WELLINGTON, FL A record-tying 15 teams have entered the 26-goal Stanford Financial Group 101st U.S. Open Championships, the most prestigious polo tournament in North America, highlighting the second season at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
An international field featuring most of the world’s best players are vying to lift the historic U.S. Open trophy in triumph at the conclusion of what should be a fantastic finale on Sunday, April 24 at 3 p.m. The tournament is scheduled to begin on March 30.
This year’s 15 entrants ties the record set in 2002. Thirteen teams entered the Stanford Financial Group U.S. Open in 2004. New teams this year are Airstream, Black Watch, ERG and Loro Piana. Teams not returning from last year are San Saba and Texas Polo.
Ten of the world’s 14 10-goalers (the sport’s maximum rating) are scheduled to play in the tournament Mariano Aguerre (White Birch), Javier Novillo Astrada (Las Monjitos), Miguel Novillo Astrada (Bendabout), Mike Azzaro (Catamount), Carlos Gracida (Catamount), Bautista Heguy (Pony Express), Nachi Heguy (ERG) Pite Merlos (Lechuza Caracas), Sebastian Merlos (Lechuza Caracas) and Adam Snow (Airstream).
Historically, the U.S. Open has always been the grand prize of polo in North America. It is one of only four tournaments played at the 26-goal echelon, the highest-rated tournament in the United States. The others are the Hall of Fame Cup and the C.V. Whitney Cup, both also played at International Polo Club Palm Beach in 2005, and the USPA Gold Cup, being played in Aiken, South Carolina later this year.
The first U.S. Open title game was played in 1904 at Van Cortland Park in New York City where the Wanderers defeated the Freebooters 4 ?-3, the lowest scoring final in the history of the tournament. Isla Carroll, with patron John Goodman, and led by the legendary Memo Gracida, won the 2004 U.S. Open.
Memo Gracida, a 10-goaler for more than 20 years who was elected to the Polo Hall of Fame in 1997 as an active player, has won a record 16 U.S. Open titles with nine different teams, including last year with Isla Carroll. His younger brother, Carlos, is second with nine U.S. Open crowns, including the 2003 championship. For the upcoming tournament, Memo has signed on with a new team, Airstream, while Carlos will be playing again with Catamount, which lost in the semifinals in 2004.
Ten-goaler Adam Snow and 5-goaler Carlucho Arellano join Memo Gracida on Peter Orthwein’s Airstream, which is considered one of the pre-tournament favorites, in addition to Catamount, Lechuza Caracas and perennial powerhouse White Birch, which has reached the U.S. Open final three times without winning.
Two teams Catamount and Lechuza Caracas have a pair of 10-goalers on their rosters. Carlos Gracida and Mike Azzaro form the nucleus for Scott Devon’s Catamount foursome that reached the semifinals last year.
Brothers Pite and Sebastian Merlos will patrol the middle for Victor Vargas’ Lechuza Caracas, a team that reached the final in 2003 and the semifinals in 2004. The Merlos’ won the U.S. Open as teammates on Escue in 1998 and Les Diables Bleus in 1990.
Defending champion Isla Carroll, with International Polo Club Palm Beach founder John Goodman as patron, returns with 2004 U.S. Open MVP Pancho Bensadon, in his first year as a 9-goaler, along with 8-goaler Sugar Erskine of South Africa and 7-goaler Nicolas Roldan of Wellington.
White Birch features 10-goaler Mariano Aguerre and 9-goaler Lucas Criado, along with 3-goaler Julio Gracida (Memo’s 17-year-old son) and patron Peter Brant, a 4-goaler.
The U.S. Open will be played on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s seven world-class Bermuda-grass playing fields and teams may also take advantage of the many private fields in Wellington.
For all the action on the field, there will that much off the field, including the incomparable Sunday Brunch, catered by renowned restaurateur Barton G. of Miami and New York, which is open to the public. Tickets for brunch are $95 each and include tax, gratuity and a reserved seat for the polo match.
Individual tickets for the U.S. Open tournament are $40 for terrace seating and $15 for general admission. A limited amount of tailgating spots are available for $120 per vehicle.
There will be several functions that are also open to the public, giving them a chance to meet the players and patrons, including the black-tie Polo Ball on Friday, April 22.
For ticket information for the Stanford Financial Group U.S. Open, please call the club at (561) 204-5687. International Polo Club Palm Beach is located at 3667 120th Avenue South, between Pierson Road and Lake Worth Road, in Wellington.
International Polo Club
For ticket information, call (561) 204-5687
Club website at www.internationalpoloclub.com.
For information about the upcoming 2005 high-goal season, including the Stanford Financial Group U.S. Open, call the club at (561) 204-5687
International Polo Club Palm Beach is located at 3667 120th Avenue South, between Pierson Road and Lake Worth Road, in Wellington.