By Alex Webbe
Wednesday wins by King Power (Hugo Taylor, Jimbo Fewster, Gonzalito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) and El Remanso (Charlie Hanbury, Oliver Cudmore, James Beim and James Harper) set the stage for the finals of the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open Championship at Cowdray park Polo Club.
With three Pieres brothers on the field (10-goalers Gonzalito and Facundo for King Power and 8-goaler Nico Pieres for Habtoor), there was a family theme to the day (the second match would pit brothers Charlie and George Hanbury against one another in the second semifinal match).
King Power opened the day with a 10-7 win over Habtoor (Will Harper, Nicolas Pieres, Francisco Elizalde and Paco O’Dwyer) to sew up the first final berth with Argentine 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres leading the way with six goals.
Gonzalito Pieres scored the first goal of the day with younger brother Nico Pieres responding for Habtoor with a 30-penalty goal and a goal from the field for the early lead, 2-1.
Nico Pieres scored his third goal to open the second period for a 3-1 Habtoor advantage. Gonzalito Pieres scored the final goal of the chukker, with Habtoor on top, 3-2.
Nico Pieres converted a 40-yard penalty shot for the first goal of the third chukker and a 4-2 Habtoor advantage when the King Power offense began to stir. Jimbo Fewster cut the Habtoor lead down to a single goal, 4-3, with his first score of the day, and Gonzalito Pieres scored for the third time, tying the game at 4-4 at the end of the first half.
King Power may have gotten off to a slow start, but they were in sync as the second half began. A 30-yard penalty goal from Gonzalito was followed by a goal from the field from Facundo Pieres. Shutout defense had King Power leaving the field at the end of the fourth chukker with a two-goal edge, 6-4.
Two more fifth chukker goals from Gonzalito Pieres (one on a penalty shot) and a single goal from Facundo Pieres were accompanied by a second consecutive scoreless periods from Habtoor, who fell behind by five goals, 9-4.
Francisco Elizalde and Hugo Taylor traded goals as the sixth chuker got started with King Power remaining in control, despite final goals from Paco O’Dwyer and Elizalde, and riding off with the 10-7 win and an opportunity to defend their 2016 British Open title.
Gonzalito Pieres led the field with six goals. Facundo Pieres added two goals with Taylor and Fewster each scoring a goal in the victory. Nico Pieres was high-point man for Habtoor with four goals. Elizalde scored twice and O’Dwyer was credited with a goal in the loss.
It will be the fourth British Open final appearance by King Power in the last five years as they look to record a third straight win, the first of its kind since the Tramontana teams of the mid 1980s with Anthony Embiricos and Carlos Gracida (British Open titles in 1886, 1987, 1988 and 1989).
El Remanso 12, Sommelier 5
The second British Open semifinal match of the day featured brothers Charlie and George Hanbury with El Remanso trampling Sommelier (George Hanbury, Juan Gris Zavaleta, Fred Mannix and Alec White) 12-5 as the only All-English team in the competition took the honors.
El Remanso had their way with Sommelier as they charged out to a 7-1 halftime lead, allowing only a single goal to Alec White. El Remanso ‘s Ollie Cudmore and James Harper scored three goals apiece in first half action, with team captain, Charlie Hanbury, adding a goal for the commanding halftime score.
Fourth chukker goals from Cudmore and Harper extended the El Remanso lead to eight goals, 9-1, before a goal from Juan Zavaleta showed signs of life from the Sommelier attack. With two periods left to play it was El Remanso in front by seven goals, 9-2.
Two more fifth chukker goals from Cudmore had El Remanso toying with Sommelier with an 11-2 edge. Zavaleta and Charlie Hanbury scored the final goals of the period for a 12-3 El Remanso advantage.
With El Remanso appearing to save their horses for the tournament final, Sommelier’s Zavaleta scored the final two goals of the 12-5 El Remanso victory.
Cudmore scored a team-high six goals for El Remanso. Harper added four goals and Charlie Hanbury scored twice. Zavaleta’s four goals led an anemic Sommelier offense. White scored the only other goal in the loss.
The final of the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup is scheduled to be played between King Power and El Remanso on Sunday, July 23rd at the Cowdray Park Polo Club.
Photos: Ana Clara Cozzi