Played in a unique skins format, the Rossmore Cup Final between Sapa and Bensoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Juan Curbelo, Remy du Celliee Muller*, Tomas Alberdi*) closed out the 12-goal season at Eldorado Polo Club (Indio, California) on Sunday, March 21. A strong eight-goal performance from Marcos Alberdi ignited a stretch of 11 consecutive goals for Sapa (Igor Seyranov, Bayne Bossom*, Jesse Bray*, Marcos Alberdi), leading to the overall 13-4 victory and $24,000 in skins money. After tying the amount of goals scored in each of the final two chukkers, however, Bensoleimani.com’s Muller raced to goal within the first minute of the overtime chukker to snatch the remaining $12,000 available.
Bensoleimani.com’s Juan Curbelo making a play on the ball with Sapa’s Jesse Bray on his hip.
“Playing the skins is like playing six games in one. You have to start every chukker with a goal of dominating and winning it.” – Jesse Bray
Sapa team owner Igor Seyranov with a backshot during the Rossmore Cup Final.
Increasing competitiveness with $6,000 on the line every chukker, Bensoleimani.com held on to the advantage for the majority of the first, Tomas Alberdi opening scoring with a Penalty 2 conversion. Sapa drove downfield and was fouled just before the 30-second horn, sending brother Marcos Alberdi to the penalty line where he converted to tie the score and add the first $6,000 to the following chukker. Sapa led by Marcos Alberdi took over for the remainder of the first half, controlling possession and holding Bensoleimani.com scoreless over the second and third chukkers.
Sapa’s Bayne Bossom focused on the ball.
Scoring back-to-back goals in the second with the help of his teammates, Marcos Alberdi broke the tie and secured the $12,000, extending the overall lead 3-1 in favor of Sapa entering the third chukker. Building their momentum, Sapa won all three throw-ins in the third chukker, keeping Bensoleimani.com on the defensive. Picking up two consecutive goals from the field, Bray concluded a dominant first half to give Sapa the 6-1 advantage and collect the third skin for a total of $18,000. “Playing the skins is like playing six games in one,” Bray said. “You have to start every chukker with a goal of dominating and winning it.”
Proving to be an unstoppable force, Sapa’s elite play carried into the second half, with Bossom stealing the ball and shooting from the nearside for his first goal of the game. Marcos Alberdi took charge of Sapa’s offensive drive throughout the fourth, with two Penalty 2 conversions and a field goal to extend the goal streak to 10 and a commanding 10-1 lead. Bensoleimani.com refocused with their sights set on capturing the final two skins and the remaining $12,000 available. With time ticking down in the fifth chukker and in need of a goal, Tomas Alberdi weaved through the Sapa defense as a bouncing ball left Muller to finish the play and push the skin into a decisive sixth chukker.
Bensoleimani’s Tomas Alberdi and Remy Du Celliee Muller closely marking Sapa’s Jesse Bray.
Attacking relentlessly in the opening minutes of the sixth chukker, Bossom’s neckshot goal was followed up by another from Bray—Sapa just minutes from winning the trophy and potentially all six skins. Bensoleimani.com was determined to capture purse money of their own, however, receiving a goal each from Soleimani and Tomas Alberdi to end regulation play and push the skins to an overtime chukker.
Facing a throw-in just steps from their own goal, Bensoleimani.com won the play and immediately sent the ball downfield where Soleimani advanced forward. Seeing a window of opportunity, Soleimani left the ball for Muller who confidently ran it through the goal to win the final two skins and $12,000, ending the game on a high note for Bensoleimani.com. Sapa ultimately etched their name on the Rossmore Cup with the dominant 13-4 victory in regulation play.
Reaching the final of the Pacific Coast Circuit Constitution Cup and the semifinals of the Spreckels Cup, Sapa was especially happy their hard work throughout the season paid off in a victory. “We learned from our previous mistakes in the last two tournaments,” Marcos Alberdi said. “We always knew we had the potential we just had to play as a team and I also think our horses peaked in this last tournament. Bensoleimani.com had an unbelievable semifinal and we knew we had to stay sharp every chukker in order to win.”
Sapa’s Jesse Bray leaning out of the saddle to attempt a hook on Bensoleimani.com’s Remy du Celliee Muller.
Responsible for eight of Sapa’s 13 total goals, Marcos Alberdi was named Most Valuable Player and received $1,500 in prize money. “It’s a great feeling to win MVP and I’m so happy with the team!” the MVP exclaimed. “This is the best game we’ve played all season!”
Most Valuable Player Marcos Alberdi with Eldorado Polo Club President Mike Ward.
Best Playing Pony honors and an additional $1,500 prize was awarded to Jesse Bray’s 11-year-old chestnut mare iKnow, played by Bray in the third and sixth chukkers. Purchased off the racetrack by Wendy and Stacey Stover, iKnow began her polo training with the Stovers and finished with Tiamo Hudspeth who had her for just over a year. Bray then bought the mare from Hudspeth. “I knew she was talented and honestly from the first game I played her, I felt she would be a good fit for Jesse [Bray],” Hudspeth said.
“Our rhythm and win came down to our horses,” Bray added. “We have been getting them ready all season in hopes of being in the skins final. The fields played awesome and really gave them a chance to stretch out and run. We felt going into the tournament that we were the best mounted team and I feel like the horses really proved themselves today.”
*Bayne Bossom is an active Team USPA Member. Jesse Bray is a Graduating Team USPA Member and Remy du Celliee Muller and Tomas Alberdi are 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 ©Kerri Kerley