Darlene Ricker and Alannah Castro | 08/14/17

About a half-hour before the Valiente-Kentucky match Sunday in the Colorado Open, Adolfo Cambiaso was hanging out in the team tent with the guys. All their grooms except one (guess whose?) knew which ponies to prepare for each chukker. Agustín Nero’s list had been taped an hour earlier to a tree where his bridles were hanging.

Cambiaso’s groom, Cristian Rey, walked up to him silently with a yellow legal pad where a list of horses’ names were neatly written in block letters. Cambiaso reached for it, thought for a moment or two, and quickly jotted numbers beside each name. He chose to start the game on Fatima, followed in order of chukker by: Cresiente, Xuxa (“Shoo-sha”), Readle and Moonshine. He saved Memoriosa, who he played to a U.S. Open victory, for the sixth chukker.

Cambiaso’s choice of horses can affect the game in more ways than you might think. Most players tend to reserve their two best horses for the fifth and sixth chukkers, but for Cambiaso there’s more to it than that. His decision whether to take a penalty shot himself or send a teammate to the line depends in part on which horse he is on—it needs to be a steady, reliable pony he has confidence in.

That formula worked well for him Sunday. He was spot-on, as usual, and Valiente took the day 9-8 over Colorado. A defiant Colorado immediately had their hands full as 2-goaler Kian Hall immediately set to work, tapping in a goal early in the first chukker, and Cambiaso sank a penalty shot to put Valiente up 2-0.

Diego Cavanagh's goal along the ground kept Colorado in it, but Cambiaso and Hall preyed on slight mistakes to score. Patron Bob Jornayvaz played a key part, working hard to keep Pablo Spinacci and Rob Jornayvaz out of the equation. Spinacci kept hope alive for Colorado with a massive breakaway to make the score 4-2, but Nero and Cambiaso widened the margin with two goals in the third.

Nero nailed a penalty shot with trademark accuracy during an error-strewn beginning of the fourth chukker, but then Colorado came to life. Taking off on a scoring rampage, Rob Jornayvaz and Cavanagh scored three unanswered goals in quick succession to narrow Valiente's lead to 7-5.

Penalty shots proved to be Valiente's bread and butter as Nero and Cambiaso continued to score, but it was Bob Jornayvaz who cleared a goal by Spinacci at a critical juncture (the end of the fifth chukker) to effectively halt Colorado's momentum.

Cavanagh dominated the tail end of the game, tapping in a goal and nailing two penalty shots, but the clock was in Valiente's favor as the game ended 9-8.  Still, Colorado should be very happy with their second half performance, which stands them in good stead for their upcoming league game against Hawaii Polo Life on Wednesday. Although it’s not officially a semi-final under tournament conditions, the winner gets the chance to take on Cambiaso again in the August 19 final. 

The Colorado Open final at Denver Polo Club will take place in conjunction with the 2017 Rocky Mountain Polo Festival, hosted by Polo Fest and Polo Channel. Information: darlene@polochannel.com.

Complete footage of all games in the Colorado Open may be viewed on polochannel.com. Daily game hotline: (310) 210-4004.

Photos © Polo Channel