CARTIER QUEEN’S CUP
By Dara Williams
A DIAMOND OCCASION
The diamond jubilee edition of the Queen’s Cup, sponsored once more by Cartier, at Guards Polo Club saw a 9-8 victory for Les Lions/Great Oaks over Park Place in extra time. The nail-biting final saw two extremely well-matched teams line up to contest this coveted trophy. For Les Lions/Great Oaks, Dillon Bacon had recruited brothers Bartolito and Camilo ‘Jeta’ Castagnola, who play off 8 and 7-goals respectively, and 6-goaler Santiago Laborde. Andrey Borodin’s Park Place were also based around two brothers – the 19-goal combination of Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres – supported by 3-goal Will Harper.
The cup was presented to the club by Her Majesty in 1960, when the inaugural tournament was won by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s yellow and blue-shirted Centaurs. Over the course of sixty years it has only once been cancelled: in 2001, due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
This year, of course, restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic were in place, as a result of which the tournament was played without spectators. Nevertheless, ten teams took part, eight of them having been in action in the British Open Championship; the other two, making their debut, were Siri Bazzoni’s MT Vikings and Segavas, put together by Luke Wiles. The Vikings line-up included England national captain, 7-goal James Beim, and Sebastian Merlos, one of only four 10-goal players to take part in the tournament. John Paul Clarkin, New Zealand’s top professional, was in Segavas colours.
One of the most extraordinary matches of the tournament saw Andrey Borodin’s second team, Park Place Vaara, defeat Les Lions-Great Oaks, 11-10. Remarkable was not only the fact that Park Place Vaara had lost all their preceding games but that neither side scored until the third chukka. Then, however, 8-goal Juan Britos and his young team-mate, 4-goal Tommy Marin Moreno, set the pace for the winners, by the end of the match having scored five and four goals respectively. The margin was always close; the last goal coming from a penalty conversion by Les Lions/Great Oaks’ 19-year-old Bartolito Castagnola in the sixth chukka. Despite valiant efforts, the score remained at 11-10, Park Place Vaara thus gaining a well-earned, if surprising, place in the subsidiary quarter-finals.
The semi-finals for the Queen’s Cup were delayed for twenty-four hours when torrential rain created an interlude in one of the longest heatwaves of recent years. The first match was a close-run affair between Les Lions/Great Oaks and Thai Polo – a team playing well this season and based around 6-goaler Tommy Beresford, who represents the sixth generation of Europe’s oldest polo dynasty. Thai Polo received two goals on handicap and by half-time the score was level, 5-5. Returning to the field, Les Lions/Great Oaks gained a 7-5 advantage but Thai Polo remained ontop form, tying 9-9 in the sixth chukka and thus sending the game into extra time, allowing the Castangola brothers the narrowest possible victory, 10-9. Seven of those winning goals were sent between the posts by 17-year-old Jeta Castagnola.
The second semi-final, between Park Place and holders Scone Polo, was a complete contrast to the first. Scone were completely overwhelmed from the opening chukka, in which Park Place took a 3-0 lead and retained control of the game until the end. Excellent team work saw them go into double figures, 11-5, in the penultimate chukka, and while Scone were to add another three goals of their own, the outcome was never in doubt. With a closing score of 14-8, Park Place had gained their place in the final.
The final was in many ways a rematch of the Prince of Wales Trophy, earlier in the season, in which Les Lions/Great Oaks were runners-up to Park Place. It was also the third consecutive final of the season to be reached by Les Lions’Great Oaks: besides the Prince of Wales Trophy they were also runners-up in the British Open. By another coincidence, it was Andrey Borodin’s third Queen’s Cup final in a row.
This time round Park Place were awarded a goal on handicap but Les Lions/Great Oaks made a good start, ending the first chukka with a 3-1 lead; although my half-time that advantage had been reduced to 4-3. Led by top scorer Jeta Castagnola – he was to score five of the winning goals – Les Lions/Great Oaks doggedly increased their lead, taking it to 8-5 in the fifth chukka. Park Place had other ideas, however, and made an impressive comeback in what should have been the last chukka, equalising 9-9. Extra time saw Jeta Castnagola send the golden goal between the posts to give Les Lions/Great Oaks their first Queen’s Cup title.
The cup was presented to patron Dillon Bacon by Brian Stein, chairman of Guards Polo Club. Laurent Feniou, managing director of Cartier UK, was self-isolating at home, following a recent overseas trip, but sent a message to all the teams. Bacon was also named Most Valuable Player and the Cartier rug for Best Playing Pony went to Bartolito Castagnola’s Chalo Angelo. Winner of theBest Playing Argentine-bred Pony award was Open Mediterranea, played by Facundo Pieres. Every member of the victorious team received a Cartier Tank watch.
Les Lions/Great Oaks
Photography by : Tony Ramirez | imagesofpolo.com