The Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup proves more popular than ever and once again – very much a family affair.
The Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup tournament, which took place over three weeks and was played in Duke’s Ground, London, had a bigger attendance than ever this year, proving it’s now a firm fixture in the UK summer polo calendar.
This is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions to be held at the Guards Polo Club and it was the fourth time the Al Habtoor Group has sponsored it. A total of 25 teams took part. It was also the first time a Habtoor Polo team played in the tournament and they reached the final stages. Two of Khalaf Al Habtoor’s sons and two of his grandson’s also play every year at the Exhibition Match which opens the Final Match and this makes the event very much a family affair.
The Final Match on June 19, 2011 was won by the Black Bears, after they defeated Salkeld 10-6. Although Salkeld were leading 5-4 at half-time, the Black Bears dominated in the second half of the match. They pulled out all the stops in the fourth chukka however, scoring five impressive goals. This gave them a healthy 9-5 advantage going into the final fifth chukka. It proved to be a tight contest, but ultimately resulted in them winning.
Their team captain Guy Schwarzenbach accepted the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup from HM The Queen on behalf of the team at the end of the day. James Harper from the Bears was named the Most Valuable Player, while his team-mate Jack Archibald accepted an award for the Best Playing Pony Rug for his pony, a seven-year-old grey mare called Jess who has, in fact, raced on the Flat for two seasons.
HM the Queen presented the Mountbatten Trophy to the Asprey London team, which was captained by Simon Holley. They defeated the Mad Dogs, led by Alan Fall, 11-6 in an exciting match.
Mohammed was playing alongside his son – Habtoor in the Habtoor 1 team which was appropriate given that it was Father’s Day. Rashid Al Habtoor too played with his son Tariq in the Habtoor II team for the first time this year.
In addition to taking part in the tournament, the Habtoor 1 team also played in the Royal Windsor Match, and Rashid’s son Tariq played with the Mahra Polo Team. Both teams had an impressive run through the qualifiers. Habtoor 1 lost out only to the eventual runners-up Salkeld in their semi-final; while Mahra lost to the eventual winners Salkeld in the quarter final.
Mr Khalaf, the Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, as usual was in attendance at the tournament. “I’m very proud to be associated with the GPC [the Guard’s Polo Club] and this event,” he commented. “I’m honoured by the attendance of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip each year – and especially this year, as it marks Prince Philip’s 90th birthday and the wedding of Prince William.” And he pointed out that the participation of his family in the tournament makes him particularly proud. “As usual my grandsons Tariq and Habtoor, competed and I am very pleased with their results,” he smiled. ”Habtoor 1 reached the semi-finals and Mahra the quarter finals. I hope that next year they can return and maybe become the winners of the tournament.”