Along the Sideboards

Along the Sideboards

By Alex Webbe

April 27, 2009



Audi’s Facundo Pieres scored the winning goal in overtime of the 2009 United States Open Championship at the International Polo Club in Wellington, the horn sounded, officially marking the end of the Florida high-goal season for another year.


Eduardo Novillo Astrada and Adam Snow were named co-MVPs of the Open despite being on the losing end of a 9-8 score.  Facundo Pieres, who scored the last three goals of the game, and a game high seven goals wasn’t even in the running according to inside sources.  Difficult to understand.


Along that same line of logic, and in the wake of polo’s worst polo pony tragedy, the United States Polo Association established “a committee to examine additional safeguards for polo horses”.  Apparently, the Board of Governors decided that the Equine Welfare Committee wasn’t up to the task at hand, in spite of its sixteen-year history, so they created a new committee.  Well, it reads well in the press.


Without all handicap changes reported yet it has been discovered that Gonzalito Pieres and younger brother Nicolas Pieres had their handicaps go up a goal.  Gonzalito is now rated at 10-goals in both Argentina and the United States while Nicolas was elevated to 7-goals, his Argentine handicap.


It has been reported by a member of the handicap committee that Jeff Blake was elevated from six to seven goals, while Jeff Hall was dropped from eight goals to seven.


Eduardo Novillo Astrada was also raised to 10-goals.  All changes should be on the USPA website sometime this week.


As the polo crowd disperses we find some of them going to Aiken, others to the Kentucky Derby or Polo on the Prairie in Texas while others are migrating south to the beach polo on the sands of South Beach.  On Thursday eight teams of women polo players will participate in the First Annual South Beach Polo Cup followed by the Miami Beach Polo World Cup.  The action on the sand in the daytime is challenged by the activities planned throughout the weekend at a variety of hotels, restaurants and clubs.


Little known facts:  Following the great Lechuza Caracas horse disaster, multimillionaire Venezuelan businessman Victor Vargas made the time to speak, individually, to each and every one of his employees at his facility in Wellington.  Victor reinforced his confidence in his people and told them that Lechuza would continue, would come back, would be a force to be reckoned with once again.  For his loss, the entire polo community remains in mourning.


Jimmy Newman announced during the Sunday Open finals that speculation has between 11-13 teams looking at competing in the 26-goal next year.  Time will tell, but hope springs eternal.


Early reports have eight teams playing in the Pacific Coast Open in Santa Barbara while the rosters haven’t been identified yet for New York’s Bridgehampton Polo Club.


Waiting for reports on Polo on the Prairie and the beginning of the Grand Champions spring season.  Until then we keep hearing the twenty-one peals of the bell on US Open Sunday, a sound to remind all present that twenty-one of the games top athletes are gone, but not forgotten.  Now we’ll have to wait and see if any safeguards are installed to help protect these beautiful beasts that carry us so willingly into battle on some of the world’s top polo fields.