Eva said, “I love it. It is great to escape the winter in Germany and it is a pleasure to be here. This competition is so well organized.”

Those thoughts were echoed by others, not the least by winning captain Anne Ringen. The co-patron, with Ronnie Lim, of the Paisano Dragons said they have been so impressed by the overall management of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, they moved 15 horses from Singapore to be stabled there in November this year. Anne said, “The welfare of my animals is very important to me, and I have been impressed by the entire setup at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club. So I decided to bring my horses here.”

The day concluded with an impressive fireworks display followed by a buffet dinner and live entertainment.

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