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Bensadon Leads Isla Carroll Over White Birch 10-6 To Capture Stanford Financial Group - 100th U.S. Open Polo Championships At International Polo Club Palm Beach

WELLINGTON – Sentimental favorite Isla Carroll, led by Hall of Famer Memo Gracida, scored eight consecutive goals en route to a 10-6 victory over White Birch in the championship match of the Stanford Financial Group – 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship in front of 6,896 spectators at International Polo Club Palm Beach on Sunday.

It was the 16th U.S. Open championship for the 47-year-old Gracida, whose handicap was lowered to 9 goals at the beginning of the 2004 season after more than 20 years as a 10-goaler. His first title was in 1977 with Retama. His 15th U.S. Open crown was in 1997 with Isla Carroll. It was his experience that provided leadership for Isla Carroll.

“They (White Birch) were very quick, very accurate in the beginning,” said Gracida. “At halftime, we were one goal ahead and we got confidence. I told them we were not playing our best and we were one goal ahead, so we needed to keep working the hard the next three chukkers. The team worked very well.”

White Birch defeated Isla Carroll 14-9 in the first round of the tournament and it looked like it might be a repeat. White Birch scored the first three goals but Isla Carroll responded with four unanswered goals, two by Pancho Bensadon and two by Sugar Erskine.

The second half belonged to Isla Carroll as Bensadon scored two goals in the fourth and fifth chukkers – eight consecutive goals – to give Isla Carroll a commanding 8-3 advantage heading into the final chukker.

White Birch cut the margin to 8-5 with 5:57 remaining on two goals by 10-goaler Mariano Aguerre in a 42-second span, but could not come any closer.

This was the fourth U.S. Open final Peter Brant’s White Birch has lost. It is still the only high-goal tournament the team has not won.

“It’s a great feeling, something we worked for all year,” said John Goodman, the Isla Carroll patron who built International Polo Club. It was Isla Carroll’s second U.S. Open title. Isla Carroll defeated White Birch 10-6 in the 1997 title game.

Eight-goaler Pancho Bensadon scored eight goals for the third consecutive game to lead Isla Carroll and was named the Most Valuable Player.

“Maybe I score the goals, but that doesn’t mean too much,” said Bensadon, who finished as the tournament’s leading scorer with 44 goals in seven games. “The work of the team was the main thing in this final.”

Gracida praised his teammates at a post-match press conference.

“Pancho had a fantastic tournament, not only the final, but the whole tournament he played above his handicap,” said Gracida. “John (Goodman) has been a very good asset to the team. He’s worked very hard.

“And Sugar, he’s a warrior. He never gives up, he fights…he’s a motor, he works and works and works and works. Defensively, he was very good. Normally we have him on the offense, but today he played more defense and I think it gave me a little more freedom in the middle of the field. I’m just very happy.”

White Birch missed several scoring opportunities in the second half.

“We just had a bad day,” said Aguerre, who finished with three goals in the final and 36 for the tournament. “They’re great winners. John (Gooman), after all he’s done for polo, deserves this trophy more than anyone else.

“The horses got a little tired, but we didn’t lose because of the horses. We lost because we couldn’t keep up with the plan.”

Nine-goaler Lucas Criado scored two goals for White Birch and 3-goaler Del Walton added one goal. Patron Peter Brant did not score.

It is expected that International Polo Club Palm Beach will host the U.S. Open for the next two years. An official announcement is expected soon, according to club officials.

The season’s largest crowd featured many celebrities, including Star Jones of ABC’s “The View” and actress Nicolette Sheridan of “Knots Landing”, who participated in the pre-game coin toss and awarded the MVP trophy to Bensadon.

“I feel honored just to have this shirt (red Isla Carroll jersey) on today,” said Erskine, who finished with two goals. “I feel honored to be playing with Memo Gracida in this tournament. I was 2 when he won his first one (in 1977).

“I feel like I shouldn’t even be here. Ten years ago, I was just starting out and messing around and John Goodman took me under his wing. I feel like I can’t believe the dream. I keep pinching myself.”

Thirteen teams, featuring 10 10-goalers, entered the Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open Polo Championship, the most prestigious polo tournament in North America, highlighting the historic inaugural polo season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Fifteen teams, in 2002, is the record for teams in a U.S. Open.

The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open was played on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s five world-class Bermuda-grass playing fields.

The Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, a privately-held global network of affiliated companies, has signed on as the title sponsor of the 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship in 2004. Stanford’s family of companies provides international private banking, trust and brokerage services and real estate development. Currently, the Stanford organization manages in excess of $17 billion in deposits and assets, serving clients on six continents. The success of the group is the result of entrepreneurial spirit and drive spearheaded by third generation Chairman and CEO R. Allen Stanford.

Like the high-goal teams on the field, the International Polo Club Palm Beach has amassed a lineup of prestigious sponsors for the U.S. Open. The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open tournament will feature a different presenting sponsor every Sunday, including Bombardier Aerospace, Cunard Ltd. and HUMMER, Mitchell-Peck Jewelers, Piaget, Roderer Estate, Kubota and Roder.

International Polo Club Palm Beach is located at 3667 120th Avenue South, between Pierson Road and Lake Worth Road, in Wellington.


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