WELLINGTON, FL-March 27, 2013—Audi and Piaget, both based at Grand Champions Polo Club, will begin play this week in the prestigious 109th annual Maserati U.S. Open at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Audi opens the tournament on Thursday at 2 p.m. against longtime rival Coca-Cola. Piaget plays Lechuza Caracas on Saturday, also at 2 p.m.
Piaget, one of only two teams with two 10-goal rated players, is coming off a championship victory in the Butler Handicap on Sunday.
Piaget won the title for the second consecutive year with a thrilling 9-8 victory over ERG.
After a lineup adjustment, Piaget has put together two impressive back-to-back wins over Orchard Hill and ERG and look to be among the favorites in the 11-team U.S. Open tournament.
|Previous Piaget vs Lechuza Caracas match up
Piaget is led by 10-goalers Sapo Caset and Miguel Astrada and will be joined by 23-year-old 6-goaler Nacho Badiola, making his IPC 26-goal debut this season, and team captain Melissa Ganzi, one of only two women players competing in the high goal tournament.
“The U.S. Open is the highest level and the best level of polo that we have in America,” Piaget team captain Melissa Ganzi said. “It’s really special to be able to participate in that and even more amazing to win it. It’s the American Dream.
“The best eight teams should make it to the quarterfinals,” Ganzi said. “I think we are playing well and the timing is perfect. I love playing with two 10-goalers. It’s like playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.”
Sapo Caset, coming off his Most Valuable Player, eight-goal performance in the Butler Handicap, is confident about his team’s chances in the U.S. Open. Caset has competed in the finals the past two years.
“We are playing well now and that is important going into the Open focused,” Caset said. “We have a lot of confidence. Our attitude is changed, the horses are going good and we are playing hard.”
Audi, winners of the 2009 U.S. Open with brothers Gonzalito, Facundo and Nico Pieres with Ganzi, has advanced into two finals this season and hope to find its winning form return in the Open.
|Previous Audi vs Coca Cola match up
This year’s Audi team features 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres, younger brother and 8-goaler Nico Pieres, 7-goaler Jeff Hall, one of the highest-rated American players, and Ganzi, who has gutted out the season and played well despite a broken thumb and knee injury.
“We have one tournament left and that is the U.S. Open,” Gonzalito Pieres said. “We hope to be ready. We know we have to play better than we have been playing.”
There are three brackets. Audi is in bracket one with Coca-Cola, Zorzal, ERG and Valiente, the only other team with two 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso and Pelon Stirling. Piaget is in bracket two with Faraway and Orchard Hill. The third bracket is Lechuza Caracas, Alegria and Zacara.
The teams in bracket one will play within the bracket with the best four teams, by record, advancing to the quarterfinals. The teams in bracket two and three will play cross-bracket, with the best four out of all six teams, by record, also advancing into the quarters.
Zacara, led by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres and coming off its USPA Gold Cup loss to Valiente, is the defending U.S. Open champion.
The U.S. Open Polo Championship, first played in 1904 at Van Courtland Park, celebrated 100 years in 2004. It is one of three major polo tournaments worldwide along with the British and Argentine Opens. It is also the third jewel of U.S. polo’s 26-goal Triple Crown that includes the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Piaget Gold Cup.
For the first half of the 20th century the U.S. Open Polo Championship was hosted in the northeast, primarily at Meadowbrook Polo Club. In 1954, the U.S. Open moved to Oakbrook Polo Club, outside of Chicago, where it stayed until 1978.
The next eight U.S. Opens were hosted by Retama Polo Club in San Antonio where Memo Gracida won the first of his record 16 wins.
In 1987, the U.S. Open was played at El Dorado Polo Club in Palm Springs. The next four were played at Horsepark in Lexington, Ky.
Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. In 2005, Julio Gracida added to the Gracida family’s combined record of 36 U.S. Open Polo Championship wins.
AUDI/PIAGET U.S. OPEN SCHEDULE
Thursday, March 28, Audi vs. Coca-Cola, 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 30, Piaget vs. Lechuza Caracas, 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 31, Audi vs. Zorzal, noon.
Thursday, April 4, Audi vs. Valiente, 2 p.m.
Friday, April 5, Piaget vs. Alegria, 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 7, Audi vs. ERG, noon.
Thursday, April 11, Piaget vs. Zacara, 10 a.m.
Sunday, April 14, Quarterfinals
Wednesday, April 17, Hall of Fame Cup, semifinal; U.S. Open Semifinals, 2 and 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 20: Hall of Fame Cup final, 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 21: Maserati U.S. Open final, 3 p.m.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.