Monday, April 21, 2014

US Open Finals at International Polo Club Palm Beach

The victorious Alegria team, photo by Mike Gora

Alegria Edges Valiente 11-10 to Win U.S. Open Polo Cup at Wellington

By Skip Sheffield

The tenth annual Maserati U.S. Open finals at International Polo Club Palm Beach wrapped Sunday, April 20 with a see-sawing, cliff-hanging, sudden-death final match between two equally able teams: Valiente, which had hoped to cinch the coveted triple crown of Polo, and Alegria of Canada. Underdog Alegria pulled an upset victory by making a penalty shot in sudden-death over time to emerge victorious over Valiente, with 11 goals to their 10. It was one of the most exciting, evenly-matched polo games I have ever seen. It helped ease the sorrow of the recent destruction of Royal Palm Polo Grounds in Boca Raton for the inevitable high-end development.
Polo commentator Tony Coppola, who was announcing his 35th U.S. Open, told us the first U.S. Open was held in Cortland Park, Bronx, New York in 1904. The 100th anniversary was played at IPC Palm Beach in 2004 and it has been played there ever since.
Coppola explained polo is more like “hockey on horseback’ than “croquet with horses.” It is a fast, often violent game played on a field 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. During the final match, two players were thrown from their horses, as well as one umpire. Fortunately there were no injuries of man or horse. Sadly, 10-goal, five-time most valuable player Carlos Gracida was killed earlier this year at Wellington.
Alegria is captained by Julian Mannix of Calgary, Alberta Canada, but the rest of the team is from Argentina, which is a world leader in high-goal polo.
There are amazing players on both teams. Sapo Caset of Valiente, who is from Lobos, Argentina, scored six goals, five of them on penalties. Nevertheless it was teammate Santi Torres of San Inez, California, also with six goals, who was awarded most valuable player.
The winning goal was a 40-yard penalty goal by Hilario Ulloa of Alegria. Ulloa was joined by teammates Julian Mannix, Mariano Aguerre and Clemente Zavaleta in the winners’ circle for the presentation of the U.S. Open Trophy, awarded to winning teams since 1910.
While the high-goal polo season is over at IPC Palm Beach, play continues through May 26 at Grand Champions Polo Club. Call 561-204-5687 or go to for more information.