Residing in historic and scenic Charles Town, West Virginia, Mountain View Polo Club welcomed five teams from across the East Coast on Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7 for the sixth annual installment of the Paigahs Seahorse Cup, an event sponsored by Shamsiya Shervani and Paigahs Equestrian Gear in memory of Shamisya’s grandfather, Paigahs, who played with the Seahorse Polo Team. The 0- to 3-goal tournament found defending champions Aviators Polo (Damian “Pinino” Di Claudio, Rohail “Rohailio” Khan, Nicholas “Nicky” Powers) battling to return to the podium, ultimately finding success in their teamwork to rise above Mountain View Polo (Laura Goddard, Hugo Pasten, Lauren Sileo) in the final.
Both Aviators Polo and Mountain View Polo faced fierce opponents on the path to the finals in contending with Burdick Equine (Todd Burdick, Tyler Burdick DVM, Emmie Golkosky, Alexandra “Ali” Stanley), Old Farm Vet (Lea Jih-Vieira, Willow Longerbeam, Derek Wilson) and Triangle Area Polo Club (David Brooks, Faith Church, Carson “Carsonita” Tucker). But as time expired in regulation play, Aviators Polo and Mountain View Polo remained undefeated.
Sunday’s final featured a second-half comeback from Aviators Polo to nab the title. The match began with a dominant showing from Mountain View Polo’s Pasten, with all of the team’s six first chukker goals coming off of his mallet. Aviators Polo’s Di Claudio and Khan assembled a formidable response, yet even with the one-goal handicap advantage they still trailed 4-6 heading into the second chukker. Looking to match the energy of Mountain View, Di Claudio found the goal an impressive four times, outscoring Pasten by one to end the half with Mountain View clinging to a narrow 9-8 lead.
Building off their second chukker momentum, Aviators Polo delivered a dominant third chukker, with Di Claudio scoring six goals (one of which was a two-pointer) and Khan adding two to the board. At the same time, Aviators Polo pushed a strong defensive effort to hold Pasten to a single two-pointer. Firmly holding the lead entering the final chukker, a single goal from each of Aviators Polo’s competitors canceled out a two-pointer for Pasten and a goal from Goddard to propel Aviators Polo to a 19-14 victory.
Mountain View Polo’s Hugo Pasten attempts the hook on Aviators Polo’s Damian “Pinino” Di Claudio. ©Deena Jih
For his 14-goal performance, Hugo Pasten was awarded Most Valuable Player. Cillawilla, owned by Sunny Khan and played by Pinino Di Claudio in the third chukker, was awarded Best Playing Pony Honors. Recognized for his friendly spirit throughout the competition, Triangle Area Polo Club’s David Brooks was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award.
Event sponsor Shervani was unfortunately unable to compete this year due to an injury, though she has been sponsoring the tournament for six years and has played in every other iteration of the tournament. Despite not being in the saddle this year, Shervani was still able to spectate. “I was present for both days at the event […] the adrenaline was so high and [the] competition was very intense. Seeing all the teams playing safe and having fun makes me happy because I know my grandfather loved the game of polo.”
Belonging to the Royal Noble Paigah family of Hyderabad, India, Shervani’s grandfather was a skilled player. “I never had the opportunity to see my grandfather play polo, but he shared stories and he showed us his trophies and pictures. He would take us to the riding club in Hyderabad, India, when we visited and would teach us to not only ride, but to also listen to what the horse is communicating with us. He traveled a fair bit and played polo with many royals around the world.”
A wonderful event all-around, Shervani and all of the players look forward to competing again next year. In closing, Shervani added, “The tournament is my way of giving back to the polo community and it gives me joy to see my grandfather’s polo legacy continue.”