The final of the National Amateur Cup featured Hanalei Bay (Krista Bonaguidi, Ryan Kerley, Robert Payne III, Daniel ‘Cacho’ Galindo Jr.*), who had their sights set on a title for the third consecutive year at Empire Polo Club (Indio, California) against La Fortuna/Blazers (Elise Bigelow, Pat Powell, Kyle Fargey, Luis Saracco). Meeting earlier in bracket play, Hanalei Bay captured the two-goal victory, but in the final on Sunday, February 7, La Fortuna/Blazers exacted their revenge by capturing the 7-5 win with a strong second half performance from the duo of Saracco and Fargey.
“This is the first time I have played the National Amateur Cup and I was lucky enough to win it!” – Pat Powell
Hanalei Bay’s Daniel Galindo Jr. and La Fortuna/Blazers’ Kyle Fargey reaching for the ball in the 2021 National Amateur Cup Final.
A hard-fought first half resulted in a tightly-marked game that saw four of the six combined goals scored from the penalty line. The opening plays of the game foreshadowed the intense battle ahead as Galindo Jr. received a Penalty 1 to open the scoring for La Fortuna/Blazers. The only undefeated team left in the tournament, Hanalei Bay exited the first chukker holding a 2-1 lead after Payne III’s first goal. The momentum swung back and forth with La Fortuna/Blazers taking their first lead on the scoreboard after two goals from Saracco, one of which came from the second Penalty 1 awarded in the game. Galindo Jr.’s second penalty conversion restored the tie as the two teams matched each other stride for stride and setting up an exciting second half.
La Fortuna/Blazers’ Kyle Fargey running with the ball.
The game opened up in the second half and the pace increased early in the third chukker to the benefit of La Fortuna/Blazers. In the most decisive chukker of the match, La Fortuna/Blazers kept Hanalei Bay off the scoreboard while Saracco continued to have an impact offensively, adding his fourth and fifth goals to give his team the lead. “With 6-3 going into the fourth chukker, we tried to keep possession of the ball as much as possible and let the minutes run out,” said Saracco, La Fortuna/Blazers just steps from the victory. The only penalty goal of the second half came off the mallet of Fargey to begin the fourth chukker, completing a run of four consecutive goals for La Fortuna/Blazers. Facing a four-goal deficit and time running out, Hanalei Bay made a late push, receiving back-to-back goals from Payne III and Kerley, but La Fortuna/Blazers executed their strategy of maintaining possession to withstand the pressure and capture the 7-5 victory to raise the 2021 National Amateur Cup.
“This tournament was the first time the four of us played together,” Bigelow revealed. “It’s wonderful to start out with a win and I am honored to play with this group of strong players. Today was a great team effort against a very tough and experienced Hanalei Bay.”
Most Valuable Player Luis Saracco, pictured with son Felipe Saracco.
For his game-high five-goal performance, Luis Saracco was awarded Most Valuable Player. “We played a very good and well-mounted Hanalei Bay team,” stated Saracco. “Not getting desperate and working hard on defense, we made a sizeable difference in the third chukker, winning the chukker 3-0. I think patience and anticipation and great teamwork were the most important thing for our win.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to 10-year-old bay mare Lupita, played in the first chukker and owned by Robert Payne III. “She’s bred, trained and played by my father and I. She is pure thoroughbred out of a polo mare and a thoroughbred stallion that we own named Magistrates Trick. This is her first Best Playing Pony and it was one of the best chukkers she has played for me!” said Payne III beaming.
*Daniel ‘Cacho’ Galindo Jr. is a Team USPA Alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
All photos courtesy of ©Jim Bremner.