Thai Polo take victory in last-gasp thriller

Friday, 08 February 2013 From Issue Vol. XXI No. 6

The BMW- B.Grimm Thai Polo Open 2013

Captained astutely by tournament co-organizer Harold Link, the locally based Thai Polo team held on for a thrilling win in the final of the BMW- B.Grimm Thai Polo Open 2013 held at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya on Saturday, Jan. 19.

A star-studded line up of dignitaries, socialites and celebrities arrived for the annual event and could be spotted among the many spectators.  Included in the VIP guest list were HRH Crown Prince Abdullah ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Malaysia; H.E. Ana Maria Ramirez, Argentine Ambassador to Thailand; H.E. Rolf Schulze, the German Ambassador to Thailand; and H.E. Robina P. Marks, the South African Ambassador to Thailand.  The event was presided over by H.E. Air Chief Marshal Kamthon Sindhvananda, Privy Councillor.

The victorious Thai Polo team raise the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup after winning an exciting final at the BMW- B.Grimm Thai Polo Open.The victorious Thai Polo team raise the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup after winning an exciting final at the BMW- B.Grimm Thai Polo Open.

Along with the polo matches there were also plenty of activities to keep guests entertained throughout the day, especially the young ones who could swing around having fun in the Tree Top Adventure or take one of the complimentary pony rides.

For the more sedate amongst the crowd, a sumptuous buffet lunch followed by high tea was served in the huge open-air marquee and there was a chance to view BMW’s latest luxury automobiles on show or do some shopping in the many stalls selling chic branded clothing and accessories.  Other meanwhile preferred to simply sit back, chill out and enjoyed the music of jazz saxophonist Aht Gunlayanakupt.

This yearly social gathering is also always a great excuse for spectators to don their ‘Sunday Best’ and turn the event into almost as much a fashion parade as it is a sporting contest.  As in past years, an award was given for the ‘best hat’ seen on display, which this time was won by the stylishly adorned Marisa Chew.

Thai Polo and AXUS fight for possession of the ball during the first half of the match.Thai Polo and AXUS fight for possession of the ball during the first half of the match.

In the polo itself, the Ranhill team defeated Royal Pahang 9–8 in a free scoring playoff match to take third place overall.  Pahang were trailing by as many as five goals at one point but they slowly clawed their way back into the game and with two goals in the last minute by Tengku Amir they almost completed a remarkable recovery, but they just ran out of time.

The final match between Thai Polo and the AXUS team was preceded by the traditional and eye-catching parade of the BMW cars, polo players and horses, led as always by Nunthinee Tanner, co-owner of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club.

Everything was set for the final match, with Thai Polo looking to go one place better than last year’s runner-up spot.  And it all looked to be heading their way as they took a 4-2 lead into the half-time break, but disaster struck for Thai Polo when Carloline Link fell heavily in the third chukka and had to be taken to hospital with a suspected broken forearm.  Caroline’s replacement, Juan Martin Gallago had a higher handicap than her, which meant that Thai Polo had to give their opponents ½ a goal advantage.

The clock ticks down on the scoreboard as Thai Polo hold a narrow lead in the final chukka.The clock ticks down on the scoreboard as Thai Polo hold a narrow lead in the final chukka.

The home team still led 7-5½ going into the final chukka but some good play by Musso and Etcheverry for AXUS led to another score and saw them reduce the deficit to just ½ a goal with the clock rapidly ticking down to full time.

In the dying seconds, Thai Polo conceded a 60-yard safety after knocking the ball behind their own goal line and all the disappointment of last year’s final defeat suddenly returned to haunt the Thai Polo squad as AXUS prepared to take a free shot at goal.

Dario Musso had been the regular penalty taker for AXUS but for some reason this time he deferred to Etcheverry, who had the agony of seeing his game-clinching effort just slide the wrong side of the posts.

Stopping the divots is tradition at any polo match.Stopping the divots is tradition at any polo match.

For the Thai Polo team and supporters the celebrations could begin in earnest, although these were somewhat muted, with many thoughts going to their injured teammate Caroline in hospital.

The trophy presentations took place in front of the clubhouse and winning skipper Harold Link lifted the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup just as a spectacular firework display illuminated the evening sky.

The annual BMW- B.Grimm Thai Polo Open is held primarily as a charity fund raiser and all the proceeds from this year’s event will go to the Chitralada Vocational School under the patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

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