A closely contested series of games in the 2020 National Arena Delegate’s Cup at Commonwealth Polo Club resulted in both semifinals and the final decided by a one-goal margin, including two overtime victories, highlighting the exceptional level of arena play in Paris, Kentucky. After electrifying semifinal victories, WM Polo and Commonwealth Black met on Thursday, September 3, in a final that came down to an overtime penalty shootout to determine the champion. Behind a strong first half and eight goals from Nik Feldman, WM Polo emerged victorious, capturing the 14-13 victory and the National Arena Delegate’s Cup title.
“Since we were doubling our ponies, Nik [Feldman] and I knew we were going to be out-horsed, so we tried to conserve as much of our ponies’ energy as we could for the second half. This meant we were caught flatfooted a couple of times in the first half, but Chad [Middendorf] was on fire out of the gate and kept us in the game.” – Stan Feldman
Racing out to a quick start, Commonwealth Black (Jorge Vasquez, Petra Sobotova, Carter Carnegie) scored the first two goals of the game, both coming off the mallet of Carnegie to give his team the early 2-0 lead. An abrupt response from WM Polo (Chad Middendorf, Nik Feldman, Stan Feldman) saw consecutive goals from Nik Feldman and Middendorf to tie the score at 2-all. Seen throughout the tournament, the evenly-matched polo swung back in favor of Commonwealth Black, retaking the lead on Carnegie’s third goal to end the first chukker. In arguably the most decisive chukker of the game, WM Polo scored four unanswered goals, two each from Nik Feldman and Middendorf, dominating the play to hold the 6-3 lead at halftime.
Continuing their momentum in the opening stages of the second half, WM Polo extended their goal streak to five on Stan Feldman’s first goal of the game. Facing a 7-3 deficit on the scoreboard, Commonwealth Black needed offense and found it in Jorge Vasquez. Converting three goals in quick succession, Vasquez pushed his team within one goal, setting the scene for a thrilling finish. Despite conceding two goals to WM Polo, Vasquez scored his fourth goal of the third chukker leaving Commonwealth Black trailing by two 9-7. Trading goals, WM Polo increased their lead to three and seemingly had the victory in hand. However, two goals from Vasquez and a game-tying goal from Carnegie sent the exciting final into overtime with a penalty shootout determining the champion. “Nik and I saved our better ponies for the fourth,” Stan Feldman revealed. “We planned to use the energy that we had conserved to jump ahead and hold on.” Under intense pressure, WM Polo’s Middendorf and Nik Feldman converted their penalties, narrowly edging Commonwealth Black by one to capture the 14-13 victory in what proved to be a memorable week at the Kentucky-based club.
Having not played in a competitive game in three years, Stan initially came just to watch his brother Nik play in the tournament. “When a spot became available unexpectedly he offered for me to be on the team, which I (reluctantly) accepted,” Stan Feldman said. “He’s [Nik Feldman] a tremendous facilitator and keeps everyone involved throughout the game, but he also knows when it’s time for him to take over and win.”
Although Stan Feldman was hesitant to play after so much time off, Nik commented that he was a key reason why the team performed so well. “We would not have made it to the finals if it weren’t for my brother’s relentless style of play against Moonstone Farm,” Nik Feldman said. “That first game was very fast and required a lot of stamina from both the players and horses alike.”
Most Valuable Player Nik Feldman.
Nik Feldman was awarded Most Valuable Player for his eight-goal performance. “Without a doubt, Chad Middendorf won the finals for us,” Nik Feldman said. “He scored many of the crucial goals, including one during the shootout. Everyone on our team came through on big plays and we had a great formula for success.”
Best Playing Pony Rosko, owned by Gainesway Farm, played by Jorge Vasquez, pictured with Alberdi Maldonado.
Best Playing Pony was presented to 14-year-old Argentine gelding Rosko, owned by Gainesway Polo and played by Jorge Vasquez in the second and fourth chukkers. “We [Commonwealth Black] were down by three goals in the fourth chukker 12-9,” Vasquez said. “I was able to help tie the scoreboard 12-all by scoring two goals on him which took the game into a penalty shootout.”