Winter Polo Season Opens in Florida

The 2010 Polo Season is Just Days Away

By Alex Webbe


The finishing touches were being put on the Nespresso Grande Pavilion on the east side of the Piaget Championship field and the Veuve Cliquot International Pavilion the northwest corner of the field as various press, players and sponsors arrived for the season-opening Press Conference at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington Wednesday afternoon.


Greetings were afforded the assemblage by the club’s President of Operations, John Wash, and Polo Manager Jimmy Newman as a host of reporters and photographers crowded around a handful of players and polo VIPs that would help kick off the 2010 season.


Argentine 6-goaler Nacho Figueras, more familiar as the face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo opened with a report on the state of the game of polo.  “We’re in the process of seeing the sport grow to a level of prominence that puts it on a par with some of the other great sports,” said Figueras. “We’re getting a lot of support and seeing a lot of new faces at the games,” he added, “I’m looking forward to another exciting season here in Wellington.”


The International Polo Club is the home of the top polo competitions in North America, and can honestly lay claim to the winter polo capital of the world.  Players from across the country and around the world will be competing throughout the coming months for prestigious and storied trophies, some of which have been in play for over a hundred years.


Reflecting on the terrible tragedy from last season that took the lives of twenty-one of the game’s top horses the audience waited anxiously to hear from Lechuza Caracas polo manager, Esteban Scott, about the team’s attempt to bounce back.


“After the terrible loss, we put all of our efforts into rebuilding our string,” said Scott, “but it isn’t something that you can do in just a year.  We gathered a group of top horses and shuffled horses of ours that were in England, Argentina and Venezuela to be able to come to the field this season and be competitive.  We’ll have to wait and see just how successful we were.”


Victor Vargas’ Lechuza Caracas team was devastated by the lost of the horses and forced to withdraw from the United States Open competition last season, but seem anxious for the 2010 season to begin.


With six teams playing in the season opening single-elimination Iglehart Cup on Sunday, January 3, local fans and spectators will get a taste of the early competition as the first of four 20-goal tournaments gets underway.  Nine teams will take to the field by January 10th in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup before play begins in the Ylvisaker Cup on January 21st. 


The Herbie Pennell Cup will end the 20-goal season in February and the first of the three 26-goal tournaments will get underway on February 11th, followed by the USPA Piaget Gold Cup in March and the US Open Championship in April.


“It’s going to be a very exciting season,” said America’s highest-rated player, 9-goaler Nick Roldan.  “There are some great teams and world-class players here again this year,” said the Wellington resident, “and I’m looking forward to meeting them on the fields again this season.”


In the course of the season, over 33 teams will compete at various different levels of play as the field will consist of some of the game’s top players, including eight of the world’s ten 10-goal players.


“We’re excited to be recharging our relationship with this grand sport,” said Piaget North America’s CEO Larry Boland.  “And we’re looking forward to a long and successful relationship with both the International Polo Club and the game of polo itself.”


The 2010 polo season at the International Polo Club is scheduled to begin on Sunday, January 3 with a Noon game between Gillian Johnston’s Bendabout team (Gillian Johnston, Nick roldan, Owen Rinehart and Elysses Escapite) and John Goodman’s Wanderers/Isla Carroll foursome (Jphn Goodman, Sugar Erskine, Nacho Figueras and Kris Kampsen).  The 3pm stadium contest in the Iglehart Cup competition will feature Lyndon Lea’s Zacara team (Lyndon Lea, Gonzalo del Tour, Jeff Hall and Toto Collardin) and Jim Whisenand’s EFG Bank team (Jim Whisenand, Pancho Bensadon, Andres Weisz and Luis Escobar).


Iglehart tournament play will continue on Wednesday, January 5 with Patagones (Gonzalo Avendano, Julio Gracida, Carlos Gracida and Carlos Avendano) playing the winner of Sunday’s Wanderers-Bendabout game at 1 pm while Fred Mannix’s Hawks (Fred Mannix, Jr., Mariano Aguere, Julian Mannix and CAchi Garcia) will play the winner of the Zacara-EFG Bank match at 3 pm.


The finals for the single elimination tournament will be played on Sunday, January 10 at 3 pm.