Ayala players and supporting team staff celebrate the 2017 Spanish Gold Cup Championship win at the Santa Maria Polo Club.

Ayala polo team (Iñigo Zobel, Gregorio Gelosi, Santiago Laborde and Facundo Pieres) jumped all over Michael Bickford’s La Indiana lineup (Michael Bickford, Juan Gris Zavaleta, Tincho Merlos and Byron Watson) in the opening chukker of the final high-goal tournament of the Spanish season at the Santa Maria Polo Club Sunday.  Two quick Ayala goals saw Gregorio Gelosi and Santiago Laborde score from the first two throw-ins to make it 2-0.  La Indiana struggled to fight back but Ayala controlled much of the play.  A final goal from Facundo Pieres ended the first period with Ayala taking the early lead, 3-0.

La Indiana got back in the game in the second chukker with a penalty goal from Tincho Merlos and a goal from the field from Juan Martin Zavaleta.  Ayala responded with goals from 10-goaler Facundo Pieres and Laborde.  After two periods of play, Ayala maintained their three-goal lead, 5-2.

Facundo Piers led all scoring with seven goals on the day. (Photo courtesy of Pablo Gaabriel Ramirez)

Pieres opened the scoring in the third chukker by converting a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal and a 6-2 Ayala advantage.  Goals from Byron Watson and Merlos (penalty conversion) cut the Ayala lead back to two goals, 6-4.  Gelosi scored the final goal of the chukker to put Ayala on top, 7-4 at the end of the first half.

Pieres led a focused Ayala team onto the field for the fourth period.  Taking the ball from the opening throw-in, the 10-goaler raced 150-yards down the field for a goal and an 8-4 lead.  Pieres made it 9-4 a couple of minutes later and ended the Ayala scoring with a 60-yard penalty conversion.  Playing back on their heels, La Indiana was held scoreless and fell behind by six goals, 10-4.

A fifth chukker La Indiana rally saw Merlos score the first goal of the period on a 60-yard penalty shot, 10-5, adding a short penalty goal moments later to make it 10-6.  Juan Gris Zavaleta scored a goal from the field that put La Indiana back in striking distance, 10-7.  Pieres showed why he is one of the game’s best players as he converted a 60-yard penalty shot and added a goal from the field to close out the chukker with Ayala in front by five goals, 12-7.

A missed penalty shot (Tincho Merlos) was picked up by Ayala in the fifth, with an alert Zavaleta jumping the play and scoring a short goal for La Indiana, 12-8, but it wasn’t going to be enough.  Ayala team captain, Iñigo Zobel, scored the final goal of the day as Ayala recorded the 13-8 championship win.

The win was the second Gold Cup title of the European season for Pieres, having won the British Gold Cup with King Power in July.  Pieres ended eh day as high-scorer with seven goals and his horse, Quiuv earned Best Playing Pony honors in the Spanish Gold Cup final.

Quiuv earns Best Playing Pony honors in the final for Facundo Pieres.

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