There was a special atmosphere at the Old Bond Street Boutique of luxury watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre as the matchplay draw for the 60th edition of the Gold Cup for the British Open was made for this season.
Thirteen teams, including the return of one of the superpowers of the sport in King Power Foxes, the defending champions who had an epic year last season, make up what promises to be a special tournament when it gets underway on June 21.
Zahra Kassim-Lakha, Director UK Market and Global Strategy for Jaeger-LeCoultre addressed the 60 guests and representatives of the 13 teams, describing 2016 as “a special year” for the headline sponsor and the sport which, she said, “marks a triple crown” for Jaeger-LeCoultre in polo.
First, the 85th anniversary of the iconic Reverso swivel watch and the ultimate watch for polo champions; second, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship and, lastly, the 60th anniversary of the Gold Cup itself.
“This historic context will see us embrace Jaeger-LeCoultre’s historic connection to the sport of kings since 1931, while looking to the future of polo and celebrate great style in watchmaking,” said Kassim-Lakha, who also revealed that the four playing winners will be awarded a Reverso watch engraved with the Gold Cup.
Lila Pearson, the Hon Mrs Charles Pearson, the wife of Lord Cowdray’s younger brother, and vice president of the club, who played in her own Gold Cup team in 2009, replied: “My late father-in-law would be delighted to know we were celebrating the diamond jubilee of the Gold Cup which started in 1956, a team from Argentina beat England 9-4 – no change there. There is an Argentine in most teams.
“I hope everyone appreciates what Jaeger-LeCoultre is doing for Cowdray and the Gold Cup. It’s very special. We are a very relaxed club, and it is great to have you on board, a company who are equally relaxed. A particularly exciting for me this year that my son George is playing.”
Teenage patron George Pearson, currently playing at Oxford University where he is an undergraduate, will follow his mother, father, and grandfather in the 50s and 60s, by bringing his Cowdray Vikings team into the Gold Cup this season.
Pearson, a 2-goal player, is joined by Chris Mackenzie (6 handicap), Jack Richardson (6) and Alejandro Novillo Astrada (8).
Local patron Nick Clarke re-enters the Gold Cup with a new name for his team – Clarke & Green.
His side again includes Juan Gris Zavaleta and Jaeger-LeCoultre Ambassador Luke Tomlinson and they are joined by John Paul Clarkin making an evenly matched and powerful combination.
The Pailloncy brothers’ HB Polo team has seen a significant change with the addition of 10 goaler David ‘Pelon’ Stirling playing alongside Cubi Toccalino in the middle order, the side now forming a 22 goal line-up.
Michael Bickford’s La Indiana re-enters but with a completely new line-up comprising Julian de Lussereta, Agustin Merlos and Nic Roldan.
Ben Soleimani’s RH Polo has retained the 9 goal skills of Nico Pieres and added a second 9 goaler, Brazilian player Rodrigo Andrade. Ali Paterson completes this powerful side.
USA patron Bob Jornayvaz, brings Valiente to the Gold Cup. With a team comprising Juan Martin Nero, Adolfo Cambiaso and young English player Ralph Richardson, the team is highly rated.
Lyndon Lea has rearranged his Zacara team, retaining young English player Jack Hyde but bringing in Argentine heavyweights Lucas Monteverde and Pablo MacDonough, who so nearly carried off a victory for UAE in 2015.
A trio of French teams enters the British Open, too: Edouard Carmignac retains Polito Pieres and ‘Sapo’ Caset, both 9 goals in the UK but 10 goals in Argentina, and has added Tommy Beresford to his Talandracas team.
Jean François Decaux, who won the Gold Cup in 2009, makes a welcome return with his La Bamba de Areco side. He is joined by Cristian Laprida, Diego Cavanagh and Rodrigo Rueda.
Corinne Ricard makes a Gold Cup debut with her Murus Sanctus side and is joined by Manuel Elizalde, Facundo Sola and Alfredo Capella.
At the draw, the 13 teams were divided in three groups. Each team will play four qualifying games, and the teams from groups B and C will play crossovers.
Chris Bethell, Cowdray Park Polo Club manager, added: “I have seeded the four semi-finalists of the Cartier Queens Cup; the four losing quarter finalists will also be seeded and placed. In the final phase of the tournament, the leading eight teams decided by points and goal difference, go forward to the quarter finals leading to the final knock-out phase of the British Open tournament.”
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship opens on Tuesday June 21 when the Carlos Gracida Memorial Trophy will be played.
Quarter Finals take place over the weekend of 9/10th July, Semi Finals on Wednesday July 13 and the Final on Sunday July 17.
Ticket details here
2016 Gold Cup teams
Group A: Valiente, La Indiana, Britannia El Remanso, Murus Sanctus, Cowdray Vikings.
Group B: Zacara, Clarke & Green, La Bamba de Areco, Talandracas.
Group C: King Power Foxes, RH Polo Team, HB Polo Team, Apes Hill.
Valiente: Bob Jornayvaz 2, Ralph Richardson 1, Adolfo Cambiaso 10, Juan Martín Nero 9. Total: 22.
La Indiana: Michael Bickford 1, Nic Roldan 7, Agustín Merlos 8, Julián De Lusarreta 6. Total: 22.
Britannia El Remanso: Charlie Hanbury 4, Ollie Cudmore 5, James Beim 7, James Harper 6. Total: 22.
Murus Sanctus: Corinne Ricard 0, Manuel Elizalde 5, Facundo Sola 8, Alfredo Cappella 9. Total: 22.
Cowdray Vikings: George Pearson 2, Chris Mackenzie 6, Jack Richardson 6, Alejandro N Astrada 8. Total: 22.
Zacara: Jack Hyde 3, Lyndon Lea 1, Lucas Monteverde 8, Pablo Macdonough 10. Total: 22.
Clarke & Green: Nick Clarke 0, Juan Gris Zavaleta 7, Luke Tomlinson 7, John Paul Clarkin 7. Total: 22.
La Bamba de Areco: Jean-Francois Decaux 0, Diego Cavanagh 8, Magoo Laprida 8, Rodrigo Rueda 6. Total: 22.
Talandracas: Edouard Carmignac 0, Pablo Pieres 9, Tommy Beresford 4, Sapo Caset 9. Total: 22.
King Power Foxes: Top Srivaddhanaprabha 1, Pepito Araya 1, Gonzalito Pieres 10, Facundo Pieres 10. Total: 22.
RH Polo Team: Ben Soleimani 0, Ali Paterson 4, Rodrigo Andrade 9, Nico Pieres 9. Total: 22.
HB Polo Team: Ludovic Pailloncy 1, Cubi Toccalino 8, Pelon Stirling 10, Sebastien Pailloncy 3. Total: 22.
Apes Hill: George Hanbury 3, Mark Tomlinson 6, Eduardo Novillo Astrada 9, Alec White 4. Total: 22.