Arena Polo Has Officially Begun with Plenty of Winners
The Finals of the 3 and 12 goal HPA National Club Championships were held on Sunday 27 November at The Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club. A change in dates from the 2015-16 arena season had seemed a welcome idea at the time of scheduling, but in reality the team entries had suffered a little from an early exodus to hotter polo destinations and teams and ponies not quite ready for tournaments. However, it was good to see familiar faces and see the domestic winter season underway with its usual close contact thrills.
In the first game of the day Emsworth Regal Power took on RCBPC Cool Hooves in a speedy opening match, which ended with a final score of 20-18 in favour of the 1 goal RCBPC Cool Hooves team.
The Final of the 3 goal got underway pretty swiftly afterwards between Sladmore and Young Guns. It was very refreshing polo with two teams of youngsters battling against each other for the trophy. The advantage of having talented, but less experienced players pitted against one another is that the game is fluid. This resulted in a skilled clean match as a bonus not just for the umpire, but also the spectator. Only a couple of times did the players all pile on top of each other in a scrum akin to Pony Club, but the whistles were few are far between. The older players on each side, James Mann and The Polo Magazine’s Most Valuable Player Nell Jacob were well matched and added just enough experience and team direction to hold their game together. Sladmore took a 4 goal advantage at the start, but the final score of 15-10 meant that even with their head start they would have won the game. Young Guns, played well, and although they had narrowly missed beating Sladmore the day before, were in the end subject to missed opportunities in the goal scoring department. The Polo Times Best Playing Pony Award went to Nell Jacob’s 17-year-old mare Ortiga, whom she played in the first and last chukka.
As the air chilled and the wind picked up, Glühwein and the enthusiastic commentary of Jan Erik Franck revved up the frozen spectators as RCBPC Mighty Titans and WPPC Regal Warriors took to the arena for the 12 goal HPA National Club Championship. Mark Hayden-Kellard paired with Adolfo Casabal and a young Harry Hutchings for the Mighty Titans to take on Max Charlton, Raph Singh and Charlotte Christodoulou for Regal Warriers. The Mighty Titans began the game with real verve hitting some hard, fast goals leaving Charlton and his team on the back foot for the first two chukkas. Christodoulou really held her own and played fantastically well in such a small enclosed space with five big strong players who were not taking any prisoners on the way to goal. It wasn’t until the last chukka that Mighty Titans seemed to run out of puff and Charlton managed to hit a few well timed shots at goal to take them into the lead, but it was nail biting right to the end as Casabal tied for a two point winning goal, but umpire for the game Howard Smith blew the final whistle crowning Regal Warriors the 12 goal champions with a score of 25-23. Harry Hutchings received The Polo Magazine Most Valuable Player Award and Max Charlton’s 11-year-old chestnut Ranchero, whom he played in the first, third and fourth chukka took home the Polo Times Best Playing Pony Award.
Photograph 1: Winners of the 3 goal HPA National Club Championships Sladmore. By Polo Times