Jaeger-LeCoultre Holds its HorsesBy Helen Cruden
The final of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup held at the home of British polo, Cowdray Park Polo Club, is the pinnacle of the British High-Goal polo season. Every year polo aficionados gather from across the world on the Cowdray Lawns to witness the greatest players in the sport battle it out to see their names engraved on one of the most coveted trophies in the world of polo, the Gold Cup.
What makes the Gold Cup so special lies within its history, dating back to its inauguration at Cowdray in 1956, and the prestige it holds within the sport itself, it is of no surprise that the tournament’s title sponsor therefore is Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The British polo season this year was, for the most part, bathed in sunshine, right up until Gold Cup final day. The rain that fell however did nothing to dampen the spirits of the spectators and certainly not that of the polo players. Jaeger-LeCoultre welcomed beautifully attired guests from all walks of life, from the rugby field with former England captain Chris Robshaw, to Superman Henry Cavill and the former model turned baking queen and Sunday Times best-selling author Lorraine Pascale.
The Big 3
Once the scoreboard’s Reverso themed clock struck 3 o’clock, all attention turned to the field which saw defending champions from 2015 and 2016, King Power Foxes take on the British quartet and 2017’s force to be reckoned with, El Remanso. Despite being defending champions King Power Foxes came into the final having had a rather turbulent season, losing to their Gold Cup Final rivals in the Quarter Final of the Queen’s Cup tournament in June. The British boys of El Remanso knew that if they played with the same flare and fervour that they had been playing with throughout the season that the Gold Cup was more than within their grasp.
As the game began it was King Power Foxes headed by two of the greatest players in the world, brothers Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres, who found themselves trailing by two goals after the first chukka. With the crowd holding their breath wondering if they were about to witness another bumpy game for the defending champions, El Remanso continued to apply the pressure. Having played together as a team in one form or another since they were teenagers, El Remanso have a synergy that is rarely seen on British polo fields. They know precisely how each player will react to a situation and how to ensure that despite whatever language may be thrown around through passion and frustration at the end of a chukka, they continue on the focused path of glory at the beginning of the next.
King Power Foxes knew that they had to change their game plan, with a quick discussion in the team tent between chukkas one and two, what is usually a two-man game between the Pieres brothers suddenly became a four-man game. There was no other way to face the four-man, all-professional force of El Remanso than to bring King Power Foxes’ two youngsters and Gold Cup virgins, Jimbo Fewster and Hugo Taylor in to play. It was the tactical move of the game with both boys stepping up to the mark beyond the crowd’s expectations.
Their role became to disperse El Remanso, to move them away from King Power Foxes’ key players Facundo and Gonzalito so as to give them the space to move down field and score, and score they did! Both players started to play at a much faster pace making it harder for El Remanso to keep up with them. Even more so when the Most Valuable Player of the match, teenager Jimbo Fewster, who not only scored three goals himself but who also stuck to El Remanso’s James Harper like glue any time Harper moved to defend or shoot on goal.
The Final Countdown
Once King Power Foxes knew they had control of the game, and taking the hattrick of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup became a real possibility, is when true magic began to happen on the field. From the Jaeger-LeCoultre tent, guests were left stunned as they watched the players flying downfield at break-neck speed on their ponies whilst simultaneously picking up the ball, tapping it high into the air and catapulting it downfield all within the blink of an eye off, treating the polo mallet as if it were a tennis racket. It was skill that is hard to fathom until you realise that you are watching the best players of the sport on the field doing everything they can to win the most prestigious tournament of the season.
Despite King Power Foxes finding their way to channel their grit and determination into winning the game at all costs, El Remanso did not let up for a second. With every second counting in the seven minutes of a polo game’s chukka, team patron Charlie Hanbury and his El Remanso teammates knew that if they continued to give all they could, they still had a chance of drawing closer to King Power Foxes’ final score if they kept up with the pace. Ollie Cudmore of El Remanso proved this by scoring the last goal of the game, bringing the score to 13-8.
The crowd erupted at the final bell, not only for the deserving victors of King Power Foxes and their patron “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha, but also for the British boys who played so valiantly throughout the season giving the crowds something to cheer for every week. The presentation of the Gold Cup was lead by Deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Geoffrey Lefebvre and Zahra Kassim-Lakha of Jaeger-LeCoultre UK, with each member of the winning team receiving a unique Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso engraved with the Phoenix symbol of Cowdray Park Polo Club.
The smiles on the faces of both teams were worthy representatives of what British sport is about, even through the torrential rain that began during the prize-giving. It was a worthy end to the season for King Power Foxes who proved their place once more as one of the most powerful teams of the decade whilst sparking the careers of its two youngsters, Huge Taylor and Jimbo, and lifting the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup to tremendous applause from the crowd.