By Liz Leamy
There was plenty of buzz around the Greenwich Polo Club on Sunday, as Reelay, the high-powered New York metro-area 15-goal contingent that has become one of the most steadfast teams to emerge out of the 2019 Greenwich Polo Club season so far, edged out Altaris, the firecracker Greenwich-based 16-goal team by a score of 11-10 in the first-round of the inaugural American Cup Championship tournament.
Reelay’s four-member contingent features Will Tomita, its Teflon-tough patron; Matias Magrini and Mariano Gonzalez, the world-renowned Argentinian seven goalers; and Nicolas Diaz Alberdi, the reflex-quick one-goaler who was named MVP of the match.
Clearly, all of these athletes effectively worked in graceful and tactical concert with one another to succeed in claiming the top position on the leaderboard.
Right from the outset, all the way through to the near-finish of this heated battle, Reelay and Altaris ran neck-in-neck with one another maintaining either a close or tied score, which made this showdown a true spectacle, especially for the nearly 4,000 spectators in attendance.
In the final tally, Reelay scored top honors over Altaris due to the fact that Gonzalez knocked in a solid penalty shot during the last 25 seconds of the final (sixth) chukker.
“It was all about just staying focused out there,” said Gonzalez, who is a big GPC crowd favorite due to his smooth and ever-steady playing style. “It’s important to always be positive and to stay cool. That is the way to get the results you want, I believe. Once you start to doubt or get upset, that can affect your game, no matter how much experience you might have. Believing and staying focused on what you’re doing is everything.”
Mariano Gonzalez (center/white jersey) and Matias Magrini (right/ white jersey) face off against Altaris in a heated round one battle in the American Cup Tournament at the GPC. (Peter Michaelis photo)
Certainly, Gonzalez’s philosophy seems to be a key component to his playing as well as that of his teammates and something that has yielded impressive results for Reelay so far this season.
Leading up to this match, Reelay had placed third in the Shreve, Crump & Low Tournament this past June, in which The Island House was first and Altaris was the runner-up. Several weeks ago, the team racked up a close second to The Island House in the Monty Waterbury Cup Championship, one of the oldest and most historic active tournaments in high-goal polo today.
According to members of the Reelay squad, it’s all about getting out there and doing one’s best.
At the same time, these athletes also seem to be motivated and driven by the fact that they are competing among so many other top-grade teams, players and ponies at the GPC experience this season.
The 2019 GPC roster is impressive and features such premiere contingents as The Island House, hailing from New York City and Nassau in the Bahamas, Altaris, based out of Greenwich, White Birch Farm, also based out of Greenwich; Postage Stamp Farm of Wellington, Fla.; Faraway from Lexington, Kent.; and Mount Brilliant Farm, also from Lexington, as well as a host of internationally decorated high-goal players and ponies.
“This is one of the best places to play [high-goal polo] in the summer. All of the people, players and horses are all amazing, as well as the venue, which has fantastic fields,” said Gonzalez, whose son, Peke, plays for The Island House. “It’s a great club and I love to play here.”
Meanwhile, Altaris put up a heck of a fight against Reelay, which made the match so riveting.
Nic Roldan, the electric eight-goaler of Altaris, who is also a major GPC crowd favorite and premiere American high-goal star, flew up and down the field at the speed of lightning, knocking in shots for his team with the ease and confidence of a world-class player (Roldan’s horse, Mariscal, was named the Best Playing Pony of the match).
The other players making up the Altaris roster, including Marcos Garcia del Rio, the terrific Argentinian five-goaler, Nick Manifold, the ever-dependable Australian three-goaler and Jamal Nusseibeh, the team’s ever-solid patron, were also outstanding.
Certainly, it was obvious that the spectators very much appreciated the skills, talent and efforts of all the players and their charges.
“This is an incredible place in all respects. The polo playing is extraordinary, the crowd is vibrant and the whole environment is so full interesting and fun,” said John Davis of New York City, who was attending his third GPC match of the season. “Everything is top notch here. All you have to do is show up and you’ll enjoy yourself.”
Somehow, the energy and friendliness of the players, who always are gracious and talkative with everyone who approaches them, seem to set the unique and welcoming tone of this beatific New England club, known to be a primary U.S. summer high-goal polo destination.
Every Sunday after the matches, the players and ponies are honored with a lively celebratory awards ceremony that is subsequently followed up by fun social festivities that include bands, dancing, a bar and a delicious asado (Argentinian barbecue), all open to the public.People-Tag: Birch Farm, Jamal Nusseibeh, John Davis, Marcos Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez, Mariscal, Matias Magrini, Nick Manifold, Nicolas Diaz Alberdi, Peke, Peter Michaelis, Reelay