Things took a decidedly different spin the second time Kentucky met Valiente on the field in Denver in the 2017 Columbine Cup. After an earlier loss in the inaugural 20-goal tournament, Kentucky turned the super-team on its head in the last moments of Sunday’s final, taking the title 7-6.
Kentucky knew the odds were against them—what team going up against Adolfo Cambiaso and company wouldn’t? But a loss wasn’t on the menu at Angelo’s Taverna in Littleton on Saturday night. The vibe at the team dinner was electric. Teenager Andrew Beck, who would be selected MVP of the final, looked around the table, fixing his eyes on each member of the Kentucky team and crew. “We can do this,” he said.
That was the only way to look at it, explained a pragmatic Beck after the win. “We went to dinner as a team, confident,” he said. “Adolfo Cambiaso is incredible, and everyone knows he’s impossible to beat. But we didn’t go there. We didn’t want to lose the game before we started.”
Cambiaso, to no one’s surprise, fired out of the first throw-in with a blaze of speed that became a blur as the ball went straight to goal. From there on the game was a back-and-forth nail biter, with an invincible Kentucky stepping it up whenever needed to keep pace with Valiente. The score was 1-1 at the end of the first chukker, with several more ties to come.
Valiente patron Bob Jornayvaz injected his own dose of momentum into Valiente’s efforts with a tremendous breakaway in the second chukker, pulling his team forward 2-1. Kentucky’s Guillermo Terrera responded with the play of the day. As the ball hurtled toward him from behind on a trajectory that would have sliced him in half had it not gained air, Terrera turned polo into acrobatics. He swiveled his head and reached behind with a torque that should have yanked him out of the saddle. In a precision reach, he connected the ball with his mallet’s sweet spot and sent it hurtling into goal, closing the second chukker with another tie (2-2).
The action stalled a bit in the third, which was notable mainly for a goal from Cambiaso, whose putt along the ground seemed to weave through the pack by sheer force of will. A quick follow-up goal in the fifth chukker was all he could fit in before Kentucky went on a scoring rampage, with goals by Beck and Matias Torres Zavaleta.
Terrera continued Kentucky’s push into the sixth chukker to put his team ahead 7-5. Agustín Nero contributed a final goal for Valiente, but it was bourbon all around as Kentucky celebrated their victory.
“They’re a strong team. They beat us by one, and between Torres Zavaleta and Terrera they did a great job,” said Cambiaso. “It’s good that a team that came from Kentucky to play the high-goal in Denver got a good win.”
While not accustomed to losing, Cambiaso and crew were in good spirits at a post-game gathering of all four teams that played in the tournament and will take part in the Colorado Open. “This was a really fun game, and the field played incredible after the rain,” said Cambiaso, referring to an unholy downpour the previous day and night that turned parts of Littleton into a soppy mess. The fields at Valiente showed no sign of it. As Cambiaso said, “They played unbelievable.”
“Bob (Jornayvaz) played a great game, and he made sure we had the best conditions all the way through the tournament,” he added. “The facility and the graciousness of the Jornayvaz family made the Columbine Cup a fantastic event, and we’re looking forward to another one in the Colorado Open.”
The Best Playing Pony award went to Dolfina Eda, a 6-year-old mare played by Cambiaso and owned by the Valiente organization.
The Columbine Cup was a prelude to the inaugural 20-goal Colorado Open (August 9-19). The Colorado Open final will feature the 2017 Rocky Mountain Polo Festival hosted by Polo Fest and Polo Channel.
For more information about the Columbine Cup, the Colorado Open or the Rocky Mountain Polo Festival, contact Darlene Ricker at (310) 210-4004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos © Polo Channel