Guards Polo Club celebrates 25 years of Cartier International Day.

The Guards Polo Club at Smith’s Lawn in Windsor Great Park, England celebrated Cartier’s 25th anniversary of sponsoring the coveted Coronation Cup on July 26. Referred to as Cartier International Day, the action attracts 20,000-plus spectators including numerous celebrities. The annual event is something players and spectators look forward to each summer season. Aside from the action on the field, it has become one of Britain’s most prestigious social events of the summer.:

In celebration of the event, numerous social activities are held prior to, during and after the match. A players’ dinner was held on Thursday with Cartier giving beautiful timepieces to several key officials it has worked with over the years. Cartier U.K.’s Managing Director Arnaud Bamberger expressed his sincere appreciation for the cooperation and assistance Cartier has received from club and HPA officials. He also pledged Cartier’s continued sponsorship of polo into the foreseeable future.

In addition, prizes were given to players playing recycled thoroughbreds. Retraining of Racehorses (ROR), British horse racing’s official charity, promotes adapting racehorses to other equestrian activities like polo. It rewards equestrians who have done so successfully. Mark Tomlinson took first place and was awarded a whopping £5,000 for his 11-year-old mare Marmite in ROR’s inaugural Polo Series awards. After racing five times she was retrained to play polo in low- and medium-goal polo. Tomlinson got her two years ago and considers her his second best horse in his string. She now plays high-goal and competed in the Cartier Day. Henry Brett received £2,000 for his Dashfa Baileys and Max Routledge received £2,000 for his Crafty Politician, a stallion, which he plays and breeds. Robin Spicer was awarded £1,000 for his United Onion.

The following evening HPA hosted a casual asado for players and guests, while Ham Polo Club, its Chairman Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers and his wife Annie hosted a summer ball—a Mad Hatter affair. It was quite the party with a delicious sitdown dinner, dancing and, for something a little different, bumper cars!

On game day, the HPA provided a formal invitation-only sit-down luncheon for players, sponsors and polo association officials. While in the Cartier Marquee, over 500 Cartier guests, including actors, models, entertainers, sports stars and other A-list celebrities, enjoyed a champagne reception and sumptuous lunch prepared by leading Swiss chef Anton Mosimann. Over the years Cartier has hosted Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Angelica Houston, Orlando Bloom, Pierce Bronson, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Claudia Schiffer and many more. Hours before the event, men in dapper suits and women in their finest dresses and hats began making their way to the fieldside tents to begin the celebration, among them actress Neve Campbell, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, actor Damien Lewis, actress Anna Friel, model Paul Sculfor and Britain’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan.

Gloved waiters greeted guests with flutes of champagne as they entered the enclosures. In the meantime, hoards of picnickers staked out spots as close as possible to the fence surrounding the field. Argentine men, dressed in traditional clothing handed out small Argentine flags to spectators to drum up support for the visiting team. A vendor area offered everything from jewelry, clothing and polo equipment, to artwork and furniture. Trucks serving Pimms, the traditional British polo drink (what the mint julep is to horse racing) were placed throughout the grounds.

Many polo clubs wouldn’t be able to handle such a large crowd, but after all these years the Guards Polo Club seems to have it down to a science. Founded in 1955, the club was a military club until 2000. It originally was called the Household Brigade Polo Club, but the name was changed to Guards in 1969. With about 1,000 nonplaying members and over 150 playing members, it is the largest polo club in Europe. The club has 10 fields spread out over 130 acres, stabling for 120 horses, an exercise track and practice fields. The club also hosts the Queen’s Cup each year that attracts upwards of 20 high-goal teams with players from all over Europe, North and South America, the Middle and Far East, Australia and New Zealand.

Cartier first sponsored the Hurlingham Polo Association’s International Day in 1984, when a Rest of the World team took on a British team in front of a few thousand spectators. The Coronation Cup itself dates back to 1911 on the Coronation of King George V, when it was won by the Indian Polo Association. Thereafter and until 1939, it was played for by the winners of the four major Open Cups. It was first contested as an International match in 1951, again in 1953 and yearly since 1971 when the U.S. defeated England. For the past 25 years teams from countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and South Africa have taken on British Teams. This was the third time an Argentine team has played for the Cup. In 2000 the Argentines defeated England 10-9 in an exciting overtime match and in 1995 the Argentines had an easier time of it, downing England 14-8.

The Argentines were favored to win again this year, not only by the spectators but the players as well. With 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres, quite possibly Argentina’s two best players, along with Martin “Facha” Valent and Gustavo Usandizaga, two young 3-goal players being groomed by Cambiaso, the team seemed too powerful to overcome. While England’s four best players, 7-goalers James Beim and Luke Tomlinson and 6-goalers Mark Tomlinson and Malcolm Borwick, were willing to give it their all, they doubted they could beat the Argentines and were hoping it would be a good playing experience for them to learn from, if nothing else. When Argentina took the win, a Hurlingham Polo Association press release called it a non-surprising result.

Prior to the main event, a five chukker match was played between the Hurlingham and Prince of Wales’ teams for the Golden Jubilee Cup. Hurlingham was comprised of 3-goaler Max Routlege and 6-goalers Satnam Dhillon, Tom Morley and Chris Hyde. Prince of Wales’ was made up of 3-goaler Charlie Hanbury and 6-goalers James Harper, Henry Brett and Nacho Gonzales. Hurlingham took control early scoring three goals while holding Prince of Wales’ to one. For the next three chukkers, Prince of Wales’ seemed to be playing catch up, chasing the Hurlingham team while failing to reach the goal. Hurlingham scored five times in those periods, ending the fourth with Hurlingham ahead 8-1. Prince of Wales came back to score two more in the final period to finish at 8-3. Spectators continued to arrive throughout the first match and the stands, which were virtually empty at the start of the game, were nearly filled by the final chukker. Those arriving were only allowed in the stands between chukkers as not to disturb those watching the match.

