February 28, 2024

A month of 16-goal competition concluded on Sunday, February 25, with the Ylvisaker Cup final. Hosted by Patagones Polo Club (Wellington, Florida) and managed by the Wellington Polo Tour, the tournament was the first of three to conclude on Sunday at the National Polo Center (NPC) in Wellington, Florida. Finalists SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon (Sayyu Dantata Jr., Cesar “Peco” Polledo, Mariano Obregon Jr., Stevie Orthwein) and Clearwater (Juan “Benja” Quiroga, Raul “Gringo” Colombres, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Camp Campbell) were neck and neck throughout the first half. Returning from halftime, Clearwater broke away with three goals off the mallet of Alberdi, ultimately securing the win and defeating SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon, 14-13.


Played annually as a tribute to William T. “Bill” Ylvisaker, the 12- to 16-goal tournament serves as the second qualifying leg of four prestigious national tournaments: the Joe Barry Memorial, Iglehart Cup and Outback Cup, culminating in the NPC 16-Goal Championship in April. Qualifiers are played across multiple clubs, with each winning team moving on to the final event. Should a team win more than one qualifier, that team will automatically advance to the NPC 16-Goal Championship final, slated for Sunday, April 14 at NPC.


To prepare for the final, Clearwater gathered on Saturday afternoon to develop a strategy, outlining set plays and studying those of their opponents. “We watched film the night before to know how we would defend in the set plays,” said Campbell. “Our plan was to play our game, to work for one another and defend.”


“The strategy was not to change the way we were playing the games before—we had a really good system and were playing well as a team,” said Alberdi. “The only thing was that Benja [Quiroga] was raised to 2 goals, so we started every game losing by two. We discussed that we have to be patient and if we have a bad first chukker, to know that it’s a long game.”


The final kicked off at 10:00am on the newly restored BTG Pactual Field 2 at NPC. SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon picked up two goals on handicap, but Clearwater was quick to convert off a Penalty 3 and 4. SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon’s Polledo answered with a Penalty 3 before Colombres scored Clearwater’s first field goal, tying the score 3-all at the end of the first. “Fortunately, we were able to make up the handicap difference in the first chukker,” said Campbell. the score was close for much of the first half, with tied scores at the end of the first and second chukkers. In the third, three field goals from Clearwater pushed them into the lead, 8-7.


SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon went scoreless in the fourth, while Clearwater picked up three goals off the mallet of Alberdi. “We had a really good chukker,” said Alberdi. “We had a lot of breakaways, took advantage and were a little bit lucky that we recovered and scored out of those recoveries.” A field goal from Colombres and a Penalty 2 conversion from Campbell helped secure a six-goal Clearwater lead. “The fourth chukker we were able to go up by five,” said Campbell. “We came out very strong after halftime.”


In the fifth, Colombres scored once more for Clearwater while Polledo converted twice for SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon, picking up his fourth and fifth penalty shots of the day. Heading into the sixth, the score was 14-9 in favor of Clearwater. Three goals from Obregon and another Penalty 2 from Polledo put SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon one goal shy of a tie. “The biggest thing we were telling each other was to not foul in those final minutes,” said Campbell. With Polledo contributing six goals off penalty conversions at 100% accuracy, a foul in favor of SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon could have tipped the scales in their favor.


Clearwater maintained their composure and let the clock run down. “We knew that they didn’t have too much time, so without fouling and letting the clock run, we had the advantage,” said Alberdi. SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon’s impressive sixth-chukker performance was not enough to overtake Clearwater’s five-goal lead; at the final horn, Clearwater defeated SD Farms/Old Hickory Bourbon, 14-13.


Clearwater now joins Forbes Plunkett (Joe Barry Memorial winners) as the second team to qualify for the NPC 16-Goal Championship. “It’s amazing to have a spot in the in the Championship,” said Alberdi. The Ylvisaker Cup victors also intend to compete in the fourth qualifying tournament of the series, the Outback Cup, to keep themselves in shape for the 16-Goal Championship in April. “We will prepare the horses well—we really want to win it, so we’ll try to do everything as well as possible to be in good shape for that.” If Clearwater wins the Outback Cup, they will automatically advance to the championship final. “Every game played with our team we get a little better,” said Campbell. “Hopefully, we can continue to get better and also have enough horses by the end of the season!”


MVP was awarded to Lucas Diaz Alberdi, who scored four goals from the field in Sunday’s final. Immediately following the conclusion of the Ylvisaker Cup final, Alberdi went on to compete in the C.V. Whitney Cup subsidiary, the George Miller Memorial, with La Fe.


Best Playing Pony, presented by Palm Beach Equine was awarded to Guinda, played and owned by Alberdi. Alberdi purchased the mare this past fall in Argentina, where he briefly played her in the Copa Remonta Qualification with La Cañada LE. The Ylvisaker Cup final was the first game she’s played since coming to the U.S. Guinda was Alberdi’s fourth chukker spare. “I think she was my best chukker by far,” said Alberdi. “She’s super comfortable, super handy. I love the way she runs; I think she’s one of my fastest horses here. So now I’m really excited about her because, as I told you, I bought her this year. I think she deserved it, for sure.”


The other Clearwater teammates enjoyed the rest of Sunday’s games at NPC. “We watched more polo! I went to see the C.V. Whitney Cup final with my family,” said Campbell. Later in the evening, the players reunited for an Asado at the barn to celebrate with the team’s grooms, farriers, veterinarians and supporters. “They are more important than us, they make it possible,” said Alberdi. “We had a really good time.” The team now looks ahead to the Outback Cup, slated to begin in mid-March, as they continue their road to the NPC 16-Goal Championship in April.