Date: Monday, August 31, 2020
The long awaited rematch against Hamptons-based rival, New York was not likely to be derailed by the threat of rain last Saturday, as bullish captains staid the course in preparing for the big showdown, with the prestigious Clarke Cooke Cup up for grabs. After the overnight passed without a drop of the 70% predicted precipitation, ponies boarded the morning ferry for their maiden voyage from Long Island to the mainland, and marched on Newport.
Locally, the grey, tropical depression moved quickly through the state, largely missing the polo grounds as the stage was being set for the 5PM match. Gates opened at 3PM on schedule, and fans began arriving late in the afternoon, as the weather abated, much to the pleasure of staunch supporters as well as new comers excited to experience their first polo match. A Jazz playlist set the tone for Gatsby themed gatherings, as the festive atmosphere began to take shape. Horse trailers arrived punctually, flags snapped in the warm breeze and aromas of grilling picnics from tailgates and gourmet food trucks filled the air.
Playing for New York in white uniforms were Keith Hart at #1, Slaney O'Hanlon at #2, Atahualpa Alonso at #3 and Esteban Scott at #4. In Newport red jerseys, the home team fielded Roger Souto at #1, Minnie Keating at #2, Dan Keating at #3 and Rory Torrey at #4.
Captains assembled at centerfield following player introductions and the US national anthem, for the Official Coin Toss, presided by Christon Gibson, producer of Newport Living & Lifestyle's media, which decided the opening direction of attack for the visiting team. 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.
The argyle-patterned green was firm enough for the up tempo match to unfold, but would require a half time repair from the audience - the time honored tradition of treading in the divots. As the teams thundered back and forth, campaigning for the goal mouth, defenders hooked and bumped to foil the offensive attacks. Newport's Torrey drove in the first two goals of the period, then Southampton got on the board with O'Hanlon's goal to end the period with a hometeam lead, 2-1. Newport's defense concentrated on marking Scott heavily in the second chukker, which left O'Hanlon open to score twice to take the lead, then Hart & Alonso padded the lead with contributing goals,while Newport's Torrey stemmed the tide with a goal, ending the period trailing 5-3. 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 came out striking in the 3rd period, with a goal by M Keating, answered with a goal from Scott, but Newport's Torrey had the final point to end the first half, trailing 6-5.
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, which makes a big difference when a soft field has been turned up. The Drink of the Day, the '21st Amendment' was a popular choice at the Patio Bar, acknowledging the Jazz era milestone that ended Prohibition. 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 was on offer in the fieldside Pro Shop. Old Glory rippled at centerfield next to the national flag of England in a row of 34 international flags overhead that have participated in former seasons.
The most exciting developments of the 4th chukker were the awarding of the Best in Show prize to a roaring 20's themed anniversary celebration, and the Door prize bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne to a man from Newport, as neither team managed to score, but a pony goal gave New York a 1-point gain, for 7-5 score. Scott delivered a big goal in the 5th chukker despite defensive maneuvers by the hometeam, and Torrey delivered a goal to keep Newport in the game, 8-6. Scott took advantage of a controversial penalty that could have closed the gap for Newport but turned the momentum in NY's favor, resulting in a goal to widen the lead, though Souto quickly negated it with a goal for Newport, the clock ran out on the hometeam's final drive, giving New York the win on the day, 9-7.
The teams took their traditional salutatory lap around the perimeter, giving farewell gestures to the applause of grateful attendees, a tradition originating at the Newport International Polo Series in 2003, and now emulated at polo clubs around the world, followed by the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Toast & Trophy Presentation with Jeannie Sullivan and Nell Melanson from the venerable Clarke Cooke House where the team would have its celebratory dinner later, awarding the vintage Reed & Barton designed Clarke Cooke Cup, inaugurated in 2011.
Resident portrait photographer Quison Lawhon captured family gatherings and picnics in Jazz age decor & attire (published online at Cocoa & Co.) in contention for Best In Show honors from Stella Artois awarded by guest judge, Newport Living & Lifestyle's Christon Gibson, and a chance to grace the party pages of an upcoming issue of Boston Common Magazine, while enjoying one of this season's rare 17 matches, still the only live attended sporting event in New England since the start of the pandemic.
Safety being a top priority, RI State approved COVID-19 safety measures are in effect at the polo grounds this season (plan details) 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 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.
The Polo Grounds' favorable proximity to the shores of the island's Sakonnet east passage provides reliably cool coastal effects, moderating afternoon temperatures and providing a dependable breeze for the late afternoon polo matches all summer. 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 Insurance, Davitt, Boston Common, Hotel Viking, The Chanler, The Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina, Vanderbilt International Properties, Veuve Clicquot, Clarke Cooke House, Stella Artois, ROCKSTAR Limo, Atria Senior Living, Goslings, McGrath Clambakes and Catering, and promotional partners including The Cocktail Guru, TYGER | Event Design + Production, Newport Jaguar Tours, Newport Helicopter Tours, America's Cup Charters, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Mansions, Island Surf and Sport, Newport Sport Fishing Charters, Providence River Boat Company, and Newport Harbor Guide. Special thanks to Schultz Marketing Partnerships, Van Liew Trust, Tanglewood, 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.