Members of the Ankora team celebrate with the trophy as dignitaries look on.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Ankora are the inaugural Sultan Bin Zayed Cup champions after overcoming an in-form Abu Dhabi team in a thrilling final at the state-of-the-art Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club on Monday.
The nail-biting clash saw both teams battling hard until the final minutes of the game. Finally, Ankora emerged the winner after prevailing over their rivals 6-5.
The 14-day long (4-6 handicap) tournament, which began on Jan.19, was held under the patronage of Sheikh Falah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club, in memory of Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed, who died in 2019.
Ricardo Garros handed Ankora an early lead after converting a 60-yard penalty in the third minute of the first chukker. Elena Venot opened the account for Abu Dhabi in the next chukker, but Garros struck twice to put his team ahead 3-2.
Raising the stakes, Abu Dhabi cancelled the lead and later gained the upper hand with Hugo Barabucci scoring thrice.
Zayed Khalifa Zayed Al Aboudi Al Zaabi (right) presents a momento to Aref Al Awani.
In the tense last chukker, both Ankora and Abu Dhabi gave a tough fight to each other. Garros asserted his class and put two more through the posts to give Ankora the lead and, backed up by the strong defense, they maintained their slim lead to wrap up the title.
Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), Saeed Bin Houfan Al Mansouri, vice-chairman of Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club, Zayed Khalifa Zayed Al Aboudi Al Zaabi, Executive Director of Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club, and Amr Zedan, chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, graced the occasion.
Awani gave away the prizes to the winners in the presence of dignitaries. Zaabi congratulated the winners and hailed the success of the first edition of the Sultan Bin Zayed Cup.
Earlier, the subsidiary final between Ghantoot B and Anningsley Park Farm was also a closely contested affair.
Anningsley Park Farm made a perfect start and quickly established a 2-0 lead through Raja Abul Jubein and Pablo Llorente’s field goals.
Ahmed Al Sammach and Talal Al Wandawi then added one each to help Anningsley Park Farm extend their advantage.
Down 0-3 in the third chukker, the hosts fought back through Emillio Novillo and Ramiro Cordero. Making an impressive comeback, Ghantoot B, who failed to find the target in the first two chukkers, reduced the deficit with Cordero completing his brace.
Play was more evenly-matched in the fourth chukker, with a lot of back and forth from both the teams.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the hosts fired four goals in the last chukker to beat Anningsley Park Farm by a narrow margin of seven goals to six.
Cordero, who emerged as top scorer of the tournament, was instrumental in his team’s victory. Showing some of his customary zeal, Cordero dodged traffic to score two crucial goals in the dying minutes of the game.
He was well supported by Novillo, who also added two. Cordero was the high scoring player of the match, with four goals.
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council was the governing partner of the tournament in collaboration with Emirates Polo Association, while Capex.com, Yas International Properties LLC, Yas International Holding, Alpine Rent A Car, Zone Waste Management and Recycling, Ateeq Farriers Best Choice, Midad Printing and Advertising, Amal Foods, and Wisdom Veterinary Medicines were the official sponsors of the Sultan Bin Zayed Cup.A number of fans watched the action through Ghantoot Polo and Racing Club’s YouTube channel, while the Abu Dhabi Sports channels broadcast the final live.
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