The quest for the Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship began on June 29 at Cowdray Park Polo Club as Emlor and Vikings met in the opening match of the tournament. Following a strong start, Vikings captured the 13 to 11 victory on Brooksfield.
Vikings’ accuracy around goal in the early stages of the match resulted in them never trailing throughout the game, but Emlor continued to pull even behind the penalty shooting of Agustin Merlos. Finishing 6 for 8 from the penalty line, Emlor battled to stay even, but the eight-goal performance from Juan Martin Zubia continued to push Vikings ahead. Winning the open play battle, Vikings nearly doubled Emlor in goals from the field, shooting an efficient 50% in what was ultimately the difference in the 13 to 11 triumph.
Scoring the first three goals of the game, Vikings raced out of the gate with two goals from Sebastian Merlos and one from Chris Mackenzie. Finishing the opening chukka with four goals on six shots, Vikings showcased a dynamic attack that left Emlor with difficulties in slowing the momentum through the first seven minutes. However, six fouls committed by Vikings in the second chukka allowed Emlor to quickly erase the three-goal deficit on three penalty conversions from Merlos and Max Charlton. Improving their discipline in the third chukka, Vikings were able to regain their lead on two field goals from Zubia and Merlos but exited the first half with a narrow 7 to 6 advantage.
Applying pressure at the start of the fourth chukka, Emlor’s third shot attempt found the mark to tie the game at 7 all, but they continued to be unable to break through and pull into the lead. Back-to-back goals from Juan Martin and Chris ended the chukka with a 9 to 7 lead in favor of Vikings as they looked to finally create separation on the scoreboard. However, Sebastian converted a Penalty 4 while adding a goal from the field to bring Emlor even for a fourth time. That proved to be the final run from Emlor as Vikings relied on the penalty shooting of Juan Martin in the final chukka, converting both penalty attempts while also adding a field goal to claim the hard-fought 13 to 11 victory.
The second game of the opening day featured a complete team performance from Talandracas to capture a 13 to 8 victory over BP Polo on Lawns 2.
Showcasing an organized defense that limited BP Polo to just one goal in each of the first four chukkas, Talandracas was able to build a lead and effectively manage it throughout the match. Despite BP Polo matching Talandracas’s efforts from the field, the difference in the game came from the penalty line, where the trio of Camilo Castagnola, Diego Cavanagh, and Marcos Araya combined to convert six of their seven attempts. A scary moment in the fifth chukka saw a collision that forced BP Polo’s 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero from the game, leaving Nico Pieres to finish in his place. After conceding the first goal, Talandracas led the rest of the way in the five-goal victory.
Just 35 seconds into the game, Juan Martin intercepted a pass around midfield and ran it straight in for the first goal of the game, but that would be the only offense BP Polo could produce for nearly 15 minutes of play. Resetting, Talandracas took control of the game by converting two penalties in the first chukka and then relying on the scoring proficiency of Castagnola to shoot an efficient 3 for 5 from the field in the second chukka to score six unanswered goals. A goal from BP Polo’s Alejandro Muzzio ended the run on the final play of the chukka but left them facing a 6 to 2 deficit. Marcos and Alenjandro traded goals for their respective teams leaving the difference at four entering the second half.
End-to-end polo was featured in the fourth chukka as both teams exited the halftime break looking to generate offense. Talandracas inched further ahead after Marcos found the goal and was quickly followed by a Penalty 2 conversion from Camilo. James Beh left the ball for Alejandro for BP Polo’s lone goal of the chukka as they struggled to match the pace of Talandracas, trailing 9 to 4 with two chukkas remaining. Play came to a halt after a head-on collision left an injured Juan Martin down and forced from the game in the fifth chukka. After the break in play, Nico Pieres hopped into the saddle for Juan Martin to finish the game, but the result was nearly secured as Talandracas added three penalty conversions to lead by seven. Two final goals from BP Polo produced the only offense of the final chukka as Talandracas captured the 13 to 8 victory to begin their tournament campaign.
The Hon. Lila Pearson presented the Carlos Gracida Memorial Trophy to Edouard Carmignac, and the Best Playing Pony rug was awarded to Rebalde, played by Camilo Castagnola and owned by his father, Lolo Castagnola.
Photographs by Mark Beaumont