Time flies, especially when watching thoroughbreds make heart-pounding sprints across open expanses of green. The International Polo Club Palm Beach’s 2013 polo tenth season is coming to an end, capped with the Maserati 109th U.S. Open Championship. Match play for America’s Super Bowl of polo begins March 27, with the final wrapping up April 21.
The U.S. Open Polo Championship, one of the most prestigious polo tournaments in the world, attracts polo's worldwide elite for the chance to hoist the cup and imprint their name in silver and the history books.
The month-long, 26-goal tournament begins March 27. Eleven teams have punched their ticket for a chance at the cup: defending U.S. Open champs Zacara, runner-up Lechuza Caracas and a host of high-goal teams—Alegria, Audi, Coca Cola, ERG, Mt. Brilliant, Orchard Hill, Piaget, Valiente and Zorzal. In all, eight 10-goalers will lead their respective teams, while two teams have twin 10-goalers handling the burden for their clubs: Piaget, with Miguel Astrada and Sapo Casset, and Valiente, with Adolfo Cambioso and Pelon Stirling.
The defending 2012 U.S. Open champ, Zacara—which was also the 2011 British Open champion—is back with the same cast of characters. The team rallied behind the injury of captain/patron Lyndon Lea, but fell to rival Valiente in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup, the final 26-goal tournament before the U.S. Open Polo Championship. American Mike Azzaro, the 2012 U.S. Open Polo Championship MVP and seven-goal handicap, has been on an unbelievable streak, while 10-goal handicap Facundo Pieres, the undisputed leader of Zacara, has shown why he has earned his top rank as the player with the most goals scored this season. A successful defense of the U.S. Open would be quite the feather in the cap for Pieres, who won the highest handicapped tournament in the world, the 40-goal Argentine Open, in December. Not to be overshadowed, eight-goaler Magoo Laprida has quietly put together a stellar 2013 IPC season. He was instrumental in the USPA Piaget Gold Cup tournament and in Villa del Lago’s Iglehart Cup victory, earning MVP honors, scoring 11 goals in the finals and being responsible for 85 percent of his team’s goals.
|Team Zacara holding the 2012 108th U.S. Open Polo Championship trophy at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.|
This season has been intense but also unconventional. Of the four 20-goal tournaments (Herbie Pennell Cup, Joe Barry Cup, Ylvisaker Cup and Iglehart Cup) and two 26-goal tournaments (C.V. Whitney and USPA Piaget Gold Cup) played thus far, only two have been won by a team with a 10-goaler aboard. Coca-Cola’s 20-goal team, winner of the Herbie Pennell and Ylvisaker Cups, has a top scorer in Julio Arellano, a 9-goal handicap. Crab Orchard—whose top scorer, Mariano Aguerre, also has a 9-goal handicap—took the Joe Barry Memorial Cup over Audi. The C.V. Whitney Cup saw Alegria, helmed by 9-goalers Hilario Ulloa and Mariano Aguerre, top Lechuza Caracas, which rides high with 10-goal star Juan Martin Nero, but his heroics were not enough to hoist the cup. Only the USPA Piaget Gold Cup came down to a clash of 10-goal titans, with Zacara taking on Valiente in what many believe to be a preview of the U.S. Open finals.
Does this mean the state of 10-goal players is down this year? Not at all. It speaks more to the talent climbing the ranks and those on the waning stretch of their careers. Former 10-goalers who now hold nine-, eight- and even seven-goal handicaps still have juice left in the tank. Polo may be a young buck’s game, but old dogs still know how to chase down la pelota.
There are but a few Sundays left to get in on the action. The hooves hit the grass for the first ball drop of the tournament March 28, with matches scheduled at 2:00 (Audi vs. Coca-Cola) and 4:00 ( Zorzal vs. ERG) in the afternoon. The games culminate April 21, when the best of the best meet on the pitch for the finals of the Maserati 109th U.S. Open Polo Championship at 3 p.m.
- Sunday tickets are $10 for general admission, $20 for North and South Stadium Lawn Seating and $30 for Center Stadium Lawn Seating. Pavilion Reception Passes cost $65, while Champagne Brunch tickets cost $120.
- Qualifiying matches on weekdays and Saturdays are free.
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Photography provided by LILA PHOTO