By Kristen Desmond LeFevre
New to See at IPC
When players and spectators walk the red carpet for the 17-week high-goal season at Wellington’s International Polo Club Palm Beach, it will look and feel like old times. But behind the scenes, major changes are afoot.
Despite IPC’s April 2016 sale to Wellington Equestrian Partners—producers of the Winter Equestrian Festival and Adequan Global Dressage Festival—Mark Bellissimo, CEO and managing partner of WEP, has indicated that polo will stay in Wellington. The United States Polo Association has a contract to hold high-goal tournaments at IPC for two more seasons, through April 2018. Beyond that? Who knows. But both the USPA and Bellissimo have said they plan to maintain a long-term relationship.
WEP is admittedly playing things close to the vest, but one thing is clear: Polo will share the spotlight at IPC past the 2017 season. Sometime after the horn sounds on the last chukker of the U.S. Open Polo Championship in late April, IPC will be transformed into a multi-use, equestrian-sports center that will “incorporate but not be focused entirely on polo,” says Darlene Ricker, who handles media relations and publications for IPC.
What Will Stay the Same: IPC currently boasts eight fields, seven of which are used for polo play. Sunday feature matches and tournament finals will still be held on Field 1, in front of the existing stadium. Fields 4 and 5, along with the Outback field, will continue to be used for polo. Two regulation-sized fields adjacent to IPC and known as Isla Carroll—often used when changes are imposed due to ground conditions or conflicting schedules—will also be retained.
What Will Change: Plans are hard to come by, but WEP has stated that Field 2 (currently used on Sundays for public parking) and Field 3 will be the site of a new 3,000-seat stadium, situated between the sports complex. That will leave a total of five fields for polo play—not enough to accommodate the entire winter high-goal season. To that end, Bellissimo plans to rent several ancillary fields and make use of a partnership property located on South Road to construct three additional fields. Other plans include a new restaurant, spa, banquet area, clubhouse, and parking for more than 2,000 cars.
WOMEN ON THE RIDE
Maureen Brennan: One-goaler Maureen Brennan comes to IPC fresh off leading Goose Creek to the semifinals in the 2016 East Coast Open in Greenwich, Connecticut. She’s ridden as a sub in past seasons at IPC, including the 2010 United States Open Polo Championship for Pony Express.
Melissa Ganzi: The co-owner (along with husband and 2-goaler Marc Ganzi) of the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Melissa Ganzi is also an A-goaler and captain of the FlexJet team. She won both the 2014 National 20 Goal and the Kay Colee Memorial Cup, and also helped set a world record for the most consecutive chukkers played—32—in a benefit for the Wounded Warriors Project.
Cristina Fernandez: A-rated Cristina Fernandez recently spent two weeks playing in India as part of Team USPA’s first international women’s team. She plays the second or third spot in women’s polo, and the first on coed teams.
Gillian Johnston: Two-goaler Gillian Johnston is the patron and captain of the Coca-Cola polo team, winning the U.S. Open Polo Championship in 2003. She was named MVP of the 2016 USPA Gold Cup Quarterfinal match, in which Coca-Cola defeated Lucchese 11 to 8.
Annabelle Gundlach: Look for A-rated Gundlach to take the pitch for the first time in the 20-goal season at IPC as patroness for Postage Stamp Farm. Despite first picking up a mallet in 2013, she’s quickly risen in the ranks thanks to help from teacher Brandon Phillips.
Roach: What’s left of a polo pony’s mane after a close shave by a groom, done in order to keep the mallet or reins from getting snagged. Tails are braided and tied for similar reasons.
Say: “My hair has been giving me fits in this humidity. I’m tempted to ask for a polo pony roach at my next salon appointment.”
Outhorsed: When one team’s polo ponies outperform the ponies from the opposing team.
Say:“That #3 really played her heart out. But when you’re outhorsed, you’re outhorsed.”
Go to Goal: Sometimes called a “breakaway,” this play occurs when one rider is way out in front and ready to score.
Say: “Our #1 left his competition in the dust going to goal for the win today.”
Pony String: A collection of horses used to play polo. Players switch out horses at each chukker (six per match), hence the need for multiple horses per player.
Say: “We simply outhorsed them. Our team’s pony string is unmatched.”
Steaming Divot: Horse manure
Say: (To a friend at halftime, typically between the third and fourth chukkers) “Darling, satin espadrilles?! Watch you don’t stomp a steaming divot in those!”