32ND WORLD ELEPHANT POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS TIGER TOPS KARNALI LODGE, NEPAL, 25 – 29/11/13
The pivot of James Manclark’s squad, Sangjay played consistently well throughout the fiveday tournament in Nepal and, as well as a third world title, rode away as a well deserved winner of the EFG Most Valuable Player award.
SUSPECTS. USUAL AND OTHERWISE
Having won the title twice, in 2010 and 2011, EFG had somewhat lost their mojo last year, ultimately finishing fourth at the end of a lacklustre week. For 2014 patron Keith Gapp and captain James Manclark instigated a line-up change with Mikey Goodwill, who had ridden to a King’s Cup win with James earlier in the year, joining the squad together with Sam Browne who was Keith’s selection from Cambridge for WEPA 2013 as part of EFG’s initiative to promote elephant polo within the Oxbridge community.
Top seeds, the quartet rode with expectation on their shoulders as did the all-girl Tigresses Polo, runners-up last year and bronze medallists in 2011. For many the Tigresses, supported by EFG and Equestrio, were favourites. Their ‘hit man’ Samantha Prentice being without doubt the best lady elephant polo player in the world and more than a match for any of the men, with captain Stine Edwards, Lucy Monro and Carolyn Syangbo all also accomplished players.
While the Tigresses’ line-up was unchanged, many teams were fielding new squads. Geoffrey Dobbs’ Ceylon Elephant Polo Associations’ (CEPA) boasted WEPA chairman and three time world champion Peter Prentice as the pivot with Tony Papalia, who played as a valued member of the Mel’s Angels squad in 2012, and Tom Tuke Hastings, a veteran of three WEPAs, in support together with newcomer Kemika Bhandari. The might of Peter Prentice alone made the team a contender.
The home team, Tiger Tops Tuskers, was led for 2014 by Tim Edwards. In the saddle ably armed behind their captain were five time-world champion and previous National Parks captain Ram Pritt Yadav, Tiger Tops’ senior elephant expert Dhan Bahadur Tamang, aka Danny, Dhan Bir Tharu and Bhim Thanit. The almost ‘all Nepal’ squad was much feared by many bringing as it did experience as well as power to the table.
Back for a sixth year were the Pukka Chukkas with an unchanged line-up apart from the absence of one of their most experienced players Alex Hamilton, whose final consultant exams kept the dashing doc in Sydney for the duration. Gwennie Barrett stepped glamorously into Alex’s boots for the week and Simon Race captained the team on the field for Jason Wheeler. The mostly ex-Gurkha outfit, the Rusty Kukris, returned for a third year with Johnny Fenn commanding Tristan Forster, Chris Darby, Toby Jackman, Shindi Poonia and Simon Pickering.
Sporting a strip that included brand new pith helmets for the new jungle season the squad seemed a shoe-in from the outset for the Best Dressed award.
New for 2013 were The Africans, a South African-led rookie line-up and the Polar Bears, a posse representing Canada of Canadian, British and German legal eagles with Buckingham University in common.