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Champagne Cup Match Report

Date: Friday, August 28, 2020


The start of the 2020 champagne harvest around the world was cause celebre for the newly minted Champagne Cup last Saturday, August 22 when Newport took on Big Apple rivals as the next in a series of highly competitive East Coast challengers unfolded in the miraculous 29th season of the Newport International Polo Series.

Last year, New York City gave us everything we can handle, and then some. This year victory was within reach,” explains Dan Keating, Newport Captain.  "Champagne is synonymous with polo, not only for its regal heritage and as a rite of summer in Newport, but more so, champagne has been a reward in our Trophy Presentation for nearly 30 years, for reasons best explained in the words of Napoleon Bonaparte: 'in victory, we celebrate with champagne, and in defeat it consoles us'." 

New York is one of America’s sparkling wine producing regions and arguably the largest US consumer as well.  The 2020 harvest is the earliest champagne harvest on record, in the industry's efforts to reduce its environmental footprint and adjust to climate change, to ensure the supply for US and other markets dependably.

Playing for NYC in green/white uniforms were Nano Melendez at #1, Segundo Savari at #2, Inaki Echezarreta at #3 and Al Keshvarzian at #4.  In Newport red jerseys, the home team roster included Sam Clemens at #1, Rory Torrey at #2, Dan Keating at #3 and Dave Bullis at #4.  

Captains assembled at centerfield following player introductions and the US national anthem, for the Official Coin Toss, presided by CBS’s Ashley Erling, Executive Producer of The Rhode Show.   Color commentary during the match was provided by renown authority, Cuko Escapite, while live video action and instant replays were produced on the polo world's first Jumbotron video wall scoreboard.  

A spectator audience manifesting an appreciation for champagne and the heigh of summer with decoration to their seating were in contention for the Best In Show honors from guest judge,  CBS’s Ashley Erling, Executive Producer of The Rhode Show, while enjoying one of this season's rare 17 matches, still the only live sporting event in New England since the start of the pandemic.  A dedicated style photographer captured festive family bubbles, available for viewing by Cocoa & Co.  A lucky attendee from Jamestown won a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in the weekly Door Prize Drawing during the match.

The argyle-patterned green was in mint condition for a fast match, as the teams thundered back and forth, campaigning for the goal mouth, while defenders hooked and bumped to foil attacks.  Newport's Clemens drove in the first goal of the match, but NYC's ringer, Savari countered with a pair of goals in the first period for 2-1 lead.  In the interval between each 7.5 minute period of play, known as chukkers, horses were changed quickly at the field's edge, and strategies are often revised after assessing the strengths of the opposing players.  Newport put more effort on marking Savari, who only contributed a Penalty conversion point, which was leveled by another goal from Clemens, but Keshvarzian scored to pad the lead 4-2, ending the period with a sudden cloudburst that led to a brief rain delay.  The third period resumed the match with an intense barrage of back and forth goals starting with Torrey, answered by Savari and Echezarreta, countered by Clemens, ending with Savari for an 8-5 NYC advantage at halftime.

A half-time intermission gave spectators the opportunity to have a socially-distanced and masked stroll across the playing field to replace divots, a time-honored polo ritual that helps restore the field for the second half.  Drinks were refreshed and food trucks dished out popular refreshments including handmade pizza, gourmet hotdogs, kettle corn, homemade ice cream, gelato, donuts and shaved ice, and new limited edition official sportswear made its debut in the fieldside Pro Shop.  A soundtrack of summer favorites including reggae sounds in homage to the Jamaican team that was originally schedule to compete, compiled by DJ Dan could be heard across the venue, as Old Glory rippled at centerfield next to the national flag of Jamaica in a row of 34 international flags overhead that have participated in former seasons. 

Newport's frontman, Clemens was again in position to punch the leadoff goal in the 4th chukker, but Savari scored to maintain the lead 9-6.  Newport's hustle closed the gap in the 5th period with 3 goals by Keating and Torrey, holding NYC to only 2 points by Keshvarzian and Eshezarreta to trial 9-11. The hometeam crowd cheered jubilantly with each opportunity, but as the clock ticked, NYC's Meledez scored, and Keating's final goal was not enough to overtake the challengers, in the 12-10 final.

