Along the Sideboards

Along the Sideboards

By Alex Webbe

February 23, 2009


So much has happened in South Florida the last week it is difficult to know where to begin.  The English polo team of James Beim, Luke and Mark Tomlinson and Eduardo Novillo Astrada beat the Americans 9-8 to capture the historic Westchester Cup.  This is only the second time since 1902 that the English have scored consecutive wins over the United States, but it was a glorious win. 


As far as the Americans were concerned, things couldn’t have gone worse for them.  Following the loss of Julio Arellano (8) due to a broken hand suffered in the US teams first practice game, 9-goaler Mike Azzaro suffered a broken collarbone following a violent collision with another player on the field during the semifinals of the Philip Iglehart Cup.  Just 48 hours before the big showdown, the United States lost its top player and had all of its plans and preparations crushed.  Alternate Jeff Hall (8) was brought in to replace Azzaro, but with no practice time with the remaining three members of the team, the US team didn’t have the same punch.


The hard work put forth by the Museum of Polo, the moving force behind the revival of the Westchester Cup is almost as overwhelming as the largess of Melissa Ganzi’s offer of 30 top thoroughbreds for the visitors.  George and Brenda Dupont were working from early morning until late in the evening for weeks leading up to the historic event, and the leadership offered by Museum chairman Steve Orthwein should also be underscored.

The shortcomings of the support offered by the USPA will be discussed in the future.

The English, however, performed brilliantly, and fought their way to a hard fought, sixth chukker 9-8 win.  The highly prized Westchester Cup was crated and on its way back to England the following day.


With the Westchester Cup over, Patagones needed overtime to defeat a talented Lechuza Caracas team 9-8 in another sudden-death overtime game.  Such was the parity of teams in this year’s Iglehart Cup competition that fourteen of the nineteen games played in the Iglehart Cup were decided by a single goal, with eight of them going into sudden-death overtime.


There are only seven teams lining up for the C. V. Whitney Cup, the first of the season’s 26-goal competitions.  Action is scheduled to begin on Saturday, February 28 with Pony Express (Bob Daniels, Pelon Sterling, Nick Roldan and Matias Magrini) facing Las Monjitas (Camilo Bautista, Adam Snow, Eduardo Astrada and Nacho Astrada).  On Sunday, March 1 Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Pablo MacDonough, Hector Galindo and Lucas Criado) play Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Tomas Goti, Juan Martin Nero and Sapo Caset.  The day’s feature game is Audi (Marc Ganzi, Fred Mannix, Jr, Gonzalito Pieres and Facundo Pieres) against White Birch (Peter Brant, Jeff Blake, Mariano Aguerre and Pancho Bensadon).


A second effort to internationalize American polo competition again is on the near horizon at The Villages Polo Club in Central Florida. with the match date set for Friday, March 13.  It has been 21 years since the Camacho Cup (Mexico vs. USA) was last played and there’s no lack of enthusiasm on either side for its reappearance.


Because Mike Azzaro was the designated team captain for the US team, there will be some rethinking on behalf of the cup organizers to field the most competitive American team.  Carlos Gracida will be leading a Mexican contingent that is thought to include brother Memo Gracida and nephew Julio.  More news on that front soon.


In an effort to attract team, the movement appears to be toward money tournaments with the Gulfstream Polo Club offering a $25,000 prize for the USPA Delegates Cup 8-Goal League March 6-April 3 and the $20,000 USPA Bronze Trophy 12-Goal League (March 8-April5. 


In a combined effort, the Port Mayaca Polo Club and the Grand Champions Polo Club have offered their $25,000 Master Series that will run from March 12 to April 4.