Audi and Piaget are among an impressive field of 15 teams for the 20-goal season that opens Jan. 3 with the Herbie Pennell Cup Tournament at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
IPC, polo’s winter capital of the world, will celebrate its 10th anniversary when the winter polo season opens with the first of four 20-goal tournaments.
The two-day Herbie Pennell Cup features four teams including defending champion Coca-Cola led by Gillian Johnston; Lechuza Caracas; Villa del Lago; and La Herradura, led by Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Memo Gracida returning to IPC after a two-year absence and his brother Carlos, also a Hall of Famer and nine-time U.S. Open winner.
Two semifinal games are set for Jan. 3 with La Herradura playing Villa del Lago, led by 2012 British Open MVP Polito Pieres and Coca-Cola playing Lechuza Caracas at 1 p.m., returning to 20-goal polo after a year’s absence, at 3 p.m. The championship final takes place Sunday, Jan. 6 at 3 p.m.
Herbie Pennell, one of the nation’s top indoor polo players rated at 8 goals, and 6-goal outdoor rated player, was inducted posthumously last year into the National Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.
The remaining three 20-goal tournaments are the Jan. 8-27 Joe Barry Memorial Cup; Jan. 29 through Feb. 24 Ylvisaker Cup, won last year by Melissa Ganzi’s underdog Piaget team in an upset over husband Marc’s Audi team; and Feb. 20 through March 3, the Iglehart Cup.
“This is where you come to play if you want to get serious,” said Jimmy Newman, IPC’s director of polo operations. “The 20-goal has become the heart of all of this.”
There are three 26-goal tournaments, the C.V. Whitney (Feb. 20 through March 3), USPA Piaget Gold Cup (March 5-24) and prestigious 109th U.S. Open (March 26 through April 21) which has a new title sponsor with Maserati signing on.
Maserati heads an impressive list of sponsors for the 2013 season that includes Piaget, Veuve Clicquot, Belvedere Vodka, Four Seasons Resort, Bethesda Health, Iberia Bank and Metier.
Nestled in the heart of South Florida’s hallowed horse country, IPC is a world-class facility designed to showcase the sport’s top players and horses.
Audi and Piaget are among top teams expected to challenge for titles throughout the season. Audi, led by player-patron Marc Ganzi, will announce its lineup in January. Ganzi is ranked among the top amateur polo players in the world according to the World Polo Tour.
Audi, 2009 U.S. Open champion, will compete in both the 20- and 26-goal tournaments for the second consecutive year.
Audi has the momentum coming into the 2013 season after sweeping the fall 20-goal fall season at Grand Champions Polo Club winning both the USPA National 20-Goal and USPA North America Cup tournaments.
Piaget, led by player-patron Melissa Ganzi, will be joined by 10-goaler Miguel Astrada and 5-goaler Juan Bollini. The team’s fourth player will also be announced in January.
After a three-year hiatus, Piaget competed in the 20-goal tournaments last year winning the Ylvisaker Cup. Piaget will also compete in the 26-goal tournaments with 10-goalers Miguel Astrada and Sapo Caset.
The IPC season has attracted all eight of the world’s top-ranked players rated at 10 goals in the U.S. including Adolfo Cambiaso, Miguel Astrada, Sapo Caset, Pelon Stirling, Juan Martin Nero, Pablo McDonough, Facundo Pieres and Gonzalito Pieres. The Pieres brothers joined brother Nico and brother-in-law and MVP Mariano Aguerre for their first Argentine Open victory, a 12-10 upset of six-time defending champion La Dolfina.
Among other season highlights are the Feb. 15 Polo Hall of Fame inductions at the National Museum of Polo in Lake Worth and the Outback 40-Goal Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. to benefit the Polo Players Support Group Inc.
The International Polo Club is located at 3667 120th Avenue South in Wellington. To purchase tickets or get schedule information, visit www.internationalpoloclub.com or call (561) 204-5687.
Above: Marc and Melissa Ganzi of Audi.