Sep 29, 2020 5:31 PM

2020 Northrup Knox Cup® champions SD Farms (L to R) Aiden Meeker, Trevor Niznik, Carlitos Gracida, Peco Polledo.
2020 Northrup Knox Cup® Champions: SD Farms - Aiden Meeker, Trevor Niznik, Carlitos Gracida, Peco Polledo. ©Katie Roth

A memorable Northrup Knox Cup® Final on Sunday, September 27, kicked off the fall 12-goal season at New Bridge Polo & Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina. A game of offensive momentum saw three four-goal runs from both SD Farms (Aiden Meeker, Trevor Niznik, Peco Polledo, Carlitos Gracida) and Hit Air (Jack Whitman, Justin Pimsner, Alan Martinez, Pelon Escapite), but Peco Polledo’s golden goal in the last seconds of the overtime chukker sealed the narrow 14-13 victory and third consecutive title for SD Farms.

“We communicated well and worked together as a team playing simple man-to-man polo. It was a very tight game, but we just stayed confident until the very end.”  – Trevor Niznik

Hit Air Pelon Escapite, SD Farms Peco Polledo (DSC_9386) ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt
Hit Air's Pelon Escapite attempts to make a hook on SD Farms' Peco Polledo. ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt

Opening the first chukker Hit Air’s Martinez struck back-to-back goals to seize an early lead. However the fast pace of play abruptly switched in favor of SD Farms, beginning with a dominant second chukker. Coming forward from behind, Gracida opened up the second with a pair of goals. Adding two more to their tally, SD Farms left Hit Air scoreless in a powerful chukker to assume the lead 5-2. “Whenever we release the ball is when we have our best moments,” Gracida said. “This team means a lot to me mainly because of my friendship with Peco [Polledo]. We won the $100,000 World Cup [at Grand Champions Polo Club] this year and in 2018 so to win another tournament together is a big accomplishment for me.” Determined to fight their way back into the game, Hit Air’s defensive intensity picked up with both teams tightly marked. Each side taking advantage of a Penalty 2 conversion, the remainder of the first half belonged to Hit Air’s Martinez and Escapite, who contributed two goals apiece to tie the game 6-all and heighten the second half intensity.

SD Farms Peco Polledo (DSC_9378) ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt web
SD Farms' Peco Polledo leads the pack. ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt

The offensive style of play carried into the fourth chukker, Hit Air scoring four goals for the second consecutive chukker. After six unanswered goals by their formidable opponents, Peco Polledo broke the silence, but the scoreboard stood 10-7 at the end of the fourth, SD Farms trailing. Pushing to close the looming deficit, SD Farms exploded onto the field in the fifth, capturing four consecutive goals between Niznik and Polledo to once again level the playing field 11-all headed into the sixth. A foul-ridden final few minutes allowed Escapite to capitalize on his fourth and fifth penalty goals, but with the game on the line, Polledo’s sixth goal sent the game into overtime. A long overtime chukker, Polledo broke free from the pack to score his seventh goal of the game, securing SD Farm’s third consecutive Northrup Knox Cup® title with a final score of 14-13.

“I’ve been wanting to play with Aiden [Meeker] for a while and I’m glad it finally happened in this tournament,” Gracida shared. Receiving advice from the more experienced players on his team, Meeker was grateful for the team’s help both on and off the field. “I think that we were able to mesh well together as a team and understand what each of us wanted and needed to help make ourselves successful,” Meeker said.

Hit Air's Jack Whitman (DSC_9404) ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt web
Hit Air's Jack Whitman pops the ball forward. ©Shelly Marshall Schmidt

Responsible for the golden goal for SD Farms, Peco Polledo was awarded Most Valuable Player. “We are very happy to win this tournament for the third time for SD Farms and also for myself,” Polledo said. “The truth is that we play as a team and play simple which is our best system.”

Best Playing Pony was presented to Polledo's 8-year-old mare Paragua, who he played in the third and fifth chukkers. “She is from my breeding in Argentina and she has been in the United States for three years,” Polledo said. “She is very easy to play and very handy.”