The 2013 polo season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach wraps up this weekend when top teams compete for the title in the Maserati U.S. Open final at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 21.
Last weekend, four teams — Coca-Cola, Valiente, ERG and Zacara — emerged from a field of 11 to compete in the Wednesday semifinals of the 2013 Maserati U.S. Open.
Last Saturday night, rains forced the delay and reassignment of various games and field designations as polo fans and spectators scrambled to assure themselves of optimum fieldside vantage points to watch the tournament quarterfinals.
The 2012 defending champions Zacara (Facundo Pieres, Lyndon Lea, Magoo Laprida and Mike Azzaro) opened the day with an impressive 12-8 win over an Audi foursome that offered early resistance that had Zacara trailing 5-3 at halftime.
“We just weren’t getting the goals in the first half,” Pieres said. “We had plenty of opportunities, but just couldn’t put the ball through the goalposts.”
Laprida agreed. “We had our opportunities in the first half,” he said, “but we just weren’t making our shots. We got stronger in the second half and made up for it.”
Zacara returned to the field in the fourth chukker with a renewed focus of purpose, outscoring Audi 5-1 and taking an 8-6 lead into the fifth.
Zacara maintained its two goal lead through the fifth chukker as the two teams exchanged goals, 10-8, and added to it in the sixth in a 2-0 chukker for the 12-8 final.
ERG was the second team to qualify for a U.S. Open semifinal berth in a 10-9 win over a scrappy Alegria foursome.
Alegria led through much of the first half and carried a 7-5 advantage after the third chukker.
Aggressive defense in the second half of the game resulted in the Alegria offense being limited to just two penalty goals in the final three chukkers and no goals from the field. ERG put up five second half goals as they escaped with the 10-9 win.
The feature match of the day between Valiente and Orchard Hill was moved from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., allowing the grounds more time to dry. Thousands of enthusiastic polo spectators were on hand at the International Polo Club to cheer on their favorite players and teams.
Valiente took control early, and raced out to a 7-4 lead after the opening three periods of play before Orchard Hill fought their way back into the game in the fifth to trail by a single goal, 12-11.
Valiente took control of the final chukker, outscoring Orchard Hill 3-1 for the 15-12 victory. Valiente 6-goaler Santi Torres scored eight goals in the game and was named MVP. Adolfo Cambiaso’s 10-year-old mare, Gatita, received Best Playing Pony honors.
The final contest of the day got underway at 5 p.m. between Lechuza Caracas and Coca-Cola.
Lechuza Caracas led the game through the fifth chukker, 10-8, and appeared to be in control of the game when Coca-Cola rallied.
Three unanswered goals in the final chukker spelled the end for Lechuza Caracas in an 11-10 Coca-Cola win.
In semifinal action on Wednesday, Valiente defeated Coca-Cola 14-8, while Zacara defeated ERG 11-10 in overtime, setting up Sunday’s final match between Valiente and defending champions Zacara.
Ticket prices for Sunday polo range from $10 general admission to $120 box seating. Tickets for Sunday brunch at the Pavilion and its reception start at $65, upward to $330 for the Veuve Clicquot brunch package for two. Tickets can be purchased online at www.internationalpoloclub.com, or by calling (561) 204-5687. Find IPC on Facebook, follow on Twitter at @SundayPolo or visit www.ipcscoreboard.com for up-to-date scores, schedules, rosters and all other polo info.
Above: Chiara Lea, Sophie Dickens, Zacara owner Lyndon Lea and Zachary Lea. PHOTOGRAPHY BY LILA PHOTO