By Liz Leamy
Last Sunday, White Birch, the renowned high-goal polo squad based here in town, edged out Palm Beach Equine 10-7 in the second-round playoffs of the 2021 East Coast Bronze Cup Tournament, advancing to the semi-final bracket of this esteemed annual sports showdown.
This heated competition, held at the Greenwich Polo Club, drew several thousand spectators from all over the New York metropolitan area and from as far as Maine and Maryland and was one that was all about drama, power and energy as White Birch and Palm Beach Equine faced off against one another in explosive and fiery fashion.
For the majority of the match, White Birch and Palm Beach Equine, a (horse) veterinary medical clinic based in Wellington, Florida, were close in terms of points.
In the sixth and final chukker, however, White Birch pulled ahead of its opponent, winding up at the top of the leaderboard 10-7, a finish with which the players on this dynamic Greenwich-based team seemed pleased.
“It was good to be out there and they [Palm Beach Equine] were tough. I think we had a good season last year and this shows we’re starting out on the right foot,” said Pablo Llorente Jr., the powerful and amiable Argentinian six-goaler who was named Most Valuable Player of the game. (Last year, White Birch clinched the 2020 East Coast Open title.) “It’s great to be here again and everything about the Greenwich Polo Club and [this town] is incredible. It’s so beautiful. The people are very nice and it’s also close to the city.”
Members of Palm Beach Equine echoed similar sentiments.
“It was a good game,” said Gringo Columbres of Palm Beach Equine, the venerable Argentinian eight-goaler who, with his lightning-quick and powerful playing style, has become a big crowd favorite at the Greenwich Polo Club this season. “It’s wonderful to play here. Everyone is friendly, the fields are in perfect condition and it’s an amazing club in every way.”
Columbres, whose horse, Coquito, was awarded the Best Playing Pony citation at the kickoff public Sunday match two weeks ago, also said he is good friends with many of the players at the Greenwich Polo Club.
“I think we’re all very committed to what we do and that is a big reason why the bond among everyone is so strong,” said Columbres. “It’s always great to be here.”
This narrative seemed to be felt by many of the spectators as well.
“I loved being here today and I look forward to coming back,” said Charity Kimani, who lives in Kenya and was attending a luncheon at the Greenwich Polo Club with her son, Martin Kimani, PhD and EBS who is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations. “It’s beautiful here. The countryside is stunning, everyone is friendly and the players have entertained us.”
Kimani also marveled at the beauty of the horses.
“The way they all ran was amazing to see,” said Kimani. “And they appeared to be the much the same with their size. It was beautiful to watch them.”
The horses certainly were standout stars at this event, with Machitos Knorr, a gorgeous light-gray charge ridden and owned by Mariano Aguerre, the iconic White Birch Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame player and partner of the renowned Los Machitos organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina with his longtime friends and colleagues, Nick Manifold and Naco Taverna, being named Best Playing Pony of the match.
To further add to the excitement of the afternoon, His Excellency Munir Akram, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, was in attendance at this match as well. (He was there visiting with various other Ambassadors to the United Nations along with some members of their friends and family.)
“It has been a great event. We have some of the most [prominent] members of the United Nations here and the Greenwich Polo Club has provided us with the opportunity to meet in person,” said His Excellency Munir Akram. “It is a sport that is exciting to watch and it is popular in Pakistan.”
According to His Excellency Munir Akram, being at the match reminded him of a major annual polo tournament that is held every July at Shandur Pass in Pakistan.
Shandur Pass, a breathtaking mountainous site located at a 12,000-foot altitude that is known as the ‘Roof of the World’ is said to be the highest polo playing ground area and the ancestral capital of the sport.
Every year, the Shandur Pass polo tournament draws teams from local area principalities from all over that region as well as tens of thousands of spectators from all around the globe, designating it as main event of the sport.
Certainly, the Greenwich Polo Club, much like Shandur Pass, has come to be known as a major sports destination for similar reasons.
Since it first opened back in 1981, the Greenwich Polo Club has come to earn national and world acclaim for its spectacular pastoral scenery, warm and friendly atmosphere and star-studded roster of high-goal polo athletes and ponies, who always deliver a world-class standard of playing, much to the delight of the hundreds of thousands of spectators who have visited this famous venue over the years right up through the present.
“This is an amazing place,” said Max Meister, caterer with Marcia Selden Catering and Events of Stamford, Connecticut. “Everyone is great and it’s always cool to be here.”
Robert Vita, owner and proprietor of the ever-popular Longford’s Ice Cream truck, a main stopping place for many of the spectators who visit the Greenwich Polo Club every Sunday, agreed.
“It’s a great experience for everyone,” said Vita. “The polo is incredible, it’s a beautiful venue and it’s open to everyone,” said Vita, who this year, is celebrating his sixth consecutive season as a vendor at the Greenwich Polo Club. “It’s good to be back and to see all of the people again, many of who I know and recognize, which is really nice.”
*The East Coast Bronze Cup will run through Sunday, June 27th. For more information about the matches, contact the Greenwich Polo Club at: greenwichpoloclub.com