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Fri 25th Jan 2019

Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Starts

Fantastic first day of sparkling snow polo action

The heart of the Engadin Valley was once again aflame with polo prowess, as thousands of spectators crowded the stands for the kick-off of the world’s oldest, biggest and most extravagant snow polo event – the 35th annual Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz. The pristine snow conditions and blazing sunshine ensured ideal playing conditions for the best snow polo players in the world to do battle on the iconic frozen lake of St. Moritz.

Azerbaijan Land of Fire were back to battle for the coveted trophy in the first match against 2018 champions Cartier, and with the addition of father/son duo Marc and Grant Ganzi in the number one and two shirts for Cartier, the competition was rife. From the off, Azerbaijan Land of Fire had their work cut out, with 10 goal Juan Martín Nero, fresh from his Argentine Open win in December, firing a 60 yard penalty high in the sky, which was discreetly knocked in by Marc Ganzi in the first minute. The boys in white weren’t far behind, with Agustín Kronhaus securing his first goal of the match to put the scores at 1-1½ just as quickly. 7 goal Isidro Strada was the next on the scoreboard, having secured the ball in five consecutive throw-ins for the Azerbaijan Land of Fire team. By the end of the first frenetic chukka, Nero had ensured Cartier weren’t far behind, dribbling through the opposition to bring the scores to 2-2½. The second chukka was no less tense, with Nero finding his rhythm taking Cartier ahead 4-3½, to only one in response from Adrian Laplacette Jr before the break. It was all passion and power on the field today, evident by the two evenly matched teams and their impressive horsepower. By the end of the third, Cartier were still in the lead 5-4½, following a perfectly timed penalty from Nero that bounced off the post, despite Azerbaijan fighting back to take a temporary lead early on. It was all to play for the final, tense seven minutes and with an impressive goal from Laplacette Jr, breaking out of the mêlée, Azerbaijan Land of Fire secured their first win and The Royal Salute Trophy 5-5½.  
So, it was time for the hotly anticipated second match of the day for The President’s Cup.  This was between Melissa Ganzi’s black shirted Badrutt’s Palace, keen to make a mark against the horsepower of Maserati. Max Charlton’s rise to 10 goals in the UK arena handicaps this week, teamed with Chris ‘The Prof’ Hyde, seven-time winner here in St. Moritz made Maserati a force to be reckoned with. However, Ganzi’s playing partnership with 9 goal maestro Alejandro Novillo Astrada, fresh from last weekend’s polo in Kitzbühel certainly did not disappoint. First timer on the snow was Alfredo Bigatti, playing off 8 goals and finding his form fast. The first two chukkas saw relatively scrappy play from players of this calibre as both teams sized each other up. But the third chukka saw the teams relax into open, flowing polo that had the spectators jumping to their feet and screaming with excitement.
At half-time it was anybody’s game with Maserati holding their first half lead at 3-2, ably abetted by Robert Strom, playing a tactical and quick witted game off 5 goals. The third chukka saw Badrutt’s equalise and then take the lead for the first time. But their advantage was short lived as Maserati once again equalised to end the third chukka with even scores on the doors at 3-3.
The last chukka was edge of the seat stuff. Play matched play, penalty for penalty, ride-off for ride-off as the tension mounted. The result was a 5-5 score with just seconds of play left. Charlton broke free of the pack, stormed down the ground and lofted a shot that cleared the posts just as the final whistle blew to bring the final score to 6-5 in Maserati’s favour. And so, Maserati’s horsepower reigned supreme, but by the closest of margins.
Play continues tomorrow with Badrutt’s Palace playing Azerbaijan Land of Fire at 12.30pm local time and then at 2.15pm Maserati playing Cartier to decide the line-up for Finals’ Day on Sunday.
The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz Teams:
Cartier (17): Marc Ganzi (2), Grant Ganzi (3), Juan Martín Nero (10) & Tito Gaudenzi (2)
Azerbaijan Land of Fire (17): Ali Rzayev (0), Agustin Kronhaus (4), Adrian Laplacette Jr (6) & Isidro Strada (7)
Badrutt's Palace (16): Melissa Ganzi (0), Juan Bautista Peluso (0), Alfredo Bigatti (8) & Alejandro Novillo Astrada (8)
Maserati (16): Valery Mishchenko (0), Robert Strom (5), Max Charlton (6) & Chris Hyde (5)
Photograph: Azerbaijan Land of Fire secured their first match in St. Moritz against 2018 winners Cartier. By ©www.imagesofpolo.com

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