After the first game an impressive opening ceremony included a parade of pony clubbers of all ages and sizes, huntsman and hounds, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the players. Remarkably, none of the polo ponies seemed to mind standing center field among the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in bright red and gold uniforms, some carrying flags, others pounding on drums. Its presentation was truly amazing and included two horses that laid down while horses cantered around them. The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment carries out ceremonial duties on State and Royal occasions. Guards were also seen throughout the grounds selling raffle tickets to raise funds for Guards in Action, a charity supporting those injured or killed in action and their families. The opening ceremonies concluded with a pato player picking up a bouquet of flowers set on the ground at center field then cantering on a horse right up through the gate of the Queen’s box and presenting them to María Vázquez, wife of Adolfo Cambiaso seated in the front row.

Despite heavy rains that saturated the field in the days leading up to the game, it was in fairly good playing condition. Clouds remained and a light drizzle fell off and on, taunting organizers. The forecast was for heavy early-evening showers. Organizers held their collective breath, hoping the rain would hold off until after the match. Announcers Australian captain Glen Gilmore, Guard’s Polo’s Jamie Haywood, Irishman Greg Keating and Argentinean high-goaler Santiago Gaztambide entertained the crowd throughout. Aside from comedic play-byplay, ponies names and some information about them was announced throughout the match.

Memo Gracida and Jose Donoso, donning the umpire striped shirts and matching helmets, kept the game rolling. Cambiaso scored the first goal three minutes into the first chukker. Luke Tomlison countered early in the second, but before long Cambiaso scored again. One of the announcers remarked Cambiaso’s goal was like stealing a lollipop from a baby. In the third, Pieres scored a field goal then a penalty added to a goal from Valent for a 5-1 lead. An announcer said Pieres’ penalty shot was “coming down with astronaut on it.” At the end of the chukker, with time slipping away, Mark Tomlinson was out front headed to goal when he missed the ball 25 yards from goal. Remarkably his pony kicked it through the posts for goal No. 2. With the Argentines leading 5-2 at the half, the crowd took to the field to help tread in divots. Though the Queen didn’t attend the match, her son HRH Prince Charles did. The attendants roped off a section on the field for Prince Charles and others sitting in the Queen’s box to stomp divots. Photographers and curious spectators on the other side of the rope followed HRH’s every move.

England likely got some tips from coach Milo Fernandez Araujo and manager Andrew Hine at the half and they responded. Mark Tomlinson scored early in the fourth followed by a Penalty 2 conversion from brother Luke. That momentum was cut short when Pieres scored a Penalty 2 and Valent knocked one in from the field. Cambiaso, on a fast little bay mare, and Usandizaga added goals in the fifth, which went unanswered. Usandizaga scored early in the sixth but Luke Tomlinson responded with a penalty conversion. It would be the last goal for England. Cambiaso scored another in the sixth and Pieres made it an even dozen, dribbling the ball between the posts in the closing seconds, ending with Argentina on top 12-5.

Luke Tomlinson remarked after the match, “It’s been a great experience for us and that’s what we hoped to get out of it.”

A diplomatic Cambiaso said, “Both teams were slipping because the field was difficult. The horsepower made a little difference, but the other team were well mounted too. In the end, it was us who scored the goals.”

HRH Prince Charles presented the impressive Coronation Cup to the winning team. Martin Valent received the Cartier Pegasus Trophy for Most Valuable Player. Cambiaso’s speedy little bay, an 8- year-old Australian mare playing her first high-goal season, Mi Gatita took the Xtra Recordings Best Playing Pony award. Julian Hipwood, who captained England in the 1984 Coronation Cup, was awarded the inaugural Cartier 25th Anniversary Polo Award, in recognition of the talent that helped make International Day such a success.

Hipwood said of the match, “Our boys did a great job today and they will benefit from it.” HPA Chief Executive David Woodd agreed, saying, “Our team played really well. They never gave up and I don’t think the score reflected the game; they needed more luck and to make the most of their opportunities, which they did not do. However, they were playing the two best players in the world, and no other team has taken on that challenge before. Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso are really worth more than 10 goals and their teammates played well above their 3-goal handicaps as well.”

Umpire Donoso said, “The result wasn’t a reflection of the game. For me, the game was much more even. It was a great demonstration of skills from the Argentines. England did their best but they were playing against the best in the world.”

The FIP made the most of the Cartier celebration by bringing together officials from the world’s three largest polo associations to discuss international polo competition. For the first time the FIP held meetings that included the chairmen of the Hurlingham, Argentine and the United States Polo Associations simultaneously. FIP president Patrick Guerrand-Hermès organized several meetings with the U.K.’s Hurlingham Polo Association’s former chairman John Tinsley, Chief Executive David Wood and Chairman Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers; the United States Polo Associations Chairman Tom Biddle and Executive Director Peter Rizzo; and the Argentine Polo Association’s new chairman Luis Lalor, Eduardo Huergo and FIP founder Marcos Uranga. They identified the differences in the rules between all four entities and discussed whether it was possible to have a united set of rules as well as what part the three associations should play, if any, in the administration of the FIP. Because of the differences in the type of polo played and the memberships within each association, the rules will likely never be the same between all four entities but they have all pledged to try to bring them closer and to work more diligently with FIP by focusing more attention on the organization and its management.

Cartier International day was truly an international forum for high-level discussions and high-level polo.

—Gwen Rizzo

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