The biggest highlight of the British season is already here, with the much anticipated final of the legendary British Open for the Cowdray Gold Cup, one of the Grand Slam of Polo, alongside the Argentine Open and the US Open. Cowdray Park Polo Club’s main ground, sorrounded by the splendid view of the Cowdray Castle ruins, will greet Dubai and Park Place, who will battle for the coveted title on Sunday July 17, at 3pm.
In addition to being the clash of two of the most powerful organisations in British polo, the championship match will be a rematch – Dubai and Park Place already met in the league stage, with the former victorious over Park Place, by a 17-14 score on June 30. So, while it is expected a great final, there will be some extra spice, as Park Place will aim to a “revenge” as well.
Dubai, a very well seasoned organisation in England, have already claimed the cup on several opportunities; they are yet undefeated, and among their “victims” are no less than Scone, who beat them twide, both in the league stage as in semifinals. Led by the indomitable Camilo “Jeta” Castagnola, a real scary player for every defense and the Albwardy family’s team lethal weapon, Dubai, who didn’t play the British Open last year, came back in 2022, ready to take the coveted trophy home once again. They claimed them for the last time in 2019, which at the same time, it was the first for Jeta, already a member of that lineup.
“When I was in Argentina, I was really anxious about it, it was day-by-day I didn’t know what was going to happen, if the visa was going to be granted, and the polo in England was kicking off, so I had to watch it on TV”, told Dubai’s Jerónimo del Carril to PoloLine. It is worth noting that Jero was able to join Dubai to play the British Open, having missed the Queen’s Cup because he was struggling to get his working visa. He added: “When I arrived to England, my group of people – Pato, Carpincho and Rulo – where on top of everything, warming up the horses; also Terre (NR: Guillermo Terrera) helped me a lot, Teo Lacau and the whole Dubai organisation; since day one they supported me as if I was in England with them. That allowed me to be more comfortable, calm and made me play better”.
However, for the talented Jero, who, like Park Place’s Joshua Hyde, will be playing his first ever British Open final, it was not that easy to get within the competitive British season, after missing such an important tournament like the Queen’s Cup. “Maybe you are nervous when you enter the field because you are kind of anxious and excited about playing. At first I wasn’t very sharp, and maybe you get more nervous. But you know you have a big support from your corner all the time”, Jero explains. Besides fortunately for him, all the pieces fitted quickly; having the support of a significant figure like Lolo Castagnola, in order to help him to deal with it, was definelty crucial: “Lolo is awesome; he gives you a lot of peace of mind, he says the right words when you reach your. I was a bit nervous, anxious and reckless at the beginning, so he approached to me and told me – ‘take it easy, man, enjoy and have fun’. Having the chance to listen to those words by someone like Lolo gives you what you need to calm and help you to play better”, an enthusiastic Jero states
While Dubai reached the final undefeated, for Park Place it’s been quite a different story. They had struggle a bit during the league stage, but at the end of the day, they were able to make it; although Andrey Borodin’s team have already played some finals in England, this is their first ever British Open final. “This is a remarkable tournament for the organisation; Park Place have already played the finals of the Queen’s Cup, but never played the final of the British Open“, states Facundo Pieres, who alongside Fran Elizalde (a winner of the tournament in 2012 with Cortium), is a key piece within Park Place. He adds: “We are very happy, and doing our best to win, we are all working to reach this goal; have the horses in the best form as well as us. We have the whole organisation at our disposal, so that’s very good for us”.
It was indeed a long a winding road for Park Place to get into the final. In the league stage, they lost to Talandracas in their debut game (afterwards they beat the French-based team in semifinals), and Dubai. But their performance was slowly improving, and managed to claim two crucial games, against Twelve Oaks and Monterosso, which allowed them to qualify to the quarter final. On this issue, Facu explains: “I guess the most important thing is that our mantained a strong confidence in ourselves. We didn’t play that well in a couple of matches, and we felt we shouldn’t have lost one of them. In that case, your confidence gets lower, you have dobuts, but we never gave up; we believed in us, we always aimed to improve, get the team work. The idea was always to move forward; we have a very good team, good horses, and we did know we had to wait for things to fit in, play a bit better. And we could be able to win two significant games to reach the quarter finals. The team worked better; I guess we improved with every match, and that’s what I like about Park Place. We reached the final by improving game by game and playing better every day”.
