Story By Liz Higgins, Cowdray Park Polo Club
An incredible Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup final was played on 23rd July between last year’s champions, King Power Foxes, and the El Remanso team of four British professionals who had captured the hearts of the local crowd through the British Open Tournament.
Taking the place of ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha in the King Power team was 1 goal player Hugo Taylor, with James ‘Jimbo’ Fewster at 2, and the mighty combination of the10 goal Pieres brothers Gonzalito at 3 and Facundo at Back. El Remanso played the tried-and-trusted line-up of their 2016 side with Charlie Hanbury at the front door, Ollie Cudmore (5 goals) at 2, and 6 goal players James Beim and James Harper at 3 and Back.
The driving rain which came down before the match failed to dampen the expectant mood of the spectators and just about held off for the Final’s six chukkas of exciting, fast and open polo. El Remanso made a great start with Charlie Hanbury first to score. The English quartet dominated early, shutting down the two Pieres superstars while aiming for their own guys to be out front to score. However, the boys in blue cottoned on early to this tactic and were able to undermine it quickly, evening the score at 3-3 by the close of the second chukka. Chukka 3 was the turning point with no points on the scoreboard for El Remanso and King Power putting themselves firmly in the driving seat, a splendid field goal from Jimbo Fewster, who played the match of his life, contributing to King Power Foxes 6-3 lead by half time.
Chukka 4 saw two more goals on the scoreboard for King Power, including a second beauty from Fewster, before James Harper added to El Remanso’s scoreline. A goal came from Facundo and the chukka ended with the Foxes five goals ahead on 9-4. El Remanso rallied in the fifth, James Beim scoring a field goal and Harper converting a 30 yard penalty. Facundo Pieres answered with the accurate conversion of a 60 yard penalty and a super field goal and it was left to Harper to follow his example and finish the chukka with a 60 yard shot through the posts and 11-7 to King Power Foxes on the scoreboard.
A final exciting chukka saw Jimbo Fewster contribute his third goal of the match and, when King Power Foxes were awarded a spot penalty, Gonzalito slipped the ball through the posts for the side’s 13th goal. El Remanso won the ball from the throw-in, Harper sent a long ball down the field and Ollie Cudmore picked it up and scored but it was too little too late and King Power Foxes had stormed through the match to retain the title of British Open Champions.
An impressive and open style of polo had given the huge crowds something to cheer despite the weather and the scoreline may not have reflected the closeness of the game. However, King Power proved to be too strong in the end and overpowered El Remanso in the second half.
Facundo Pieres led the scoring with five goals while Jimbo Fewster playing in his first Gold Cup Final equalled Gonzalito Pieres in the goal-scoring stakes and was named Most Valuable Player. Everyone on the El Remanso side contributed to the score with at least one goal each.
El Remanso received huge cheers when the teams came up for the prizegiving, but no-one could take away King Power Foxes’ glory in having won the British Open for a third successive year. Lila Pearson presented the Best Playing Pony award to New Chicago, owned and played by Gonzalito Pieres. Zahra Kassim-Lakha of Jaeger-LeCoultre UK, presented the Most Valuable Player award to Jimbo Fewster and together with the Deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Geoffroy Lefebvre, presented individual prizes to the El Remanso team.
Specially engraved Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watches were presented to the winning team by Geoffroy Lefebvre and Zahra Kassim-Lakha. Thierry Wallaert, Export Manager of Louis Roederer presented a Salmanazar of champagne, equivalent to 18 bottles, to the King Power Foxes’ Captain Facundo Pieres.
Finally, Geoffroy Lefebvre of Jaeger-LeCoultre presented the coveted golden trophy to Facu, who hoisted it aloft in front of the King Power Foxes’ support team, clearly delighted that he and his brother had achieved a hat trick of wins on behalf of the Srivaddhanaprabha family.