Zacara lift polo’s Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup

Zacara (black) take on Dubai (green) in the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup final at Cowdray Park  Picture by Clive Bennett
Zacara (black) take on Dubai (green) in the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup final at Cowdray Park Picture by Clive Bennett

An epic final of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Polo Championship, with the world’s two leading players on opposing sides, saw Lyndon Lea’s Zacara beat Rashid Albwardy’s Dubai after four weeks of enthralling matchplay.

Alongside Zacara’s patron Lyndon Lea, who won the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup in 2011, was ten-goaler Facundo Pieres, with whom he has won both the US Open and the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2013.

An impressive partnership has been forged between Pieres, winner of most valuable player awards in several of the world’s major tournaments in the past 12 months, and eight-goal Brazilian Rodrigo Andrade, with talented young Englishman Matt Perry, three goals, completing the team.

Lynchpin of the Dubai team was the world No1, ten-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, joined for the 2013 season by Nico Pieres, younger brother of ten-goalers Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres, who has been playing way beyond his seven-goal English handicap, and impressive young Australian Alec White. Rashid Albwardy, the young patron, distinguished himself throughout the tournament by scoring a crop of notable goals.

Cambiaso took the ball straight through the field to secure the first goal on the scoreboard for Dubai. Retaliation was swift as Facundo Pieres snared the ball and sent a nifty pass to Andrade, who pushed it between the posts.

End-to-end play continued through the second chukka but a 40-yard penalty for Zacara was the only goal produced. The third chukka began with Cambiaso passing a great ball to Alec White, who made no mistake in equalling the scores at 2-2. Facu stole the ball from his brother Nico and scored a splendid field goal taking Zacara ahead once again.

A foul gave Dubai a 60-yard penalty which Nico Pieres sent straight through the posts to make it 3-3. A foul on Facundo Pieres gave Zacara a 30-yard hit at the goal which he powerfully smacked between the posts. At the end of the first half and Zacara were 4-3 up.

The second half started with a hit in for Zacara and Facundo Pieres’ pass to Matt Perry gave the young English player a supreme chance to make his mark on his first Gold Cup final and 5-3 to Zacara. Nico Pieres, surrounded by the opposition, held his nerve sending the ball to Cambiaso, who delivered a classic cut shot plum through the posts.

A mistake by Nico saw his brother seize the ball from under him and race away to take Zacara ahead 6-4. Andrade stole the ball from Cambiaso to be picked up by Facu and a shot saw Zacara 7-4 ahead at the close of the fourth chukka.

The fifth began with Cambiaso picking up a loose ball to gallop away and score. Zacara gave away a penalty at this point and set a few nerves tingling but Facundo managed two field goals before a penalty for Dubai closed the chukka with Zacara still 9-7 ahead.

In the sixth, Zacara took the lead to 10-7 from a penalty. When Nico Pieres was given the chance to convert another penalty, his mighty lofted shot took Dubai on to 8-10.

Andrade suddenly steered the ball away from the pack, Cambiaso went after him, but as he turned Facundo Pieres had stolen the ball and was away. Down the field he went and his ninth goal of the match secured victory for Zacara at 11-8.

The Gold Cup was presented to Lyndon Lea by Lady Cowdray. A Salamanzar of Veuve Clicquot was presented to him by Jo Thornton, managing director of Moët Hennessy UK, and individual prizes were presented by Elsa Corbineau, senior brand manager of Champagnes for Moët Hennessy UK. The Peter Holman prize for MVP went to Facundo Pieres and the Veuve Clicquot saddle for the highest scorer of the British Open Championship went to Pelon Stirling and presented by Christina Jesaitis, senior brand manager, Veuve Clicquot, to Bridget Hanbury on his behalf.

The Harper Spurs were presented to Rashid Albwardy by Eugenie Harper, and the award for best playing pony sponsored by Armstrong International and presented by Spencer George went to Top Model, owned by Facundo Pieres.

After the match, Lyndon Lea said: “We had a plan and we stuck to it. It was all about being disciplined and giving everyone a role.”

Liz Higgins