by Gonzalo Etcheverry
The 2016 Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series came to an end; now it is time to look at what has been, and what is to come. The result was positive and the future looks bright; in a short six years, the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series has achieved what no other polo season on the international calendar has.
In Dubai, the sky is the limit – that is how Mohammed Al Habtoor, creator of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series and patron of Habtoor Polo sees it. More teams take part in the series each year, with many high-goal players travelling to Dubai to play the best tournament in the Middle East.
The number of horses has increased, and more fields have been constructed; this year Al Habtoor Polo Resort presented two new fields, with one more still to come, as well as a luxurious resort (St. Regis Hotel) and five star equestrian installations will be ready for the 2017 season.
Thanks to the constant support of Mohammed Al Habtoor and local patrons, the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series has become a fixture on the international polo circuit. Before looking at the future, let’s take a look at the season that has just gone. Nine teams took part in the event which hosted the three traditional tournaments: The McLaren Silver Cup, The Julius Baer Gold Cup and Dubai Cup. This year, with the aim of using the new fields at Al Habtoor Polo Resort, two more tournaments were introduced: The Masters Cup, for 14-goal teams, and The Challenge Cup, for 18-goal teams. The polo season boasted first-class polo, with a season that ran from January to April; Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club hosted the tournaments.
The winners: UAE & Zedan
The stars of the 2016 season were UAE Polo, HH Sheika Maitha Al Makhtoum’s team, which featured Lucas Monteverde, and Zedan, belonging to Amr Zedan, which had talented 10-goaler Pablo Mac Donough. UAE Polo claimed the most important Cup of the season, The Julius Baer Gold Cup, while Zedan claimed The Mc Laren Silver Cup and The Dubai Cup, the 10-goal tournament which closed the season. Mac Donough and Monteverde really stood out this season, as did players such as Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Alfredo Capella, Guillermo Terrera, Juan Ruíz Guiñazú, and Matías Torres Zavaleta.
The Masters Cup and The Challenge Cup, the new tournaments of Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series, were won by Mahra (Rashid Al Habtoor and Alejandro Novillo Astrada), and Bin Drai, (Saeed Bin Drai, Raúl Laplacette and Matías Torres Zavaleta), respectively.
It was a very competitive season, reflected by the fact that each tournament was won by a different team.
Seven years of success
“We have had seven successful years,” says Mohammed Al Habtoor proudly. The creator of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series confessed that a lot of effort goes into organising a series that continues to grow so quickly.
“Our season competes with the season in Palm Beach and the Polo Challenge in the Dominican Republic, but we don’t envy them at all. On the contrary, we had nine teams playing the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series while they had eight. More organisations take part in our season than in Sotogrande, for example. We are proud of that and we will continue to work so that our season grows constantly and consistently. The polo world already knows what we are capable of, and with the support of other patrons in the Middle East, the polo season in Dubai can grow even more. Creating the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series was a risk, but we have pulled it off successfully, especially considering that we do not count with the support of an Association or a Federation. We are lucky that we have had the support of the HPA [Hurlingham Polo Association] from day one – their advice, rules and umpires have been invaluable. We are very grateful for their support.” In fact, The Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series is the only tournament outside of Europe that is certified by the HPA.
Mohammed Al Habtoor also has another reason to be proud, since the new Al Habtoor Polo Resort, and the luxurious Dubai St.Regis Hotel, will be ready in September, all set for the 2017 polo season. The biggest equestrian development in the Middle East boasts three fields – two of which were played on this season – a stick and ball field, exercise tracks and ten stables with 520 boxes ready to welcome the biggest organisations in the world.
With such a bright future ahead, all we can do is count the days until the start of the next season.
Get ready – the sky is the limit in Dubai.