The match concluded with the Newport Polo Fan Salute around the perimeter - a tradition originating at the Newport International Polo Series in 2003, and now emulated at polo clubs around the world, and the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Toast & Trophy Presentation with Jason Birkett of RI Distributing, suppliers of our popular champagne & sparkling wine portfolio, awarding the newly minted Champagne Cup.

Under a State-approved plan including reduced capacity with socially-distanced tables in the Davitt Pavilion, fieldside Tailgates and Picnic Patches on the lawn from which to view the matches at the polo grounds, sold-out audiences have enjoyed the Newport International Polo Series polo matches every Saturday since Opening Day on June 6, where spectators for nearly 30 years have witnessed the timeless sport unfold on the manicured, emerald green at Glen Farm, home of the Polo Series for the past 28 seasons, in a classic exhibition of horsemanship and valor, with host, the Newport Polo Club, where the home team - Newport/USA - meets challengers each season from around the world and as well as teams representing major US cities and regional rivals in one of Newport's unique traditions & renown attractions.  

The Polo Series is scheduled to continue for the next 5 weeks, every Saturday through September. The schedule of teams is subject to change, as per RI State mandates in effect at the time, on international travel and Adult Sports.  Stay current with the 2020 team lineup & stats, latest news, events, and more by e-scription to the Gameday Briefing (sign up) and weekly eMagazine (sign up). Both subscriptions are private and spam-free.

Safety being a top priority, RI State approved COVID-19 safety measures are in effect at the polo grounds this season including online sales, masks required when not seated, social distancing and greatly reduced capacity.  Read full details

The Polo Grounds' favorable proximity to the Sakonnet shore provides its reliable cooling coastal effect, moderating afternoon temperatures and providing a dependable breeze.  Minutes from the bustling Newport waterfront, the International Polo Grounds are located on the acreage of Glen Farm, 250 Linden Lane (off of Rte. 138) in Portsmouth, RI. This bucolic setting is the last 100 acres of a pre-colonial settlement from the 1600’s that became the Town of Portsmouth's original gentlemen's farm, an 800-acre manorial estate established during a Gilded Age movement of retreat from the high life into pastoral country acres, that would become the future home of polo in the next century. Its classical 19th century stone barns and its park-like grounds were rehabilitated by Polo Series founder, Dan Keating in the early 1990’s and continue to thrive as an equestrian & community recreational property, and home of the Polo Series.  

The Newport International Polo Series is honored to present its 2020 sponsors including Gallo|Thomas InsuranceDavittBoston CommonHotel VikingThe ChanlerThe Newport Harbor Hotel & MarinaVanderbilt International PropertiesVeuve ClicquotClarke Cooke HouseStella ArtoisROCKSTAR LimoAtria Senior LivingGoslingsMcGrath Clambakes and Catering, and promotional partners including The Cocktail GuruTYGER | Event Design + ProductionNewport Jaguar ToursNewport Helicopter ToursAmerica's Cup ChartersInternational Tennis Hall of FameNewport MansionsIsland Surf and SportNewport Sport Fishing ChartersProvidence River Boat Company, and Newport Harbor Guide.  Special thanks to Schultz Marketing Partnerships, Van Liew TrustTanglewood, and WCRI Classical Rhode Island.  “Our sponsors have been with us since the beginning. Without their support, the Series would not be as extensive as it is,” explains Dan Keating, Polo Series founder.

This is the 29th season of Newport International Polo Series, which has hosted teams from 34 nations including, Ireland, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, France, Egypt, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Nigeria, Portugal, New Zealand, Barbados, Scotland, South Africa, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Kenya, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, Monaco, Morocco, Peru, and Poland.

Cover Photo by Stephen Almeida.  View the Album

Polo, Since 600 b.c.

Polo is, without doubt the oldest ball game in the world today. First recorded in the 6th century b.c. when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a diplomatic tournament, the alluring game caught on with equestrian royalty and cavalry, and took off with globalization, withstanding the tests of time. By the time Polo arrived on Newport’s shores during the Gilded Age, the sport was nearly 2500 years steeped in tradition, captivating newcomers like Newport's summer sporting set who embraced the new pastime, establishing America's first polo club in 1876.  A charter member of the United States Polo Association, the club today is still a trailblazing model polo club, hosting the Newport International Polo Series public exhibition matches, supporting philanthropic causes, organizing tournaments, polo club member services and polo instruction year-round. Experience the king of games in its American landing at Newport Polo.