Records evenly matched (2-0) throughout bracket play, Polo Gear and LM Ranch emerged from a strong field of six to take their place in the Texas Women’s Open Final on Sunday, November 17, at the Houston Polo Club in Houston, Texas. Utilizing all four women effectively, Polo Gear played with tenacity and discipline, controlling the lead during all four chukkers to claim the title 8-5.5.
“The combination of Memo and Meghan Gracida’s horses and Dawn Jones’ set up has been fantastic. We’ve had access to great horses, practice fields and our incredible coach Memo. To play and be a part of a four-man team is just a dream!” – Lottie Lamacraft
Polo Gear’s Tiffany Busch with Alexis Ellison on her hip.
Although LM Ranch began with a half-goal advantage due to handicap, the women of Polo Gear quickly overtook the lead with offensive prowess, demonstrating strategic team play from the onset of the first chukker. Scoring three impressive field goals to LM Ranch’s one (scored by Alexis Ellison), Polo Gear’s dynamic allowed all members to play to their strengths. Seizing the opportunity to make a play on the ball, Tiffany Busch charged forward from behind to score two powerful goals in the second. “Playing in the number four position, I knew if I had the chance and ability to go forward that somebody would have my back,” Busch commented. “For me, in the game of polo, it is so important for a team to flow and to trust your teammates.” Breaking past defenders, Izzy Parsons added a single goal for LM Ranch, but Polo Gear remained ahead at halftime 5-2.5.
Returning for the second half, the competition intensified leading to an increase in penalty shot opportunities. Capitalizing on a Penalty 2 conversion for LM Ranch, Tiamo Hudspeth was quickly answered by Lottie Lamacraft who fired a field goal to maintain the gap. Approaching the fourth and final chukker with a comfortable 6-3.5 lead, Polo Gear continued to execute their strategy in the remaining minutes, matching their opponents goal for goal. A precise shot earned Busch the first Penalty 3 conversion of the chukker, but LM Ranch was prepared to retaliate, firing back with two consecutive goals off a Penalty 2 and 3. Striking between the posts, Meghan Gracida’s goal landed all Polo Gear players on the scoreboard and simultaneously signaled their ultimate triumph 8-5.5.
Polo Gear’s Meghan Gracida on a breakaway down field.
Playing in 20-goal women’s polo for the first time as well as her first Texas Women’s Open, Meghan Gracida was delighted to have the opportunity to play with some of the sport’s best women players from around the globe. “I was really impressed with how well all the Americans played and it was just an honor for me to be out here with everyone. The horses were incredible and the final was a really open game, which is both more fun to play and watch. It also allows the horses to shine more as well,” Gracida said. “Dawn Jones and I had the pleasure of playing together in the Sunny Hale Memorial and our team came about casually. Win or lose, I felt so privileged to play with Lottie [Lamacraft], Tiffany [Busch] and Dawn because they have such class both on and off the field.”
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Lottie Lamacraft, presented by USPA Governor-at-Large Steve Armour.
Contributing a pair of goals to the final tally, Lottie Lamacraft was named Most Valuable Player. “We all did our part and tried to keep the game going without slowing it down,” Lamacraft said. “We focused on taking out the man and the ball followed. Honestly, our team worked well because we all assumed a position on the field that was natural for each of us.”
Best Playing Pony Amateur was presented to Mini, a 9-year-old bay Argentine mare owned by San Saba Polo Team and played by Dawn Jones in the first chukker. Best Playing Pony Professional honors were awarded to Porscha, a 7-year-old black mare played by Izzy Parsons and owned by Nick Cifuni. “She was phenomenal today,” Parsons said. “She was so handy and powerful and I had a great run on her. She is a really nice mare bred from A-F Pony Farm—Tiamo actually started her when she was two—I wish I could take her to Kenya!”
Best Playing Pony Amateur: Mini, ridden by Dawn Jones, presented by Nene Soumare of David Yurman and pictured with Luis Cartagena.
AQHA Best Playing Pony was presented to Indigo Wood, a 6-year-old registered blue roan mare played by Tiamo Hudspeth in the second chukker. One of many horses from McFaddin Enterprises that come through Hudspeth’s barn, Indigo Wood is also a homebred from the farm run by Bobby McCan. “Indigo has the biggest heart and is incredibly generous,” Hudspeth revealed. “She played a full chukker every game during this tournament and I even brought her back in the fourth chukker of the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap. On the field she never loses her mouth or power.”
American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Best Playing Pony: Indigo Wood, played by Tiamo Hudspeth, presented by Kristy Outhier and pictured with Morgan Dean.
Reflecting on her experience, Meghan Gracida would like to see women’s polo continue to spread out across the country, enabling more women to play at a higher level. “There are some extremely talented women players that just do not get the experience on the West Coast. I’m going to be working with Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, Kate Weaver and Dawn Jones to create more opportunities. I have always liked this tournament because it brings women from all corners of the nation together. The young players in the United States need to travel and experience polo in different areas, not just in Texas or Florida, but they need to play everywhere!”
All photos courtesy of ©Kaylee Wroe.HOUSTON POLO CLUB