Work to Ride, the formidable high-goal polo team whose roster features such decorated players as Mariano Aguerre, the Argentinian nine goaler, Mariano Gonzalez, an esteemed seven goaler, Nick Manifold, the durable Australian four-goaler and Joseph Manheim, its patron, defeated Cavalleria Toscana, 13-12, last Sunday to advance in the Monty Waterbury Cup tournament.
The match at the Greenwich Polo Club drew more than 2,500 spectators and was the second one in this exciting three-week U.S. Polo Association tournament, which will conclude with this Sunday.
This game featured all the drama of a first-rate professional sports showdown as Work to Ride rallied to claim victory over its tough opponent.
During the first half, Cavalleria Toscana dominated the match, as Toro Ruiz, a Argentinian five-goaler considered a rising star, flew around the field, knocking in the majority of his team’s points. (Due to his exceptional handiwork, Ruiz was named Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the match.)
The tables turned, however, in the second half, as Work to Ride (named after the Philadelphia-based non-profit program designed to help disadvantaged urban youths by offering them activities in horsemanship, equine sports and education) staged a bold and aggressive comeback.
Displaying terrific expertise and gamesmanship, all four members worked together like a well-oiled machine to tie up and eventually take the match over Cavalleria Toscana.
“We are happy with how we played,” said Manifold of Work to Ride, who has been playing at the GPC since the 1990s. “The other team was really good, and it was a tough match all the way through.”
Polo experts at the match agreed.
“Right up until the end of the last chukker, you didn’t know who was going to win,” said Dr. Horace Laffaye, a renowned polo historian and author based in Fairfield County. “It was an excellent match.”
According to Laffaye, the standout players were Ruiz and Aguerre, the veteran White Birch star who was inducted into the Museum of Polo’s Hall of Fame last winter and who, in characteristic fashion, delivered the goods at this match, scoring the majority of points for his team.
“Mariano is one of the superstars in the world of polo,” said Laffaye. “He’s a good rider, a good hitter and a good team leader.”
For Aguerre, a headliner at the GPC since the 1990s, it’s all about having the opportunity to be out on the field and play, especially here in Greenwich.
“It’s great to be back here,” said Aguerre. “The crowd is so supportive. You can hear them clap and cheer when you’re out there. It’s really something.”
Aguerre’s chestnut-colored charge, Los Machitos Bonito, was named Best Playing Pony at the end of the match. Bonito came from Los Machitos, a high-goal polo horse breeding and training facility based in Argentina and run by Aguerre, Manifold and Naco Taverna, a renowned high-goaler.
“It’s really good to be here again,” added Manifold. “The field is fantastic and the club is beautiful.”
Certainly, the GPC is picturesque, capturing so much of the beauty, spirit and personality of the town with its storybook-like qualities.
This, along with the fact that the GPC has and continues to host so many of the sport’s most decorated high-goal players, ponies and teams is the reason why it has come to be known as the U.S. high-goal summer capital of the sport and has attracted so many thousands of dedicated fans, players, ponies, officials and vendors over the years.
“It is fantastic here, it’s really a lifestyle,” said Michael Gotawala, president of the Outdoor Kitchen Design Store by Preferred Properties in Cheshire, Conn., whose state-of-the-art outdoor cooking grill and kitchen display has been a big attraction at the GPC this season. “Like polo, cooking outdoors is such an integral part of bringing people together and it’s a great feeling to assist people in terms of that.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the GPC, which was founded in 1981 by business magnate Peter Brant, is that it helps bring so many different factions of people together who are all there to celebrate, support and be part of this extraordinary sport.
“The polo here is incredible and everything about [the GPC] is amazing,” said Sable Roesch, a music producer based in Darien who has been attending GPC matches since the 1990s. “We’re lucky this club is based so close to us. It’s such a special place.”