Both games in Sunday’s USPA Gold Cup® at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) were a flurry of high-octane horsepower. Mega-mounted Valiente and Coca-Cola won their respective games, Valiente defeating archrival Orchard Hill 14-10 and Coca-Cola taking Audi 11-8. As a result, top-seeded Valiente will play Audi and Coca-Cola will oppose Orchard Hill in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Sunday was a clear example of the maxim “you can’t hit the ball if you don’t get to it.” In the first game 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres took turns running each other off the ball and accelerating toward goal Mach 9-hair-on-fire. Pieres scored every one of Orchard Hill’s 10 goals.
The emergence of Matias Zavaleta in the 26-goal continued to give Valiente a big edge on their opponent Sunday. It allowed Cambiaso to stay back and be the playmaker, which got Zavaleta firing forward. (Eight shots on goal for Zavaleta evidenced just how much he drives the team forward.) At the same time, it made it difficult for Orchard Hill to counterattack, given Cambiaso’s uncannily strong positioning and anticipation to ward off assaults.
Zavaleta had the play of the day off a throw-in during the second chukker. In a stunning move for a 6-goal player, he snatched the ball from Polito Pieres and raced past both of Orchard Hill’s 10-goalers (Polito and Facundo Pieres) for the score.
Cambiaso made three field goals on the day, which was a highly charged affair. Both he and Facundo Pieres drew yellow cards amidst vocal disputes about calls.
The Valiente organization played like a smoothly calibrated machine, leading all the way through and methodically stretching the gap. Ahead 7-5 at halftime, Valiente’s 2-goal lead rapidly expanded to a 4-goal advantage, which they maintained through the last two chukkers.
Valiente had started the game up one goal on handicap. Robert Jornayvaz (1 goal) found himself playing in place of his father, patron Bob Jornayvaz (2 goals). Jornayvaz senior developed flu symptoms last week and watched Sunday’s game from the sidelines. The decision to sub in his son was made Friday, giving the young pro just Saturday to try his father’s horses and get organized for the game.
“It was great to be able to play today,” said Rob Jornayvaz. “It’s been a long time since I played polo at this level. The speed is incredible, and our team played amazing today. Matias was amazing, Diego played incredibly well, and all the horses were unbelievable. I was so stoked just to have that opportunity.”