Polo's Gold Cup starts today at Cowdray - and promises to be a true sporting spectacle

The Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, Europe’s leading tournament, begins today (Tuesday 29 June) at Cowdray Park, the Home of British Polo, writes Pip Hitchman of Cowdray Park Polo Club.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 8:00 am
Gold Cup action at Cowdray Park / Picture: Mark Beaumont

The Draw to determine the schedule of play took place earlier this month as a small event at Pitshill House, Tillington, by kind permission of The Hon Charles and Lila Pearson. The Semi Finals will take place on Wednesday 21st July with the Final being played on Sunday 25th July against the iconic backdrop of the Cowdray Ruins on the beautiful Cowdray Estate.

The Gold Cup tournament is regarded as one of the top three polo competitions in the world, alongside the US and Argentine Opens. With the exception of 2020 when polo took place behind closed doors, the Final attracts thousands of spectators annually who flock to the prestigious ‘Lawns’ polo grounds in West Sussex.

Subject to the full easing of coronavirus restrictions on 19th July, Gold Cup Final celebrations will begin on Saturday 24th July with an Ibiza themed party. On the day of the Final spectators can expect to enjoy world class polo with all the usual entertainment around the field, including live music, bars, street food and luxury shopping. The much sought-after pitch-side picnic plots sold out weeks ago, however the EFG Lawns Enclosure will be the place to be.

Gold Cup action - always a highlight of the polo season at Cowdray Park / Picture: Mark Beaumont

Last year, as the competition took place without spectators, all matches were streamed live via Cowdray TV with thousands of polo fans tuning in from all around the world. This year, the Club has once again collaborated with Polo Cam and InPlayer, the world’s leading pay per view subscription solution, to bring the best polo the UK has to offer to enthusiasts unable to attend the games.

Thirteen teams will take part in the 2021 tournament which will see some of the top international players in action. Two of the best players in the world, Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres, both 10-goals in handicap, will be back playing, along with some of the game’s rising young stars. Cambiaso’s 15-year-old son, ‘Poroto’ (7 goals), will be joining his father for Scone, the team of Australian patron David Paradice who makes his third Gold Cup entry. Having lost out in the Final of the Cartier Queen’s Cup only yesterday, they will be hungry for victory.

Encouragingly for the future of the sport in the UK, 2021 sees the highest number of British players taking part in the tournament in recent years. Among the young British players is Cowdray based 18-year-old Will Harper (4 goals) who will be playing again for Andrey Borodin’s Park Place, alongside Facundo Pieres. Harper junior is likely to come up against his father, 7-goaler James, who will be representing Thai Polo along with the young Hine brothers, Ned (4 goals) and Louis (2 goals), and Facundo’s youngest brother, Nico Pieres (9 goals).

Cambiaso’s nephews, Bartolomé (9 goals) and Camilo ‘Jeta’ Castagnola (8 goals) won their Gold Cup debut in 2019 with Dubai and then made the Final together in 2020 with Les Lions / Great Oaks. The brothers will no doubt be making their presence known again this year. ‘Barto’ will remain with his 2020 team for American Dillon Bacon, however his younger brother will play for French patron, Edouard Camignac, who makes his seventeenth appearance in the Gold Cup with his team Talandracas. Argentines Diego Cavanagh (8 goals) and Marcos Araya (6 goals) will join the line-up.

The crowds will be back for the Gold Cup this year / Picture: Mark Beaumont

English 5-goaler, Matt Perry, will play for Corinne Ricard, one of two female patrons competing in this year’s tournament with her Cowdray based team, Murus Sanctus. Ricard will also be joined by longstanding teammate, Facundo Sola (8 goals) and fellow Argentine player Guillermo ‘Sapo’ Caset (9 goals).

Having scored an impressive hattrick of wins between 2015 and 2017, King Power have yet to reclaim the title. Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha took a break in 2020, however he returns this year with Englishman Hugo Lewis (3 goals), 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa and Francisco Elizalde (8 goals).

Spencer McCarthy returns with his Emlor team having also sat out in 2020. He brings back former teammate Agustin ‘Tincho’ Merlos on 7 goals, 8-goaler Alfredo Bigatti and Englishman, Max Charlton (6 goals).

Alessandro Bazzoni brings his Monterosso side back to Cowdray for a fifth consecutive year. Joining him will be American 4-goaler Mackenzie Weisz, making his debut in the Gold Cup, as well as Ignacio Toccalino (8 goals) and David ‘Pelon’ Stirling’ (10 goals), who was forced to sit out of the 2020 Final for Next Generation due to injury.

Four teams make their Gold Cup debuts. Spirited Malaysian father-son duo, James and Joevy Beh, will play together with their team BP Polo, joined by Alejandro Muzzio (8 goals) and Juan Martin Nero, one of the four 10-goalers competing this year.

Vikings enters the tournament for the first time. With the 0-goal player currently TBC, the other players include South African, Chris Mackenzie (6 goals), and Argentine 8-goalers Sebastian Merlos and Juan Martin Zubia.

UAE Polo Team enters its first Gold Cup with Her Highness Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the helm. She will be joined by Argentine 6-goaler Tomas Penelo, Englishman Tommy Beresford (7 goals) and 9-goaler Polito Pieres, cousin of Facundo and Nico. The team will be full of confidence having beaten Scone convincingly in the Cartier Queen’s Cup Final, with Penelo winning the Most Valuable Player prize.

A second UAE team, UAE Polo Pod, has been entered by Sam Browne, another Gold Cup newcomer. He will play with fellow Englishman, Jack Richardson (7 goals), 15-year-old Lucus ‘Lukin’ Monteverde (4 goals) and 8-goaler Alfredo Cappella.

The opening game will be played tomorrow at 12pm between Emlor and Vikings and will be followed by the match for the Carlos Gracida Memorial Trophy, commissioned in memory of the legendary 10-goal player who won the Gold Cup a record ten times.

Chris Bethell, Cowdray Park’s Polo Manager commented: “‘After an exceptionally challenging 2020, we are thrilled to have such a strong line up of teams for this year’s tournament which includes several new entries. We are excited to be able to welcome spectators once again to enjoy some of the best polo, players and ponies the world has to offer.”