The Valentine’s Day final of the 2016 Carlton and Keleen Beal Memorial Tournament – played at Southern California’s Eldorado Polo Club – featured many momentum changes, long spectacular runs, and horses – good ones and lots of them.
Chris Maloney brought his Twin Palms aggregation (Maloney 1, Graham Bray 3, Santiago Wulff 5, Remy du Celliee Muller 3) to the Sunday field for their third final of the season. On this day of love, the opposition would be supplied by Geoff Palmer and his Antelope herd (Palmer, Santiago Trotz 5, Felipe Vercellino 5, Chad Bowmen 2). This would be the second finals meeting this season for these two – Antelope winning the first in mid January.
The first started quickly as Bray grabbed an early pass and completed a spectacular 140 yard run to score for Twin Palms. Not to be outdone, Trotz and Vercellino combined on a give and go for Antelope that was capped with a Palmer open goal conversion from 25 yards. The early momentum was now with the pronghorns as Vercellino scampered to count another and then, shortly after, pounded a penalty four and the first was over with Palmer and Co. up by two at 3 – 1.
Momentum, however, can be fickle and as such can change in a hurry – and it did. Twin Palms came out for the second and were absolutely dominant with Maloney running half the field to count his first of the afternoon. Bray – again on a great rush – scored his second and Wulff followed that with his first of the game on a spectacular gallop. The second ended with the Maloney group leading by one at 4 – 3 and the energy clearly belonged to Twin Palms.
As the third period began, it was apparent that this was going to be a running game – a contest of horses – as the pronghorns grabbed the momentum back and Palmer scored his second open goal award. Vercellino kept the force going as he grabbed his third goal and Antelope now had the lead back by one. Bowman then scored from the field and Vercellino struck again and a big Antelope third frame was over and their lead was now three with a count of 7 – 4.
The fourth chukker started with Twin Palms getting one back as du Celliee Muller sent a forty yard backhander to goal that hit the right post and was eventually knocked in by a leg or an opposing player. Antelope responded with another rush and Vercellino finished it off with his second penalty four conversion and they again had a three goal advantage. However, that bulge didn’t last long as the fickle force was now in the Twin Palms camp as du Celliee Muller scored from the field. Wulff then counted a pair – one on a spectacular play from the right corner by out horsing two men – and the count was now eight each.
Chukker number five started a little differently than the previous three as the momentum did not change and Maloney scored his second goal and Twin Palms led by one. Relentless pressure on the inside by Bray led to a penalty opportunity from 30 yards that Maloney drained and the lead was now two at 10 – 8. The pronghorns were able to spring back and exert more pressure of their own and Trotz hammered a penalty four and scored from the field and the count was again tied. Bray – influential always – then scored his third and the fifth was over with the Maloney group up by one at 11 – 10.
Trotz came out for the sixth and made things happen for Antelope. The result was his third goal of the game that evened the count at eleven. Play went back and fourth as both combatants had opportunities and came away with nothing – due to great defensive play. However, with 66 seconds on the clock – and Wulff pressing – Twin Palms was awarded a free shot from 60 yards. Wulff’s effort – with complete silence everywhere – was neither high nor on the ground, but hit very hard and somehow made its way through and with the clock now running down to 30 seconds, Maloney and Twin Palms had triumphed in the extremely well played Beal Memorial by a final tally of 12 – 11.
Based on his rugged, robust, and effective play, Bray earned the title of MVP and Wulff’s horse Rubio – played in the sixth – was chosen as the Best Playing Pony. Palmer – because of his aggressive defensive play – was selected as the Most Valuable Sponsor of the tournament.