Azerbaijan Land of Fire & St. Moritz secure their spot in tomorrow’s Final
Day 2 of this historic tournament, now in its 38th year, had a sell-out crowd. The sun was shining, the Perrier-Jouët flowing, 250 of the world’s press in attendance whilst some of the best polo players in the world did battle on the frozen lake of St. Moritz. As the Godfather of Polo, Reto Gaudenzi, Founder, CEO and Vice President of Evviva Polo St. Moritz AG said, “It is the best polo ever – the field is fantastic, there is no wind, which means we can all really enjoy the amazing skill of the players – what an event!” Packed grandstands enjoyed the first match of the day between Kusnacht Practice and Flexjet who started with a half goal handicap advantage.
Kusnacht Practice got off to a somewhat shaky start but soon got their flow going with Argentine Alejo Taranco, the highest rated player in the tournament on 9 goals, notching up a hat trick of goals, while Flexjet struggled to find their form and at half-time the scoreboard read 4-1½. The talented Patrick Maleitzke was all over the action in the second half and scored for Flexjet, but even with a goal from his team mate Clemente Delfosse it was unfortunately too little too late, with the final score resting on 5-3½ for Kusnacht Practice – their first win in the tournament. The Semi-Final between Azerbaijan Land of Fire and World Polo League began with the crowds standing for the Swiss National Anthem set against the stunning, sun-soaked Engadin mountains.
Team Captain Elcin Jamalli raced to the goalposts to score in the opening 24 seconds, swiftly followed by a Laplacette combination and an under-the-neck shot from Jamalli to take it to 3-0 at the end of the first chukka – Team Azerbaijan were truly on fire. But it was not over yet, a duo of goals from Alejandro Novillo Astrada and the Queen of Snow Polo, Melissa Ganzi, saw World Polo League jump into life with a 3-3 tie at half-time. The second half was fast and frenetic – as the seconds ticked down to the final bell, it was Jamalli who seized the victory for his team with an unbelievable play to secure a 5-4 win in the dying seconds and with it, Azerbaijan Land of Fire’s place in the Final tomorrow.
The last Semi-Final of the day saw St. Moritz take on Clinique La Prairie for the last spot in tomorrow’s coveted Final – and both teams meant business from the first throw-in. Fast-paced opening play saw Nacho Gonzalez score for St. Moritz, who had already received a 1½ goal handicap advantage, and the team went from strength to strength with their goal-scoring domination seemingly unstoppable.
Clinique La Prairie struggled to score from the field but capitalised on their penalty opportunities, getting four on the board. As commentator, Jan-Erik Franck succinctly commented, “It feels like there is an extra St. Moritz player on the field” as Max Charlton ably used his skills to bounce the ball off the side boards in his classic arena-style. Despite flashes of brilliance from Nic Roldan, Clinique La Prairie struggled to find yesterday’s form and the four Englishmen comfortably ran out the winners, 8½-4, securing St. Moritz’s place in tomorrow’s Final to jubilant cheers from the crowds.
Today’s results mean St. Moritz will play Azerbaijan Land of Fire in the Final for The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz at 2.30pm, Clinique La Prairie vs Kusnacht Practice in the Subsidiary Final for The St. Moritz Trophy at 12.15pm and Flexjet vs World Polo League will play for The Casablanca Trophy (5th and 6th place) at 11am.
The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz 2023 Teams:
Azerbaijan Land of Fire (18): Elcin Jamalli (2), Adrian Laplacette Jr. (6), Raul Laplacette Jr. (6) & Tito Gaudenzi (2)
Flexjet (15): Daniel Deistler (0), Patrick Maleitzke (5), Clemente Delfosse (5) & Patrick Paillol (5)
World Polo League (16): Melissa Ganzi (0), Grant Ganzi (3), Alejandro Novillo Astrada (7) & Martin Jauregui (6)
St. Moritz (14): Spencer McCarthy (2), James McCarthy (2), Max Charlton (6) & Nacho Gonzalez (4)
Clinique La Prairie (16): Marc Ganzi (1), Matthias Normann (0), Nic Roldan (8), Fred Mannix (7)
The Kusnacht Practice (16): Eduardo Greghi (0), Nico San Roman (4), Alejo Taranco (9) & Juan Guerrero (3)
Photograph: Max Charlton helped secure St. Moritz’s place in tomorrow’s Final.