Copa de Oro Cartier Final Polo in Sotogrande


On Sunday August 28th, a full crowd at Santa Maria Polo Club witnessed the culmination of two weeks of intense polo battles when the two greats Dubai and Ayala met at cancha 3 to fight for the coveted Gold Cup Trophy.

These athletes had been competing against each other throughout the year in different countries and continents and will next see each other in Argentina, a country most of the top polo players call home.

Dubai: Rashid Albwardy 2, Alejo Taranco 6, Santiago Stirling 4 and Adolfo Cambiaso 10/Juan Martin Nero 10
Ayala: Iñigo Zobel 0, Jack Hyde 3, Facundo Pieres 10, Nicolas Pieres 9

The spectacle started with a parade of polo ponies, players and the incredible horsepower masterpieces of Maserati, followed by the traditional national anthem.

The match was as explosive as anyone could expect from these two leading teams. The first chukkers were intense, with great defense and offense and only a few goals scored from each team.

Nico Pieres about to shoot a long one.

By half time the teams were equal at 5 goal a piece and it could truly go either way.

In the grandstands we were all melting in the August heat of Sotogrande, a coastal resort town in the South of Spain. Trying to cool off with the expertly made drinks from the INDI bar, my favorite being vodka with strawberry infused tonic and of course a little mini mallet swizzle stick.

This photo was from the Semifinals, i was too excited about the final game to take pictures of my drink.

The second half started the same way as the first chukkers, with the teams going head to head and scoring to match each others goals. The 5th chukker saw a change in pace, the Dubai team mustered up all of their energy and fought hard, putting them several points ahead of their opponents.

Adolfo Cambiaso in the green and white Dubai shirt, number 1 polo player in the world and Facundo Pieres in blue, the second best player in the world.

Between the 5th and the 6th chukker I made my way down to the ponylines, I generally prefer to watch the game from the sidelines to get a better overview of the match, but for those final minutes all the tension is built up in the team tents and that is where the action is.

Full speed ahead from Santi Stirling

With 4 minutes left on the clock of the 6th chukker Adolfo Cambiaso had a nasty fall with his horse. Everyone held their breath, it looked scary, it was scary. The horse stood up quickly and galloped “home” to the pony lines, but Cambiaso was still on the ground. I stood next to Mia Cambiaso, his daughter, who was biting her sweater whilst tears started to form in her eyes. Then Cambiaso stood up. He lifted his right arm signaling “I am ok”, and everyone sighed in relief. He walked back to the team tent slowly and it was clear to see that he was in a lot of pain. Family, paramedics, team coaches, trainers, friends, everyone gathered around him to see what had happened and help him out of his gear. As he lifted his shirt we could see three big cuts on his left shoulder, with blood gushing out of them. It was clear that he could not continue to play. His La Dolfina team mate Juan Martin Nero was also in the team tent and it was quickly decided with just a few nods from Cambiaso, Albwardy and Nero, that he would take his place on the field for the remaining minutes of the match. They all cheered Nero on as he took the number 4 position and rode out on to the field.

Juan Martin Nero taking his friend's place on the field, even wearing his helmet.

Juan Martin Nero taking his friend’s place on the field, even wearing Cambiaso’s famous Argentinian flag helmet.


Those last few minutes went by in a flash. The team continued as if nothing had happened, blocking plays from their opponents and securing their high score of 12 against 7. Cambiaso, still in agony, was “coaching” from the team tent, muttering under his breath what his teammates should be doing out there and once in a while shouting a cheering “Vamos!”.

The game ended and the Dubai team were once more the victors, holding on to their title from last year. The whole camp cheered and chanted joyously before moving over to the prize giving ceremony.

Hugs all around. Team patron Rashid Albwardy hugging his teammate Santi Stirling after their win

Polo is a family sport. A polo team is not only the 4 players on the field, but many more people, from grooms to trainers, fathers, children, wives, brothers, friends and many more, who all play a part in the success of a team.


The previous King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, gave the Finalists Ayala and the winners Dubai their trophies and congratulated them on their win. Cambia so was awarded MVP and his pony Dolfina Primicia received Best Playing Pony, but wouldn’t stand still for a picture.

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As the sun set on yet another season of high goal polo in Sotogrande, players and guests could enjoy the evening at the many bars and shops of the shopping village in Santa Maria Polo Club and the after party which went on until sunrise.

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Next up on my polo calendar is a bit of a surprise. I am always making plans and sometimes they change, I was planning on attending the East Coast Open in NYC this September 11th, but I will be across the globe on that date, follow me on Instagram to find out where. I will be wishing my friends playing in the tournament best of luck and if I can connect to proper wifi (it is a bit of a struggle these days) I will be watching on Chukker.TV

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