Michael Bickford and his La Indiana team made it third time lucky on the Queen’s Ground at Guards Polo Club yesterday. La Indiana fought back from a 6-4 deficit at half-time to win the Cartier Queen’s Cup 9-7. Bickford, who has been a finalist in the previous two years, was the winning patron this time around, receiving the prestigious silver trophy from HM The Queen and Laurent Feniou of Cartier UK. Michael Bickford’s team-mate, Facundo Pieres, who last added his name to this high-goal trophy in 2016, was named the Cartier Most Valuable Player after turning the game around in the second half. His second favourite pony, Cube, winner of the Best Playing Pony prize on this day in 2015, was named top equine again today. Facundo had played her twice in this match, including the crucial fifth chukka.
Andrey Borodin’s Park Place, who are in their first season of high-goal polo, had impressed everyone with their wonderful-to-watch, four-man polo on their road to this final, but fortune did not favour them today. In the first 1 1/2 minutes of the game Hilario Ulloa was on the floor following a collision with La Indiana’s Alec White. Fortunately Ulloa got back in the saddle after a short delay and play resumed – with White spending the next two minutes in the sin bin. Meanwhile, Juan Britos, the Cartier Queen’s Cup top goal scorer – 35 goals under his name coming into this final – converted the penalty awarded for dangerous play only for Pieres to convert a penalty before the end of the chukka.
Things did not improve in the second chukka with Andrey Borodin having to be taken off the field in an ambulance after a collision with La Indiana’s Nic Roldan. He was substituted by the young Charlie Tighe, who has been playing for the Park Place team in some of their 15-goal Out-Sourcing Royal Windsor Cup games this season. This change in personnel did not seem to disrupt the Park Place team too much, although they could not take advantage of a three-man La Indiana side while Roldan sat out his 2-minute penalty. Another penalty conversion by Pieres and a quick goal by Ulloa after the first bell saw the teams all tied 2-2 going into the third.
This chukka was dominated by Park Place – finding some of that previous form that had earned them a place in this final. Britos converted a penalty and then produced a lovely run to goal for the subsequent throw in. With goals from team-mates Ulloa and Tommy Beresford to only two in reply from La Indiana – one was off the stick of Bickford who received a lovely pass from Roldan – to make it 6-4 at half-time. It was all change in the fourth though, with Pieres and Roldan firing through a couple of goals to none in reply from Park Place. With the scores back level once again, this was still anyone’s game. A goal apiece in the fifth failed to produce a clearer picture – although it should be noted that the Park Place goal came off the stick of young Charlie Tighe.
So with the score all square at the start of the sixth, the many spectators wondered if this final would be the first match of the 2018 Cartier Queen’s Cup tournament to go into overtime. Man of the match Pieres had other ideas and he not only saved a Britos penalty, but fired through two goals to secure victory for La Indiana and earn himself an MVP award in the process.
Cartier Queen’s Cup Sub-Final for the Cartier Trophy
Emlor and Talandracas produced one of the best games of the tournament this morning in the subsidiary Cartier Trophy match. Spencer McCarthy’s Emlor, featuring his son James in this game, took the lead for the first time in the sixth chukka to win the trophy. Appropriately for finals day, these teams had been finely balanced throughout all six chukkas and Emlor never allowed Hugues Carmignac’s Talandracas team to be more than a goal ahead at any time. Tension was apparent in the early stages of the game, with far too many whistles, but by the third chukka the teams had found their rhythm and the spectators on the Duke’s Ground were treated to a display of fast, running polo. With both teams failing to find the flags at all in the fifth, they headed into the sixth chukka 8-8 and so much still to play for. Agustin Merlos, Diego Cavanagh and James McCarthy all found the flags in this chukka – Merlos making his a double – to only one in reply off the stick of Francisco Elizalde. This immediately shifted the balance and was enough to win the match for Emlor. Patron James McCarthy was later named Most Valuable Player and stepped up to receive his accolade – and the Cartier Trophy – from HM The Queen during the afternoon’s presentations.
Eleven teams had taken part in this year’s Cartier Queen’s Cup competition and the evenness of the teams was highlighted in today’s finals. Throughout the three weeks of the competition, sponsored by Cartier for the seventh year, no team had stood out head and shoulders above their peers. This even-handedness delivered some superb, competitive polo and no outright favourites. With patrons being as competitive on the field as their pros and several young English players making their mark at the highest level of the game here, it all signifies that the UK polo season is thriving.
Photo: Cymon Skinner