The Polo Match of the Year – International Day
The Westchester Cup is historically a very important match, played for the first time in 1886 and now 18 times throughout its history, though only four times since World War II. The actual cup was created by the famous jewellers Tiffany & Co. and has been in England for a while and after this Saturday the Brits will hold onto it for at least one more year until the rematch in the US in 2019.
The USA currently holds the record for the most tournament wins (10-8), but has not hoisted the cup high since 1992, when Rob Walton, Owen Reinhart, Adam Snow and John Gobin captured the win in a thrilling double overtime victory. Anyone who has read Jilly Cooper’s “Polo” knows that the Westchester Cup is a big deal, especially in the book as Ricky must win it to get his wife back. (A seriously good read if you haven’t already read it.)
The scene was set for a wonderful day, as it always is at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club, on Saturday the 28th of July. Invited by Hurlingham Polo 1875, I was excited to see the match and the beautiful setup.
The day started with a Pony Club UK polo match, and it still amazes me every time I see little kids playing polo, I wish I had their fearlessness and bounce. Actually, the day had started earlier with a presentation from Dressage Olympic Gold Medallist Charlotte Dujardin and the famous horse Valegro, but I was rushing back from a delayed flight from Ibiza, so I missed the talented show and heard all about how wonderful it was later.
I enjoyed my delicious lunch in the Hurlingham Polo 1875 tent whilst seeing the Berkshire Hounds follow their huntsman around the polo field. My friend Kayleigh came with me and this was her first experience at polo, so I got excited explaining all the rules of the game to her, Jason Dixon (one of the head umpires from the Hurlingham Polo Association) also did a good job explaining the rules to everyone else. Check them out here, if you are still unsure.
After lunch, I caught up with Nina Clarkin (the highest ranked woman in polo), who I last saw in Florida and I had to tell her about my Trail Ride in Croatia where I met her farrier, such a small world. Nina played in the match later against the “Rest of the World” ladies, but when I asked her who she thought would win the first match her reply was: “I am a little biased, being British, I root for our guys. Honestly, I think both teams are very strong, but three quarters of the English team have been playing together a very long time and have just come off of winning the (King Power) Gold Cup, and adding Tommy Beresford, who is one of the most talented young players out there, it will be a hard team to beat.” Nina was completely right.
The Westchester Cup Teams:
The Flannels England team started with a point on the scoreboard for being slightly under handicapped (read about handicaps here) against the USA team, but they clearly didn’t need it. Nic Roldan started with a goal for the USA team, but Ollie Cudmore quickly responded with a penalty 3 conversion to put Flannels England ahead Their strong teamwork kept them in the lead throughout the match.
By half time the score said 7-2 to Flannels England and we braved the intense wind gusts to divot stomp. I got to see my bestie Philippa Davin on the field, she was there displaying her beautiful artwork in the main VIP tent. The pieces are displayed in the gallery at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club for the rest of the season, so go check them out if you are close by!
The second half was much like the first one, with the Flannels England team working well together and the USA team scrambling a little to find each other. The match ended with a whopping 12-6 win to Flannels England and the beautiful Cup could be lifted high in the English sunshine.
Flannels England Captain James Beim was awarded MVP and his mare Salsita received the Best Playing Pony award, they also awarded the Retraining Of Racehorses award to Nic Roldan for his mare.
The trophy ceremony was only just over as the ladies started warming up for their match.