Island House Seizes Monty Waterbury Cup in Thriller


Mariano Gonzalez, the No. 3 player for Reelay (navy jersey), goes for the ball in tandem with his son, Peke Gonzalez, the No. 4 player for The Island House who was named Most Valuable Player of the match. (Peter Michaelis photo)

By Liz Leamy
Sentinel Correspondent

It is given that many of the most memorable sports showdowns are often accompanied by an interesting, if not fascinating, backstory.

This most certainly seemed to be the case last Friday, when the Island House, the electric 16-goal squad based out of the New York-metropolitan area and Nassau in the Bahamas, clinched its second consecutive major tournament title at the Greenwich Polo Club this season, with a 12-10 win against Reelay, the fierce 15-goal contingent.

The four-member Island House roster, which features Peter Holowesko, its ever-steady No. 1 player; Toro Ruiz-Jorba, the fiery 21-year-old seven-goaler who wears the team’s No. 3 jersey; Peke Gonzalez, the stealth and steady five-goaler; and Santino Magrini, the vibrant four-goaler, seemed to wind up at the top of the leaderboard due to their fierce and fiery playing style.

Right from the outset, it was clear that both of the Teflon-tough finalists, who qualified for this showdown as the result of winning prior matches against a total of six teams participating in this historic tournament (said to be the third-oldest official U.S. Polo Association trophy in active competition), had brought out their “A” game, exhibiting great speed, energy, aptitude and skill.

Throughout the match, the players and ponies put the pedal to the metal as they raced up, down and around the field with the furor and finesse of modern-day gladiators, designating this as one of the most thrilling competitions to have been held at the GPC so far this season.

Invariably, the drama and excitement of this final seemed only likely due to the fact that virtually all of the players and ponies are said to be some of the finest contenders in contemporary high-goal polo.

Aside from the amazing chemistry that seemed to be in play with each of the teams, there also turned out to be an interesting family and polo history among the players, something that turned out to be one of the most interesting stories to emerge from this showdown.

The Island House team is commandeered by the amiable Holowesko, who always seems to ride in fluid and effective concert with his teammates and is said to be very close friends with all of them, a factor that seems to be a key component in their success. (Holowesko was awarded the Fair Play citation at the conclusion of this match for good sportsmanship.)

Meanwhile, Ruiz-Jorba, the dynamic 21-year-old reputed to be a rising star in high-goal polo, has emerged as a big GPC crowd favorite this summer, due to his electric style and terrific speed, and always seems to turn on the ‘fire switch’ at game time. (Ruiz-Jorba’s charge, Cana Fly, was also named Best Playing Pony of this game.)

Rounding out this talented crew is the ever-solid Peke Gonzalez, named the Most Valuable Player of the match, and Santino Magrini, both of whose famed Argentinian polo-playing fathers, Mariano Gonzalez and Matias Magrini, respectively, have coached and mentored them for years and who competed against them in this final, as both are members of Reelay.

According to these two esteemed athletes, seeing their sons compete at this level and playing in these tournaments with them has been a terrific experience in all regards.

“I am very proud of Peke. He works hard and is strong,” said Mariano Gonzalez, a seven-goaler who has been a marquis star at the GPC over the years and is said to be one of the most technically proficient players in the sport. “The team is very good and [we were all] fighting hard.”

Matias Magrini agreed.

“It’s great to see my son out there along with all the other players,” said Magrini, a renowned seven goaler who, like Gonzalez, has been a star headliner at the GPC over the years and who has another son, Kristos, who plays on the famous Greenwich-based White Birch team. (Magrini, meanwhile, is also the uncle of Ruiz-Jorba.) “There’s a lot of action and excitement happening out there when we play.”

Meanwhile, the chemistry among the Reelay crew is just as potent as that of The Island House.

The Island House defeated Reelay to capture the Monty Waterbury Cup trophy. (Peter Michaelis photo)

The Reelay roster features the ever-steady Will Tomita, the team’s patron who has a distinguished presence both on and off the field; Mariano Gonzalez, who has earned worldwide acclaim for his smooth and stealth style; Matias Magrini, one of the sport’s most decorated power hitters who is also reputed to be an outstanding field tactician; and Nicolas Alberdi, the durable Argentinian one-goaler.

As one might expect, these two contingents put on quite a show as they went head-to-head against one another in this heated final and fought as hard as ever in their quest to score the prestigious Monty Waterbury Cup.

In the end, The Island House wound up taking home the tournament trophy, after scoring two all-important match-winning points in the final chukker.

This outcome designated The Island House the main team to beat at the GPC this summer, as this represented their second consecutive tournament title won so far this season.

Ultimately, the superb standard among the players and ponies participating in this final tournament and all of the matches leading up to this showdown has created quite a magical atmosphere at the GPC this season, something that seems to be apparent to practically everyone who has visited this spot over the past few months.

Further, with all of the different backgrounds, legacies, and experience among the players, in addition to their undeniable dedication to the sport of polo, the energy at the GPC seems to be more palpable than ever, making the public Sunday matches an experience worth their weight in gold. 

“It’s awesome to be here,” said Matias Magrini, who, along with all the other players and members of the GPC community, are consistently warm, friendly and happy to chat with the crowd at this unique site, which adds to its famous first-rate reputation. “I love to play here for so many reasons, especially because of the people.”

High-goal matches will be held at the GPC every Sunday through July 21 and will then resume in mid-August and run through late September.

Gates open at 1 p.m. and the matches kick off two hours later.

There is also an asado (Argentinian barbecue with various types of meat as well as salad and bread) after the match that is open to everyone. The cost for the asado is $20.

For more information, visit the GPC website at Greenwichpoloclub.com