Clearwater rallied in the second half to defeat Dutta Corp, 12-10, in the final of the USPA Eastern Challenge Sunday at breezy Grand Champions Polo Club.
Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Kris Kampsen, Piki Diaz Alberdi,Tim Dutta), a 13-goal team, started off with a four-goal lead against 17-goal Clearwater (Chip Campbell, Michael Bickford, Ezequiel Fernandez, Jeff Hall).
Dutta Corp, coming off its spring season-opening victory in the Santa Rita Abierto, led 5-1 after the opening chukker. Clearwater took advantage of Dutta Corp penalties in the second chukker to score four goals including two on penalties, to cut its deficit to one (6-5). Kampsen scored from the field and Bickford converted a penalty shot in the third chukker with Dutta Corp still holding a one-goal lead for a 7-6 halftime advantage.
In the second half, Clearwater found its offensive attack behind Fernandez, who was unstoppable in the final three chukkers. Clearwater outscored Dutta Corp 5-0 in the fourth and fifth chukkers for an 11-8 lead. Tim Dutta closed the gap with two goals in the final chukker but Dutta Corp was unable to get any closer.
“We trusted each other as a team and I knew we would overcome their four-goal handicap lead,” Fernandez said. “We knew Dutta Corp was a good team and we had to play our best to beat them.”
Fernandez, the catalyst for Clearwater’s second-half comeback, was named Most Valuable Player. Fernandez scored a game-high six goals including five in the second half.
Fernandez’ horse, Rosaura, a 9-year-old Argentine mare, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Comedian and actor Pauly Shore was the awards presenter and kept the players and fans in stitches the minute he stepped on the awards podium.
“I am very happy for the team,” said Fernandez, a 20-year veteran of the game. “We got along together well and played for each other.”
Fernandez is preparing to play in Bogota, Colombia for the summer. He has been playing in Colombia the past ten years.
Bickford had five goals and Campbell had one. For Dutta Corp, Timmy Dutta, 15, the youngest player in the final, led scoring with four goals. Kampsen and Alberdi each had one.
In the first final of the morning, Power Horse (Walter Scherb, Marc Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jesse Bray) rallied in the final two chukkers to defeat Whitehall Ranch (Bill Lane, Pablo Pulido, Guille Aguero, Nic Roldan), 10-9, to win the Aspen Valley Cup.
Power Horse scored four unanswered goals in the fifth and sixth chukkers including Scherb’s two goals to start off the sixth chukker. Ganzi scored a 90-yard neck shot right before the horn to end the fifth chukker and game-winner with 30 seconds remaining.
Whitehall Ranch had dominated most of the game, pulling ahead 5-1 after the first chukker and led 8-4 at the half. Power Horse turned it around in the second half cutting down on its unforced errors while finding its offensive attack.
Pablo Pulido, who scored three goals and kept Power Horse off-balance for much of the game, was selected Most Valuable Player.
For Power Horse, Scherb had a game-high four goals, Ganzi had three, Novillo Astrada had two and Bray added one.
Roldan scored three goals and Whitehall Ranch teammates Lane and Aguero each had one.
It was the final spring appearance at Grand Champions for Roldan and Bickford. The two depart this week for England where they open the season with La Indiana teammates Agustin Merlos and Luke Tomlinson in the 22-goal Cartier Queen’s Cup that begins May 23 at Guards Polo Club. The draw is May 8.
Grand Champions Polo Club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its’ eleven well-manicured fields including Santa Rita Polo Farm during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.