The final of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup on Sunday produced as exciting a match as ever, when Azzurra took on the formidable machine that is Dubai, shooting ahead early on to earn a decisive victory, winning by 17-9.
It was a frustrating match for favourites Dubai, whose forward, Tariq Albwardy (son of patron Ali Albwardy), is still a teenager. Ten-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso seemed, in particular, to suffer from the pressure that their opponents were applying with increasing panache.
The Argentine dismounted twice – once for an ambulance check, once to check his pony – and threw his stick on the ground after a whistle against Dubai.
Azzurra dazzled on the pitch, with Marcos Heguy and Juan Martin Nero scoring most of the goals. Negro Novillo Astrada also shone, and patron Stefano Marsaglia even scored a goal, to his immense delight:
“I do not score so often, so it feels great when I do – and that was a really nice one!”
The qualifying stages of the tournament led to more exciting semi-finals than had at first been expected. Both Larchmont and Graff Capital – two new teams this season – made it into the penultimate stages, matched against Azzurra and Dubai, respectively.
Graff Capital held on against Dubai until the end of the second chukka, when Cambiaso got onto what he terms his “best pony”, Small Person. In the third chukka, Dubai put in six goals; Graff, none. Graff couldn’t claw back the deficit, and Dubai looked pretty untouchable thereafter. They won 17-12.
Azzurra’s semi-final against Larchmont was a battle of the Heguys (Bautista plays for Larchmont), although neither Marcos nor Bautista showed top form in spite of moments of brilliance. In fact, the game didn’t sparkle, and Azzurra won 10-9.
There had been some misgivings about the new qualifying system for the Gold Cup – whereby organisers tried to ensure that stronger teams did not meet each other too early on, while giving everyone a fair number of games – but in the end, it was viewed as a success.
“Original thought is sometimes difficult for people to comprehend. But we’ll continue to try new methods where necessary and I’m happy that the tournament committee has been vindicated,” said Cowdray chairman David Jamison.