113th US Open Polo Championship Final – Witnessing History in the making
The US Open Polo Championship is really one of the highlights of the international polo calendar, and definitely the crown jewel of the polo season in Wellington, Florida, USA. The championship has been played at the International Polo Club Palm Beach since 2004. I have been lucky enough to attend and witness the exciting final three years in a row now, and this year was definitely a nail-biter. (read the 2016 match here and the 2015 match here)
The final match had been postponed due to unbelievable rain storms on the planned date, which meant the match was played on a Tuesday instead of the Sunday. The change of dates meant that many people who had planned to attend could not, a few of my polo friends had already left for England or Argentina on Monday as planned. So the stands were less full and the vibe was very different but in a nice way. There was still a buzz of excitement, a smaller crowd of very enthusiastic polo supporters.
As per tradition the coveted US Open Polo Cup was presented, the National Anthem was sung and the teams and players presented between the luxury cars – and then it was showtime.
I was there with two of my best friends, Tiller and Philippa (check out Philippa’s amazing equestrian fine art photography here) and we found ourselves some great seats front and centre to watch the fast-paced match between the titans: Valiente and Orchard Hill. The full match was live-streamed by Chukker.TV for the USPA
This was an especially exciting match as Valiente was on a winning streak, having both the C.V. Whitney Cup and the USPA Gold Cup winning titles secured. Orchard Hill were the defending champions having won the 112th US Open Polo Championship, which you can read about here.
The Pieres duo of Orchard Hill (Facundo and Polito) were on fire from the get-go, cooperating and scoring the first goal within 30 seconds of the first chukker. And they continued this way throughout the first half of the match, outscoring Valiente 9-6 by half time.
Half time is champagne time! The girls and I walked on to the pitch for the traditional divot stomp (photo session). Chukker the mascot leading the troops and golf carts full of Chandon bubbly got poured for free for guests to enjoy. We certainly enjoyed our glasses.
The second half of the match was even more intense than the first. Cambiaso and his teammates regrouped and worked better as a team bringing Valiente up to speed and evening out the score at the end of the 5th chukker. The sixth chukker, which is meant to be the final one, saw the two best players in the world, Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres, score a goal each for their respective teams and taking the match to overtime.
At this point I had made my way down to the pony lines close to the Orchard Hill camp, the atmosphere was tense and high strung. The amount of people surrounding a high-goal team is truly mind-boggling, but almost everyone was quiet, just watching and waiting, only the coach was speaking. Giving a final pep-talk, going over that last bit of strategy. Then someone shouts “DALE!” or “Vamos!” and everyone jumps in excitement cheering the team on.
The titan teams lined up once more, the umpire did the throw-in and it was game on! In overtime the first one to score wins. The Pieres cousins made a run for it, then Cambiaso took over and missed a shot to goal (!!!!! something that really does not happen often) and in the end Cavanagh made a break for it and ran over 200 yards with the ball, finally scoring that Golden Goal and securing the 113th US Open Polo Championship for Valiente completing the US Triple Crown.
The blue and white camp roared! Family, friends, grooms and anyone and everyone around jumped in glee hugging each other and celebrating as the foursome cantered back home victoriously.
The traditional prize-giving ceremony saw Matias T. Zavaleta announced as MVP and Cambiaso’s “B09” (a clone of Cuartetera) named BPP. Then it was “Champagne Showers” time, see the video on my Instagram
Now on to the English High-Goal season, stay tuned, subscribe at the top right of the sidebar to receive new blog posts straight in your e-mail inbox.