USA Return the Westchester Cup to American Soil For the First Time Since 1992
On the heels of last weekend’s repeat Junior Westchester Cup win, USA entered the Westchester Cup determined to defeat the English on Sunday, April 28, at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Waging the historic challenge on the international stage of the U.S. Polo Assn. Field, England brought Henry Porter, Ollie Cudmore, Jack Richardson and Tommy Beresford from across the pond. USA, represented by Mike Azzaro, Peke Gonzalez, Geronimo Obregon* and Jared Zenni*, found themselves in a pulse-pounding overtime chukker, Obregon delivering the final goal to capture the Westchester Cup 9-8 for the first time since 1992.
A fast-paced game from the onset, the two nations traded goals in the first half until USA gained the upper hand with a controlled offensive attack led by Azzaro and Gonzalez. Looking to defend the Westchester Cup, Richardson struck first on Rosita for England, however Gonzalez retaliated with a Penalty 2 conversion and one from the field. Leading 2-1 after the first chukker, the Americans successfully held off England’s three Penalty 5 attempts by creating turnovers with an active defense. Play opened up to create end-to-end action with eight shots accumulated between the two teams as England restored the tie 3-all with field goals from Cudmore and Richardson to end the second. Proving deadly from the penalty line, Gonzalez easily converted two consecutive penalties, leaving England scoreless in the third allowing the USA to maintain a two-goal lead 5-3 headed into the half.
“This was the first year that I was able to be part of the organization that chose the team and I felt these three guys were champions. To beat a team like England, who has beaten us several times, you have to have a champion team on the field and these guys were warriors.” – Mike Azzaro
An offensive battle ensued in the fourth as both teams traded goals twice. Responding to a Penalty 1 in favor of England, Azzaro delivered an incredible tailshot goal, his second on the day. The impact of the number four players on both teams was noticeable in the second half, Zenni assisting on both USA goals, while Beresford added a goal and an assist for England. USA maintained the gap after the fifth chukker 8-6 with just seven-and-a-half minutes left in regulation time. Pressuring USA all over the field, a relentless English attack led by Cudmore fought to reduce the deficit and tie the game. Producing three powerful shots on goal, Cudmore cut the lead in half with his second field goal of the game, and promptly added a Penalty 2 conversion to equalize the score 8-all and send the electrifying match into overtime.
Dodging several close calls in their end zone at the start of overtime, the USA fought off defenders in their pursuit of the most important goal of the game. Picking up the ball at midfield, Zenni sent Obregon on the breakaway with a pass downfield, which Obregon confidently sent through the goal to seal USA’s 9-8 overtime victory and capture the Westchester Cup on home soil.
Reflecting on the win, Coach Julio Arellano was proud of his team’s effort. “We needed to win after having not won it since 1992,” Arellano said. “Especially since it was here, with a home field advantage, there was no excuse. Hats off to the English because it could have gone either way, so I’m very proud of the guys. Everyone stepped up to the plate and they played as a team which is all that I wanted. I didn’t want them to go home win or lose and feel like they should have or could have done more. I wanted them to leave it all on the field and have no regrets.”
Competing in the 2018 Westchester Cup, Peke Gonzalez was happy to reclaim the coveted trophy for his country. “It’s an awesome feeling to win,” Gonzalez said. “I went last year to play in England and we lost there so to win here at home is lovely.”
Scoring the golden goal in overtime, Geronimo Obregon was named Most Valuable Player. “I said to myself in that moment, ‘I have to make it, this is it!’ Obregon said reflecting on the game winning shot. “I just hoped for the best and it went in. My teammates played amazing and it could have been any one of us [to win Most Valuable Player], I just happened to be the lucky one to make the last goal.”
Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Mike Azzaro’s Allie, a bay mare he played in the second, fifth and overtime chukkers. “She is an appendix mare from Oklahoma and she’s been one of my top mares in the 26-goal for the last three years,” Azzaro said. “It was extra special to win because I wasn’t playing this season and I had brought her and two other mares to sell. I was asked to captain the Westchester Cup team and I said I only had three horses here, but I was able to lease horses and get organized.”
The Retired Racehorse Project Off the Track Thoroughbred Best Playing Pony blanket was awarded to Geisha, a grey mare played by Peke Gonzalez in half of the first, sixth and overtime chukkers. “My dad [Mariano Gonzalez] was playing her in the GAUNTLET OF POLO™ with Equuleus,” Gonzalez said. “When the season ended and I was invited to play in the Westchester Cup I asked my dad if he could lend her to me. She’s a great horse and she played amazing today.”
England’s Tommy Beresford was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award.