Along the Sideboards
By Alex Webbe
January 12, 2009
With four teams in the 8-goal and six teams competing in the 14-goal, the Outback Polo club is exactly where it was last year at this time.
“Knock on wood,” said program manager Phil Heatley, “for some reason we seem to be on track for another very good season.”
Heatley indicated that there were reservations for 20 teams in the final month of play, but those numbers are good any time.
In the initial concerns about the economy’s impact on polo in Florida the fact that many are overlooking is the quality of the horses in play. Former 10-goaler Owen Rinehart made it clear that since he wouldn’t be competing in the 26-goal competition this season, he would be bringing those top horses to the field for the 20-goal tournaments. Sugar Erskine, Mike Azzaro and a number of other high-profile players are in the same boat which makes the 20-goal play so much faster than in previous years. The Joe Barry Memorial Cup was down only a single team from last year, and although only two more teams will be joining them for the Ylvisaker Cup (down two from last season) IPC has added another tournament to the schedule.
The Flying Cow 14-goal competition has attracted six teams and Steve Orthwein’s Port Mayaca Polo Club has five teams competing in its 10-goal tournament, the William “Fingy” Connors Cup. Gulfstream is struggling with its 12-goal but has four teams competing in its 8-goal league.
The Joe Barry Memorial Cup action at the International Polo Club got off to a high-scoring start with John Goodman’s Isla Carroll team outlasting EFG Bank in a 14-12 contest.
Making its first appearance in 20-goal competition, Jim Whisenand’s EFG Bank team has finally settled in-briefly-for some local high-goal action. Last fall Whisenand and pro Luis Escobar traveled to the Nine Dragons Hill Polo Club last fall to compete in the Royal Salute Polo Gold Cup; they will be flying down to Punta del Este, Uruguay in two weeks and are looking at finalizing plans for a polo trip to Dubai. There’s no lack of enthusiasm for the game in this globetrotting attorney.
Carlos Gracida saved the day for Patagones last week as he rallied his team with three sixth chukker goals to top John Muse and his Lucchese teammates 14-13. A fourth “near-Gracida goal” on a Gracida penalty shot (the winning goal) was initially deflected by Lucchese defender Andres Weisz and then deflected again by Patagones’ Carlos Avendano and through the goal for the win. Gracida scored ten goals on the day and will be meeting Kelly Beal’s BTA team on Wednesday,
The 6-year-old mare that carried Gracida so easily and swiftly up and down the field isn’t going anywhere. In spite of efforts by Adolfo Cambiaso to add her to his string, she’ll be back in action on the IPC fields this week.
We need few reminders of how dangerous the game can be, but we were reminded on Sunday afternoon when BTA 7-goaler Hector Galindo took a blow mallet to the face midway through the fifth chukker of their game with Mt. Brilliant. What was initially thought to be a broken jaw was downgraded, but Hector will be undergoing a procedure to straighten out four teeth to go with the stitches inside of his lip. With no readily available player at hand, Mt. Brilliant’s Santiago Chavanne was forced to sit out the remainder of the game as they played three on three for the remainder of the contest. BTA salvaged the win, 13-9 and will face Patagones on Wednesday in semifinal action.
After the first two games of the Barry Memorial Cup someone asked me how I thought the umpiring was. I thought for a moment and was shocked to reply that I hadn’t even noticed. The rule changes about replacing “injured” horses and the “tap-tap” rule were in place and all in all, the pace of the game was much faster than last season. Good job Rick Sears and company.