Colorado Captures Sterling Cup

Sterling Cup champion Colorado players Rob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, MVP Diego Cavanagh and Nick Johnson - Photo by Gabrielle Stodd

Colorado Knocks Off Valiente To Capture Sterling Cup; Diego Cavanagh Named Most Valuable Player

In one the biggest upsets in Sterling Cup history, Colorado won its first major 20-goal tournament Saturday at windy Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Nick Johnson, 3) rallied for a thrilling 9-8 upset of defending champion Valiente (Kian Hall, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) in front of a good local crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience. 

It was Colorado’s biggest tournament win in its two-year history as a team and first time all four players won the Sterling Cup including Johnson, who was making his 20-goal tournament debut.

Winning Colorado players Rob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Diego Cavanagh and Nick Johnson

“That was a very fun game,” said Rob Jornayvaz. “This is our biggest win. The team all kind of came together at the last minute.”

Argentine 9-goaler Diego Cavanagh was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high four goals including the game-winner with two minutes left on an amazing 60-yard safety conversion in  windy conditions.

Santi Torres of Colorado drives downfield with Valiente’s Poroto Cambiaso and Kian Hall in pursuit. 

“That was pretty unreal,” Jornayvaz said of Cavanagh’s game-winner. “Honestly, we got very lucky in that corner that the ball went out off of Robertito and we got a safety.
“To be honest he smoked it,” Jornayvaz said. “It went right in the center. It went super high and just dropped right in the goal. I didn’t see who got a mallet on it but it was already too late when it went in. Then it was just about running out the clock.”

Added Torres: “Diego is really good at penalties. I felt it was good when he was going to the ball and I knew it was going to go.”

Adolfo Cambiaso tries to hook Diego Cavanagh of Colorado. 

Colorado finished the five-day, six team tournament undefeated with a 3-0 record. In early games, Colorado defeated Santa Clara, 9-8, and Casablanca, 13-10, and finished with 31 goals in the tournament.

Valiente (2-1) also scored 31 goals in three games. In its first two games, Valiente defeated Sebucan, 14-9 and Audi, 9-4. Both teams are in the J5 Equestrian organization.

Diego Cavanagh of Colorado leans for the ball with Kian Hall of Valiente. 

“This is a big win for the organization,” Torres said. “Obviously, it was going home either way. It was even better that it was for our side. It was a tough game. They were a really good team. It was four against four today and it was for everybody.”

In the fast-paced game, the lead changed hands five times late in the second half. Valiente led 5-3 at halftime and dominated most of the game until 6:08 in the fifth chukker when Cavanagh scored to tie the game at 6-6.

Rob Jornayvaz of Colorado hooks Poroto Cambiaso of Valiente.
Valiente regained the lead, 7-6, on Zedda’s 30-yard penalty conversion with 2:43 left. Colorado tied the game at 7-7 after Johnson tapped in Cavanagh’s missed safety with 49 seconds left in the fifth chukker. 

Colorado took the lead, 8-7, for the first time with 7:23 left in the sixth chukker on Cavanagh’s 30-yard penalty conversion. Four minutes later, Adolfo Cambiaso scored to tie the game, 8-8.
Colorado took the lead for the second and final time when Cavanagh nailed a safety lofting the ball 60 yards to the left of the goal post, curving in with the help of the wind. After that it was just a matter of Colorado eating up the clock.

Nick Johnson of Colorado goes for the big hit downfield.

“For sure I was aiming left because I knew there was some wind,” Cavanagh said. “It was likely the wind would keep the ball. Once I hit it, I started to pray.
“To win a tournament is always amazing,” Cavanagh said. “It was very competitive. We played against Adolfo Cambiaso and Juan Martin Nero in this tournament. It was a big win and very important for us. We are very happy.”

In addition to Cavanagh’s four goals, Jornayvaz and Torres each had two goals and Johnson had one for Colorado.

Adolfo Cambiaso of Valiente attempts to hook Santi Torres of Colorado. 

Torres turned in one of his finest performances in a final, playing aggressively, coming up with key steals and defending well. It was also Torres and Johnson who kept the ball away from Valiente in the final minute.

Poroto Cambiaso of Valiente works the ball out of the air with Diego Cavanagh of Colorado defending. 

“It was a fun final and luckily we got up again and won by one,” Torres said.
Zedda led Valiente with three goals, including two on penalty conversions. Hall and Adolfo Cambiaso each had two goals and Poroto Cambiaso had one goal.
In addition to the strong field of players, the tournament showcased some of the best horses in the sport and were awarded three separate honors. Two of the three horses are owned by J5 Equestrian.

Moonshine, played by 13-year-old Poroto Cambiaso in the third chukker, was named Best Playing Pony for the championship final.
Moonshine, played by Poroto Cambiaso, Best Playing Pony for the championship final. 

Festival, a stallion played by Adolfo Cambiaso in the sixth chukker, was selected Best Playing Pony for the tournament. Festival is out of Dolfina Cuartetera B04 and Dolfina Ventura.

Festival, a stallion played by Adolfo Cambiaso, Best Playing Pony for the tournament. 

Lufthanza, ridden by Poroto Cambiaso in the fourth chukker and owned by La Dolfina, earned the coveted American Polo Horse Association best registered horse of the game.

Lufthanza, ridden by Poroto Cambiaso, American Polo Horse Association best registered horse of the game.

The APHA was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

In last year’s Sterling Cup Adolfo, Mia and Poroto Cambiaso made history by winning their first ever high goal tournament together. Along with teammate Magoo Laprida, Valiente knocked off pre-tournament favorite Audi (Marc Ganzi, Henry Porter, Nic Roldan, Nico Pieres), 10-4, in the final. Mia Cambiaso was MVP.

Colorado teammates Diego Cavanagh, Nick Johnson and Rob Jornayvaz celebrate after the game. 

The Sterling Cup is one of two prestigious tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club resurrected three years ago after a 22-year absence. It was brought back by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi in hopes of recapturing polo’s glory days. It was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup and last played in 1995. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as eighteen teams.