Coca-Cola put in a strong team performance to take the 11-8 win over Audi, with Julian de Lusarreta, Julio Arellano and Miguel Novillo Astrada coming forward at different times. Scoring output from de Lusarreta was impressive early on and when the game was close at halftime, with Audi leading 6-5.
Coca-Cola had a tremendous fourth chukker with four goals, highlighted by a jaw-dropping goal from the field by Arellano. He intercepted a miss-hit ball from Gonzalito Pieres and snatched it out of the air on the bounce, running it into goal. That extended Coca-Cola’s advantage to 9-6. They didn’t give up the lead the rest of the game, keeping their opponent off the board in the fourth and fifth chukkers.
A communal gasp arose from the stadium near the end of the fourth chukker. Arellano got possession of the ball, but then looked up and found himself the only player on the field in a red jersey. All his teammates were off changing horses as the clock continued to run. Suddenly Coca-Cola patrona Gillian Johnston flew in on one of her grey speedsticks and took the pass from Arellano. In her trademark form, Johnston stampeded into goal for the score, well out of reach for anyone to even contemplate challenging her.
Arellano was named MVP. Best-Playing Pony honors went to "Cream," played and owned by de Lusarreta. He described the 11-year-old mare as “really handy,” adding that she has the skills and talent to play the 26. Last season de Lusarreta also brought her from Argentina to Wellington, where he played her for Orchard Hill in their victorious 2016 US Open run.
The Gold Cup semifinals are Wednesday, March 22. Valiente plays Audi at noon, followed by Orchard Hill vs. Coca Cola at 3 p.m.The final takes place Sunday, March 26 at IPC.