Top class polo on the St Moritz snow

  • A squad featuring three Englishmen and an Argentine snow polo veteran fended off robust competition to take the 21st Cartier World Cup Polo on Snow, held in the chilliest conditions — as low as -28°C — for several years.

    The event, though perhaps marked in more social than sporting calendars, provides quality action on the field, with eight 17-20-goal matches over four days on St Moritz’s snow-decked frozen lake, this year all played in bright sunshine.

    More British players than usual made the trip to Switzerland: Chris Hyde, Nacho Gonzales and Simon Holley were on the winning Maybach side, while Jack Kidd, Tim Bown and Tony Pidgley played for Cartier.

    Maybach, the only 20-goal squad, under the direction of John Horswell, bagged their place in the final after beating Cartier 7-2 in their second league game. Cartier then lost to Bank Hofmann, putting them out of contention. Siemens, therefore, had to overcome a half-throttle Maybach to get to the final, which they duly did.

    “It’s understandable that Maybach played in fourth gear on the Saturday, because horses are always the main thing in this sport,” said Siemens’s Gabriel Donoso.

    A crowd of 10,000 watched the final, which repeated that match — albeit with Maybach back in competitive mode. Despite the upmarket location and popularity of diamonds and furs, the atmosphere is informal, the commentary jovial and stand seats and entry free.

    Partly because of the cold, the umpires keep the game moving, while not missing too many fouls. However, goals in the first half were largely from penalties.

    Siemens took an early lead, then the teams level-pegged. Donoso and Juan Jose Brane — who played with broken fingers — performed confidently, and Oscar Mancini put in a neat goal in the last seconds of the third. But in the fourth and final chukka, Hyde kept Maybach’s back-door shut, Gonzalez slipped his man and stylish Piki Alberdi snapped up the ball at every opportunity.

    With the score 6-5 and 2min to go — though the absence of a clock diluted the suspense somewhat — Chris Hyde cleared a penalty shot and scored at the other end. Maybach seemed to have it in the bag until Mancini scored from the next throw-in. But time ran out for Siemens, and Maybach won 7-6.

    John Horswell said he knew Maybach were the strongest, but added: “This polo is 75% luck and 25% skill. You start by playing defence, whereas outdoors you think about offence.”

    Maybach patron Simon Holley, a former rugby player for the Saracens and Richmond, said that Hyde and Gonzalez’s arena experience (whose arena handicaps are eight and nine) was crucial to the team’s success.

  • Read this report in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (10 February, ’05)

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