Driven by an ambitious desire to sweep the “Triple Crown of Polo,” powerhouse Valiente rode to victory in the USPA Gold Cup Final on Sunday, April 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
Untouchable throughout tournament play, Valiente faced a strong offensive drive by Flexjet in their second matchup, but ultimately prevailed 12-11.
Claiming two immediate goals in the first chukker, Facundo Pieres set the pace for a fast, competitive final. As the first half progressed, both teams relentlessly traded goals back and forth, with Flexjet strategically taking every available opportunity to intercept the ball and capitalize from the penalty line.
Demonstrating excellent control, Adolfo Cambiaso propelled the ball downfield, expertly weaving it between Flexjet’s defenders to pick up his first goal in the second chukker. Staying in position and making key plays happen, Valiente’s optimal teamwork secured two additional goals, keeping them ahead by two at the end of the second.
“I was mainly playing back on Flexjet’s hit-ins and trying to push forward on our plays,” Valiente’s Tommy Beresford said. “I tried to make space for Adolfo and Facundo, and since those two are the best, they can usually pull through with that.”
Missing several opportunities to score, Flexjet allowed Cambiaso to get on another breakaway to goal, doubling the scoreboard. Just before Facundo Pieres could score another goal, Rodrigo De Andrade managed to steal the ball and move it downfield, ending the half 6-3 in favor of Valiente.
Benefiting from gaining possession from the initial throw-in of the second half, Flexjet’s De Andrade made an effective team play with Nico Pieres for a fast field goal. As both teams began to play a more open style of polo, the goals also began to stack up with increasing speed. Valiente acted quickly in retaliation with a goal each by Cambiaso and Beresford, preventing Flexjet from making up any ground.
Explosive in the fifth, Nico Pieres played his strongest chukker yet, hitting a giant neckshot to goal and converting a Penalty 4 and 6 in an effort to derail Valiente in the second half. Consistent throughout, Valiente anticipated the plays and followed through with the team strategy, using Beresford to protect Facundo Pieres and allowing him to have the open shots to goal.
With Valiente still in the lead 11-9 as the final chukker began, Cambiaso grabbed his fifth goal of the game. Charging up and down the field, De Andrade finally managed to score two consecutive goals bringing his team within one, but the 30-second horn ended Flexjet’s final drive. Valiente claimed its second consecutive USPA Gold Cup with a final score of 12-11.
Responsible for seven out of 11 goals, five from the penalty line and two from the field, Nico Pieres was named Most Valuable Player. Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Macarena, a gray mare owned by Mariano Gonzalez and played by Adolfo Cambiaso in the third chukker.
Looking forward to participating in the prestigious U.S. Open Polo Championship, Bob Jornayvaz recognizes the steep competition Valiente will have to face in the final 26-goal tournament of the season.
“Now the hard work begins. We can’t lose focus, so we need to stay healthy and keep the horses healthy,” he said. “You have to go out on the field with a game plan, execute it and stay disciplined. Flexjet came within one goal, and that’s when we need to fall back on our game plan, because that’s what a good organization is all about.”
The U.S. Open Polo Championship is now underway at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. For more info., visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.