In an emotionally-charged game, Beverly Equestrian rallied in the second half to win the Top Pony 12-Goal Series Sunday at Jan Pamela Field.
Less than 24 hours after losing a hardfought 13-10 decision to La Dolfina in the $50,000 National 12-Goal, Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Geronimo Obregon, 4, Hilario Figueras, 3, Tolito Ocampo, 5) came back for a thrilling 13-10 victory over Igea (Adam Lipson, -1, Santino Magrini, 4, Toro Ruiz, 6, Johnny Redlich, 3).
It was the first 12-goal tournament victory in the 2019 winter season finale for Beverly Equestrian. In the last two seasons Beverly Equestrian has made it to five finals and were runners-up four times.
Ocampo, 26, was named Most Valuable Player. Ocampo led Beverly Equestrian with eight goals and Obregon had two. Over two days, Ocampo finished with 14 and Obregon had six. Ruiz led Igea with four goals.
“They were the same players and same horses but we gave it our all and the horses gave it their all,” Ocampo said. “It was really, really difficult to play back-to-back games.”
The Grand Champions Polo Club Best Playing Pony was 8-year-old mare Casita Robada, played by Figueras, out of the Cria Yatay breeding operation.
Beverly Equestrian started the game out slowly after the emotional letdown of playing well against La Dolfina but still losing.
“We were waiting for the final of the 50K,” Ocampo said. “It was so hard. When you lose, everything comes down. Today we started out sleepy. So Nacho (Figueras) came to us at halftime and talked to us. He said ‘come on guys, let’s do it, come back, this is the moment to play.’ We started talking to each other and supporting each other and that’s how we came back. I am super happy.”
Fighting off fatigue and oppressive heat that was causing players, including Obregon, to cramp up late in the game, Beverly Equestrian rose to the occasion.
The game was close in the first half with the teams tying 1-1 in the opening chukker and Igea taking a 2-1 lead after shutting out Beverly Equestrian, 1-0, in the second chukker. Igea took a 5-3 lead at the half after a 3-2 third chukker.
Beverly Equestrian roared back in the second half, outscoring Igea, 10-5. Beverly Equestrian frustrated Igea with its quickness to the ball and tight defense. Tied 7-7 going into the final chukker, Beverly Equestrian scored three unanswered goals to clinch the victory.
“It was obviously super tough,” Ballhaus said. “We were tired and the horses were tired. We have been playing together all season so our focus for the season has been to get better every game. So even on Saturday I felt like we learned some things and we improved today.
“We played even harder today. I think it speaks to the talent we have and the team chemistry that we developed throughout the season playing a lot of games together. That’s been my philosophy is to establish teams for the season. It leads to the best chemistry and allows us to focus on getting better so we can finish the season strong and I think we demonstrated that. That was our objective when we put the team together last summer was to have a team that would have good chemistry, work well together, have the right attitude and get better every game. I think that’s what we have done this season.”
Ballhaus praised his team captain Tolito Ocampo and his teammates for their Herculean effort.
“MVP was well-deserved,” Ballhaus said. “In my opinion, he is the best player in the 12-goal and he is a great team captain, great leader. We played together all season long and I am really proud to have him on the team.
“I’m really happy, really proud of the team,” Ballhaus said. “I’m really thankful for our grooms and the work they have done with the horses all season especially to get them fit enough to be able to play yesterday and come back today. It’s just been a great team effort and speaks to the quality of the organization and the team we put together.”
Last year Beverly Equestrian, led by MVP Carlucho Arellano, won the Top Pony 12-Goal Handicap title with an 11-9 victory over Valiente.