The British Open is no stranger to Facundo Pieres; he won the golden trophy no less than six times. The first one was in 2009, with his eldest brother, Gonzalito, and the two of them playing for La Bamba de Areco. He claimed his second British Open with Zacara, in 2013, and finally he achieved a remarkable success with King Power for three consecutive years – 2015, 2016 and 2017. But let’s give a look at 2013, because the Zacara lineup back then included Matt Perry, who Facu will face in this upcoming final. “I have a great relationship with Matt, it was a lot of fun to win this cup together”, remarks Facu. “Now, we will face each other, and it will be hard for me because he is playing really well. We need to find a our own way to make them to feel uncomfortable (laughs). Well, at least make them to feel uncomfortable during the match, then we will be friends again! “, jokes the legendary Gonzalo Pieres’ second son.
In the British Open, Park Place featured a couple of changes in their lineup. They played the Queen’s Cup with Andrey Borodin and Will Harper, who were subbed in by the young rising stars Josh Hyde and Louis Hine, the latter a current title holder, the winner in 2021 with Thai Polo. Asked about the possibility to play with such young boys, Facundo, one of the best players of the world, says it’s “the best about polo, you have the opportunity to play with young kids. You can always help them, provide with advice and make them play better. To be able to see that process while we are playing together with these kids is really nice, you enjoy it a lot. I really love polo, but I also love all the process that leads you to win tournaments as well as to many other things; and one of the most important thing is see that your team mates earn conficence, play well, get a proper system while they are still very young, like Josh and Louis. They both are very enthusiastic, they have a willingness to learn and improve, and I like that a lot”.
What are your feelings and expectations for the final of the British Open?
Jerónimo del Carril: I’m very happy right now, I’m really enjoying it. I’m happy for the team, for the group of people, for all the boys who work with us every day, and also happy for me. We must prepare ourselves in the best possible way and try to win the final.
Facundo Pieres: I don’t have any specific expectations, either to win or not to win. My only expectation is to try to play the best we can, prepare ourselves in the best possible way and have the horses in the best conditions. If we are able to achieve our aim, there will be more possibilities, otherwise there will be less possibilities. I mean, the final result doesn’t matter that much to me; what I really want is that everything goes the way we planned, that’s what we want to do. Anyway, we look forward to winning; we are very well award that we will play against a remarkable team like Dubai, who play really well, they are unbeaten, they won very difficult games and they have a lot of conficence. In order to defeat such a team, we have to do everything very well on the field.
BRITISH OPEN POLO CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THE COWDRAY GOLD CUP – FINAL – SUNDAY JULY 17
3pm: Dubai vs. Park Place
Dubai: Rashid Albwardy 1, Matt Perry 5 , Camilo Castagnola 9, Jerónimo del Carril 7. Total: 22.
Park Place: Joshua Hyde 1, Louis Hine 4, Facundo Pieres 10, Francisco Elizalde 8. Total: 23.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
17-13 vs. Murus Sanctus
12-10 vs. Scone
17-14 vs. Park Place
12-10 vs. Twelve Oaks
14-11 vs. UAE (cuartos de final)
12-11 vs. Scone (semifinal)
10-11 vs. Talandracas
12-7 vs. Twelve Oaks
14-17 vs. Dubai
13-6 vs. Monterosso
15-11 vs. Marqués de Riscal (cuartos de final)
13-10 vs. Talandracas (semifinal)
DUBAI vs. PARK PLACE, WINNERS
RASHID ALBWARDI (Winners in 2010, 2014 & 2019, with Dubai)
FRANCISCO ELIZALDE (Winner in 2012, with Cortium)
MATT PERRY (Winner in 2013, with Zacara)
FACUNDO PIERES (Winner in 2009 – La Bamba de Areco -; 2012 – Zacara; 2015, 2016 & 2017 – King Power)
CAMILO CASTAGNOLA (Winner in 2019, with Dubai)
LOUIS HINE (Winner in 2021, with Thai Polo)
Both JERONIMO DEL CARRIL and JOSHUA HYDE will be playing their first ever British Open final.