As one of the most prominent competitions in Asia, the B. Grimm Thai Polo Open 2019 saw the best polo players across the region gathered at the Thai Polo and Equestrian Club in Pattaya from the 10th-19th of January, officially kick-starting Thailand’s polo season. Four teams from Thailand, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong were competing this year for the prestigious HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup.
The B.Grimm ~ BMW Thai Polo Open 2019 is the first of five RMPA International League tournaments in 2019. The RMPA International League is a 14-goal league that links five tournaments in Malaysia and Thailand. Teams are awarded points for every game they play, plus bonus points for their order of merit finish at the five league tournaments. The RMPA International League celebrates its 15th year in 2019. The tournament also marked the beginning of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association International League 2019, which continues in Malaysia later this year. The proceeds of the event were given to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Chitralada Vocational School project.
Organized by Dr. Harald Link, President of the South-east Asian Equestrian Federation, the charity aims to raise awareness of the sport in the nation. While the sport itself was introduced to Thailand in the late nineteenth century, polo was still more of a British pastime, especially to the British residents living in the north of Thailand. In 1890, Prince Devawongse Varopakarn, the minister of foreign affairs, accepted the proposal of an Englishman, Franklin Hurst, to set up a racetrack and sports field in Bangkok. Hurst later rented a piece of land at Sra Pathum where occasional horse races, gymkhanas, cycle races and polo matches were held. This sporting area later became the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. In 1924, the Bangkok Riding Club leased land just off Wireless Road from the Crown Property Bureau. This became the Bangkok Riding and Polo Club, where polo and other equestrian sports were played three times a week. After the Second World War, the sport was abandoned for years before it became recognized again. In addition to the aim of bringing awareness about polo, B.Grimm Group joined Dr. Siraya Chuenkamrai—founder and president of The Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation—to bring awareness to the support and welfare of horses in Lampang.
With a guest list including members of royalty, ambassadors and celebrities, the 10 day competition came to a heated event on the 19th to decide the winners and runner ups.
The first playoff match between the teams 22BR 8.5 from Hong Kong and 5 Axus from China ended, with 22BR emerging in third place. The final between Malaysia’s La Familia and Thailand’s Thai Polo was an intense match, fought tooth and nail right to the end. Facundo Fernández Llorente scored first for Thai Polo but Mohamed Moiz tied the match for La Familia in the second chukka, making it 1-1 at half time. In the third chukka, Carlos Pando and Matías Vial both scored, meaning that the match was tied going into the fourth and final chukka. The nail-biting saga drew to a close with La Familia seemingly the winner until Facundo Fernández Llorente scored again, tying the match. Thai Polo seized their chance at glory when the young player was given a 60 yard penalty but ultimately, La Familia earned the coveted title when a spot penalty gave Matias Vial the chance to score—bringing the tournament to a satisfying end at last. The MVP was awarded to Mohamed Moiz.
“I am very happy to have won the Thai Polo Open,” says Vial. “We started the tournament well; we then lost by one against Thai Polo, so we wanted a rematch. We managed to win the final in extra chukka; if we had lost I would have died! I think we won because we carefully thought about how to play the match. They are a good team, so we went into the final focused and determined to win. We had already played against them, so we rewatched the video, we saw the errors we made, and we knew what our game plan was. Also, we were very well mounted, and that helped us go into every chukka in a strong position, which is fundamental in a final.”
Part of the thrill came from the variety of charity kiosks, raffle games and for the younger ones, pony rides. The Wat Suthi Wararam marching band entertained the guests with delightful music before some of Thailand’s national horse riders dazzled with an impressive Show Jumping performance,. Fireworks lit up the skies at the end of the day—the perfect tribute to an exciting day. Spectators and players were invited to a relaxed barbeque party in the evening. Followed by the presentation of the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn cup to La Familia, several other prizes were also presented to the awaiting audience, such as “Best Dress” and “Best Hat” awarded to Violette Gauthier and Susolossa Jaojansakoon respectively.