SNOW DAYS.
St. Moritz celebrates 25 years of
World Cup Polo on Snow.

Pablo Mac Donough made the difference in the 25th Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow final in St. Moritz, Switzerland on February 1. Mac Donough led the Bank Julius Bär team to victory over defending champion Brioni 6 to 3 1/2. Brioni narrowly made the final in the thrilling qualifier against Cartier. Meanwhile, Julius Bär guaranteed its place with a victory over Maybach. Cartier narrowly ground out a 3 to 2 1/2 victory over Maybach in the consolation..

Over 8,000 spectators packed the grandstands on the frozen lake and huddled together for warmth as the beautiful conditions on the first three days finally gave way to snow and an icy wind. The people in the stands displayed the finest in winter fashions to keep themselves warm despite the frigid conditions.

Action on the field heated up as soon as the tournament began on January 29. Three playoff rounds determined the finalists. Four teams competed including George Milford Haven’s Julius Bär, Phillip Maeder’s Maybach, Guy Schwarzenbach’s Brioni and Adriano Agosti’s Cartier.

This was the first year Milford Haven has captained Bank Julius Bär. Mac Donough joined him fresh from an Argentine Open win. Jose Donoso, a 7-goal Chilean with plenty of experience playing on the snow, and Richard Le Poer, a rising young English 3-goaler, rounded out the team.

Schwarzenbach, 26, led the defending champions as the youngest team captain. Hoping for a repeat performance, he played with the same team that won it in 2008. That included 8-goal New Zealander John Paul Clarkin, the star who scored an amazing goal in the final moments last year against Cartier, 5-goal Johnny Good and 6-goal Nacho Gonzales. Good and Gonzales, both from England, have experience in both the arena and outdoors. Their arena experience can be useful on the smaller playing field.

Cartier’s Agosti, an England-based Swiss National, has won Snow Polo six times. He played with Alejandro Diaz “Piki” Alberdi, who also has six Snow Polo wins under his belt. Seven-goalers Gaston Laulhe and Australian Glen Gilmore completed the team.

Joining Maeder on Maybach was Federico Bachmann and 7-goalers Pablo Jauretche and Ignacio Tillous. Maeder, who began playing just four years ago, has played polo in Italy, France, Spain and Argentina. The first round of games was played under a clear Alpine sky. Brioni, displaying its resilient nature, defeated Maybach 3-2. The teams played a seesaw battle for possession in midfield throughout the first half. Tillous finally broke the ice with the first goal of the day in the third chukker. He celebrated wildly after sinking a backhander from 40 yards out. Later he said, “It was a long way out but you never know on the snow, so I just hit it.” The joy was short-lived as Good fired an equalizer. Jauretche and Gonzalez traded goals in the next chukker. Jauretche took a nasty fall just as the game went into sudden-death overtime. As the game continued, Good became the hero when he struck the winning goal.

Bank Julius Bär and Cartier battled it out in the next match. While Julius Bär had the strongest player in 10-goal Pablo Mac Donough, three of the team’s players had never played on snow before. Cartier’s Diaz Alberdi and Agosti know the snow well. But Milford Haven and Le Poer were the surprising stars in the game, helping to elevate Julius Bär 6-4 past Cartier.

After the second round, it looked as though Brioni was the team to beat once again. Brioni began with a half-goal advantage against Julius Bär, just what they needed to top their opponents. The first goal wasn’t scored until the third chukker. Donoso put Julius Bär on the board. Good responded in the fourth with a pair of goals to stay ahead. Mac Donough added another for Julius Bär, but the team fell short of the win. Cartier eked out a 4-3 win against Maybach in the next game. Cartier scored a lone goal in the first, while Maybach scored a lone goal in the second. Maybach outscored Cartier 2-1 in the third for the lead, but Cartier answered back with a pair of goals while holding Maybach scoreless.

Mathematically, all the teams still had a chance to make the final. Maybach would have to beat Julius Bär by at least two goals then hope Brioni beat Cartier. Any victory for Julius Bär would place them in the final. The winds were really picking up, making hitting to any distance difficult.

The third qualifying round had Julius Bär topping Maybach 3-2. The teams were tied 1-1 at the half and Maybach took the lead in the third, but Julius Bär tied the score and eventually took the lead for the win. If Brioni won their game, they would finish with the best record at 3-0. If Cartier won, they would have to do so by at least two goals to leap-frog Brioni on goal difference. The last match had Cartier edging Brioni by half a point, but not enough to keep Brioni out of the final. Brioni began with a half-point lead, but Cartier wasted no time in making up for it with a goal. Neither team scored in the second and both teams added a goal in the third and fourth.

As usual, there were numerous social activities planned around the event and even more so with the 25th jubilee celebration, including a formal gala evening at the Kempinski Hotel attended by 450 guests. Juan Amador, a 3-star chef from Germany, was flown in to present his new interpretation of Catalan-Basque-French cuisine. He prepared the meal like the way he sees polo and St. Moritz, “glamorous, international and exciting, on the one hand, but honest, down-to-earth and unpretentious, on the other.”

The St. Moritz Design Gallery in the Serletta Car Park is exhibiting impressions from snow polo from December through May. Guest nation Mongolia, home to some of the earliest polo ever played, was honored with a parade of Mongolian riders, a traditional tent of the Mongoian nomad, called a Yurt, was erected on the frozen lake and Mongolian’s national vodka, Grand Khan, was flowing.

Longtime sponsor Cartier created a special symbolic trophy, the Maillet d’Or, to celebrate the anniversary. An example of fine craftsmanship, the trophy pays tribute to the vitality and elegance of polo through both the precious nature of its noble materials and the vigor of its powerful design. To further mark the occasion, Cartier created a series of watches to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the tournament. Limited to twenty-five individually numbered timepieces, the 25th Cartier Polo St. Moritz Pasha watch is equipped with a self-winding movement. The dial, decorated with a transfer motif representing a polo player, is set with a brilliant cut diamond in place of the ball

 

 
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