Rashid Albwardy & Alan Meeker’s team battle opposition & sandstorm to clinch title
Despite a blustering sandstorm, the 10th Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge Final was still played between Desert Palm (Alan Meeker (0), Rashid Albwardy (2), Tom Brodie (2) and Diego Cavanagh (8)) and UAE Polo (Sandra Schneider (-1), HH Sheikha Maitha Al Maktoum (0), Santi Stirling (4) and Lucas Monteverde (9)) on Saturday 21 February. Taking place on the number one ground at Ali Albwardy’s Desert Palm Resort, the ‘home’ team dominated much of the game to take the Final, 10-4.
The winning side interacted well, capitalising on their opportunities, with Tom Brodie feeding the ball both to the 8 goaler, Cavanagh and to the team’s number one, Albwardy who added to the team’s goal tally. American, Alan Meeker, known for his successful cloning operation, Crestview and collaboration with Adolfo Cambiaso, also contributed to his team’s six goal difference over the opposition. Desert Palm also managed to keep control of 9 goaler Monteverde – the highest handicapped player on the pitch – to ensure he was unable to break from the line-outs to score for his UAE team. Santi Stirling, with his elbow strapped up after an injury earlier in the tournament, had a fall in the Final, careering through the Cartier banners at the end of the pitch, adding a dramatic pause in the match. Thankfully he was unhurt and will be ready to play in The Gold Cup games at Arabian Ranches later this week. A fast game, with little fouling made for an exciting demonstration of polo to the VIPs and guests watching the game from the Desert Palm terrace who were clearly delighted with Desert Palm’s eventual win. HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai attended the event to present the prizes. She was joined by Laurent Gaborit, Managing Director of Cartier Middle East and India, Ali Albwardy, Neil Hobday, American socialite and model, Olivia Palermo and George Sunderland, Brand Ambassador for La Martina. Ali Albwardy’s Castora, played by Diego Cavanagh was presented with the La Martina Best Playing Pony prize, whilst Amr Zedan, patron of the Guards team, was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
Sadly the Subsidiary Final, due to be played earlier in the day, was cancelled due to the sandstorm. Cartier Red (Clive Reid (0), Martin Valent (2), Tariq Albwardy (1) and Matias Zavaleta (7)) were due to play Abu Dhabi (Faris Al Yabhouni (0), Nasser Al Shamsi (1), Ernesto Oscar Trotz (4) and Alfredo Cappella (7)), but organisers decided not to play the match. Pony welfare came first and foremost and the weather was deemed too potentially harmful to the ponies to warrant the game being played. The polo season in Dubai continues with The Julius Baer Gold Cup which begins Monday 23 with the opening matches played between Ghantoot Polo versus the Bin Drai team and Edrees Polo versus Julius Baer by Habtoor side.
Photograph: Winners of the 10th Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge, Desert Palm (L-R: Tom Brodie, Diego Cavanagh, Rashid Albwardy & Alan Meeker). By Tony Ramirez/ www.imagesofpolo.com