Exactly one week following the Pacific Coast Open in Santa Barbara, California, all eyes turned to Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut for the final of the East Coast Open. An exceptionally rainy summer, the match start time was advanced two hours to avoid cancellation. Despite Iconica’s perfect record leading up to the final, a fiery and determined Audi never relinquished the lead taking home the Perry Trophy with a final score 11-9.
In the first few minutes of play, Audi’s Toro Ruiz set the tone with back-to-back goals; the first an impressive run in front of a packed grandstand on bay mare Eleonor, the other an incredible cut shot off the end line for an early lead. Iconica caught flat-footed, a penalty in favor of Audi widened the margin as Joaquin Panelo sent the ball straight through the uprights to end the first 3-0. Iconica rallied in the second however, keeping Audi scoreless and closing the gap with two penalty conversions from Mariano Gonzalez. Their momentum continued into the third with two field goals from the father-son duo Peke and Mariano Gonzalez, closing the first half trailing by one 4-5.
Unwavering, Audi continued in the second half matching Iconica goal for goal and sinking another penalty conversion to increase their advantage to two 8-6. Game high-scorer Ruiz nailed his fifth goal of the game in the fifth chukker as Audi began to run away with the lead 10-6. Two automatic goal penalties in the final two chukkers kept Iconica in the game as time wound down. Thirty-five seconds remaining in regulation time, a center hit following a Penalty 1 gave Iconica a flash of hope to tie. The shot was intercepted by a back from Mariano Aguerre, dashing their hopes as Panelo raced down field riding Lucky Five and scoring a final goal to cement the Audi victory.
“It feels amazing, but I think it’s a team effort, a team trophy. I just went out there to help my team and went to every ball like it was the last—I guess everyone saw that and it feels great.” – Joaquin Panelo
Panelo garnered Most Valuable Player for exceptional accuracy from the penalty line. Similarly, his 7-year-old Argentine Thoroughbred mare Penelope, played in the first and the fifth, was awarded Best Playing Pony honors. Meanwhile, Ruiz was all smiles having played in and won his second East Coast Open, the former with team GSA last year. “It’s tough, it’s always tough,” Ruiz admitted, when talking about playing against his 2017 GSA teammate Matias Magrini, now on Iconica. “He gave me horses and both teams had the same chances, but I’m happy we won.”
“We were two very even teams,” said Aguerre, “I thought when we played in bracket play the coin fell for their side, they had good breaks and they beat us. And today, we had the good breaks and that’s why we beat them. It was a great game to play and an awesome tournament to finish up the season.” One of many East Coast Open titles for Hall-of-Famer Aguerre, the win with Chris Brant was especially memorable, having captured the trophy many times with Brant’s father and Aguerre’s longtime sponsor and friend Peter Brant.