As the fairer months begin to grip South Florida with balmy 70-degree afternoons, the thundering sound of sheer horsepower becomes the norm west of I-95 in Palm Beach County’s horse country, Wellington. The ponies are riding high as the Game of Kings descends upon the flattened fields of Bermuda grass for the tenth annual International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) winter high-goal season, kick-started January 6 with the Herbie Pennell Cup. It is a banner year for the 20-goal season with a record 16 teams vying in the four tournaments: Herbie Pennell Cup, Joe Barry Memorial Cup, Ylvisaker Cup and the Iglehart Cup. While competition in IPC's 26-goal tournaments, polo’s American triple crown, has attracted some of the best in the game, with familiar names like MacDonough, Pieres, Astrada and Cambiaso among many others, joining polo’s elite for one of the most anticipated high-goal seasons in years at the sport’s premier venue.
Play begins Thursday, January 3, with a three-day, four team (Coca-Cola, La Herradura, Lechuza Caracas and Villa del Lago) 20-goal sprint in the Herbie Pennell Cup, culminating on January 6 for the official Sunday season opener. Tournament play continues with the Joe Barry Cup, slated for play January 9-27 with a limit of 12 teams to test their mettle (tournament draw will take place at the 7th Chukker on January 3).
Competition for the 20-goal’s preeminent tournament, the Ylvisaker Cup, runs from January 26 through February 24 with all 16 teams all contending, including last year’s winner Piaget, returning to defend their title, promising to be a great appetizer for the 26-goal tournaments.
Things begin to get crowded come February. As the Ylvisaker Cup comes to a close on the 24th, two additional tournaments get underway: Iglehart Cup (20-goal) and the C.V. Whitney Cup (26-goal). The final 20-goal tournament of the season, the Iglehart Cup will field an 8-team roster, and run from February 20 through March 3. The C.V. Whitney Cup, the first leg of polo’s 26-goal triple crown, will run concurrently with the Iglehart from February 17 through March 3. With nine 26-goal teams expected to compete in 2013, the field is deep with nearly 20 ten- and nine-goal handicappers.
The second leg of the American triple begins March 6 with the USPA Piaget Gold Cup, running through March 24. Last year the final came down to a father/son showdown, with Valiente II and Robert Jornayvaz (son) topping his father Bob Jornayvaz and Valiente I with a 11-9 victory, a rematch of the C.V. Whitney Cup finals just a month prior, but with the fortunes reversed. Family dynamics aside; the elder Jornayvaz (Bob) returns in 2013 with Valiente, brining with him heavy hitting 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Pelon Stirling for some handicap security.
On the heels of the Gold Cup comes the American polo tournament of the year, dosed with an added kick of horsepower from title sponsor, the Maserati 109th US Open Polo Championship. The granddaddy of them all, the US Open is the most prestigious polo tournament in the United States, landing the best and brightest equines and players from all over the world to test their hand at hoisting the silver chalice. Last year’s champs, Zacara, will return largely unchanged, led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, eight-goaler Magoo Laprida and seven-goal American, Mike Azzaro, and will prove to be a difficult out.
And while most of the excitement happens on the field, an afternoon at the pitch would not be complete without field side brunch. Housed in IPC’s Pavilion, polo patrons can enjoy three different VIP packages. All packages start with a pre-match Champagne toast and the best seat in the house. The Pavilion Reception Pass, $55 per person during the 20-goal season ($65 for 26-goal), comes with light hors d’oeuvres and a limited open bar. Champagne Brunch, $100 per person during the 20-goal season ($120 for 26-goal), gives patrons access to the Pavilion Reception and IPC’s famed brunch buffet. And Veuve Champagne Brunch for Two, $300 for two ($330 for 26-goal), includes all of the above as well as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
And let us not forget the real reason people are flocking to the polo grounds, the Half Time Divot Stomp. Like a scene straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad campaign, brightly hued, big hatted polo patrons take to the field as soon as the third chukker winds down at 4 p.m., doing their best, espadrilles and all, to stomp down the divots made by the galloping ponies, all with champagne in hand.
For those who cannot get enough of the polo action, the IPC’s medium-goal season will run from January through April, with a steady stream of match play throughout the winter weeks. The Wanderers Classic 14-goal tournament plays through January, with the finals staged for Saturday, January 26. The Freebooter’s Classic, a 14-goal affair, fills the February calendar, wrapping on Saturday, February 23. The Everglades Classic, the granddaddy of the medium-goal season at 16-goals, will run from February 28 through March, with the champion being crowned on Saturday, March 30. While the culmination of the medium-goal season, the USPA National President’s Cup, starts with qualifiers, April 3-13, and match play April 16-20.
- January through April, general admission tickets cost $10 ($20 at the gate), with lawn seating starting at $20 (online only).
- For information for box seats, please call 561-282-5290 or visit internationalpoloclub.com.
3667 120th Ave. S.
Wellington, FL 33414
Photography courtesy of: