King Power Foxes win second consecutive title

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BRITISH TRIPLE CROWN: JAEGER-LECOULTRE GOLD CUP FOR THE BRITISH OPEN (2016) – FINAL
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King Power Foxes vs. La Indiana, during the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship Final, Sunday, July 17th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club

King Power Foxes vs. La Indiana, during the 2016 Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship Final, Sunday, July 17th, at Cowdray Park Polo Club / Photo by Tony Ramirez/Images of Polo / imagesofpolo.com


 

King Power Foxes – 9

Tal Srivaddhanaprabha (0), Hugo Lewis (2),
Gonzalito Pieres (10), Facundo Pieres (10)

La Indiana – 5

Michael Bickford (1), Nic Roldan (7),
Agustin Merlos (8), Julian De Lusarreta (6)


King Power Foxes successfully defended their title against La Indiana, seizing a second consecutive win in the 2016 British Open final for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdrey Park Polo Club.

The final numbers on the scoreboard (9-5) did not reflect the highly competitive tenor of the contest, which many considered the most exciting and best-played match of the season. King Power burst out of the gate with authority, scoring three rapid-fire goals (one each by Facundo Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Hugo Lewis). A hungry La Indiana volleyed back in kind with three consecutive goals to tie the score at 3. After making a rare miss on a 30-yard penalty, Facundo Pieres gave chase as Agustín “Tincho” Merlos passed the ball to a completely unmarked Julian “Negro” de Lusarreta, who cruised straight into goal.

Tensions heightened between Merlos and Facundo Pieres, who got a little too close for comfort at times. With Merlos glued to his hip, Pieres nearly lopped off his head (albeit accidentally) on a huge swing in the third chukka. Merlos, his eyes as big as dinner plates, ducked under Pieres’ mallet just in the nick of time. Neither of them missed a beat as the ride-off continued. Pieres plucked the ball out of the air like a cat snatching a bird and then blasted past de Lusarreta to score.

La Indiana was a tenacious rival. Nic Roldan scored on an incredible nearside under-the-neck shot, tying the score at 3 in the last gasp of the first half. Although neither side scored in the fourth, both teams continued to take it to the mat. There were precious few fouls and no sign of desperation on the field. La Indiana sewed up a tight defense and maintained a high degree of patience on offence, not shooting until they found a clear line.

The last two chukkas were a flat-out King Power fest. In the fifth Facundo Pieres capitalized on his penalty prowess with a 40-yard shot and then delivered a pass to brother Gonzalito Pieres for another goal. Working in tandem, each sensed exactly what the other’s next move was going to be. It was as though they were playing from a psychic playbook, communicating without the need to exchange looks. Halfway through the sixth chukka Gonzalito Pieres broke away and stormed the field, splitting the La Indiana defence like the Jordan River and propelling King Power Foxes into a four-goal lead.

In the final two minutes of the game Lewis set upon doing as much damage as possible to Merlos, steadfastly holding him at bay for the Pieres’. Lewis said being able to play some of the best horses in the world enabled him to do so. “I’d probably be two goals lower if it weren’t for these horses. Every time I make a mistake they help me out and get me back in the game,” he said.

On his way to the awards ceremony, Facundo Pieres said, “Today was amazing. Amazing! It was very tough. La Indiana had a great season all the way through, but today maybe we were a little bit stronger.” He heaped praise on his brother. “Gonzalito played one of the best games I think I’ve ever seen him play. When he plays like this, it’s so great to be part of the team with him.” After accepting his gift as Most Valuable Player, Facundo walked straight over to Gonzalito and presented it to him with a giant smile.

An understandably disappointed but ever-gracious Roldan, who played a powerhouse No. 2, said King Power is “an amazing organization. It was an honor to play them, and we worked really hard to get here.”

He added, “We felt like we were good today and so were our horses. We tied it in the third but had some bad luck in the fourth and made a simple mistake on a goal. In the end [King Power] out-horsed us and out-played us in the fifth and sixth chukkas. But we’ve had a great season.”

(Indeed, La Indiana can go home proud after making it to the finals of both the Cartier Queen’s Cup and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, obliterating their so-called “underdog” image.)

Best-Playing Pony went to the great Sarmiento, a dark bay gelding bred by Ellerstina and played by Facundo Pieres three times in the final.

–Darlene Ricker

 

King Power Foxes celebrate their second consecutive Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship win, Sunday, July 17th, 2016, at Cowdray Park Polo Club

King Power Foxes celebrate their second consecutive Jaeger LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship win, Sunday, July 17th, 2016, at Cowdray Park Polo Club / Photo by Tony Ramirez/Images of Polo / imagesofpolo.com

 


The Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship was established in 1956, when it was then known as the Cowdray Park Gold Cup. The trophy itself was stolen in 1968, and has not been recovered. Stowell Park and Tramontana share the record for most wins, with five titles apiece.
 


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