Finally, a game this season that lived up to the hype—and then some. Valiente and Orchard Hill slammed it out with every heartbeat in the 2017 U.S. Open final Tuesday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Diego Cavanagh, who has had a stunningly successful season, sewed it up for Valiente 13-12 in overtime, handing Valiente their second U.S. Open win (previously in 2010) and their first U.S. Triple Crown honor.
It was mind-boggling that a battle on a 300-yard field came down to inches, sometimes play after play. That tenor started right from the throw-in, when Orchard Hill’s Polito Pieres took the ball and found Facundo Pieres on the end of a pass. Facundo bounced a shot in off the goal post to open the scoring less than 30 seconds into the game. Later, with time expiring, Adolfo Cambiaso shot at goal from about 60 yards out, the ball sailed over the inside edge of the goal post, narrowly missing a goal by inches.
The smallest of margins continued to define a game between two relentless opponents. In the sixth chukker Polito took a Facundo backhand and hit a cut shot from 40 yards out that found its way barely inside the goal post to tie the game at 12. Just seconds before the final horn Facundo caught Cavanagh on a turn near the Valiente goal. After a reversed call and a challenge, Orchard Hill had a penalty 4 opportunity, but the ball hurtled over the goalpost ever-so-slightly wide, sending the game into a seventh chukker.
In overtime Cambiaso missed a goal by inches on a shot from 40 yards out. After the ball went out of play approximately 100 yards from the Orchard Hill goal, Cavanagh broke out of the back end of the line-up and scampered to goal for his seventh goal on the day to deliver the 13-12 victory to Valiente.
Ignoring the cramps in his arms, a breathless Adolfo Cambiaso swept Cavanagh into his arms the moment they leapt off their horses. Afterward, back in the team tent, the two sat across from each other, laughing, shaking their heads and rejoicing in the mutual accomplishment.
“Diego deserved this,” said Cambiaso. “It was amazing for me because I won the Triple Crown in 2010 with Crab Orchard, but now it is with my own organization and Bob Jornayvaz. With Bob I can accomplish everything I want with Valiente, and that’s so important to me.”
It was a devastating loss for defending champion Orchard Hill. Polito Pieres, who had his most outstanding day of the season—arguably anyone’s most outstanding day of the season—was beyond words back in the tent. Patron Steve Van Andel wore a stoic smile, saying he was happy for his team to have been a finalist. He said he is debating whether to continue in high-goal polo next season but confirmed that he’s in the sport to stay.
Meanwhile, Cambiaso had his sights firmly glued on the future. “Now I have to think of the Nations Cup next Saturday,” he said. “I want to win another tournament with my son, Poroto, and next year go for a second consecutive Triple Crown win for Valiente.”
MVP: Matias Torres Zavaleta
BPP US Open Final: "B09" (Cuartetera Clone) Adolfo Cambiaso
Horse of the Year: "Los Machitos Jazzita" Facundo Pieres
Argentine Pony of the US Open Final: "Mentolada" Adolfo Cambiaso
Photography: D.Lominska (IPC)