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100th U.S. Open Championships Features 13 Teams, Prestigious Sponsors At International Polo Club Palm Beach

WELLINGTON, Florida – Thirteen teams, featuring nine 10-goalers, have entered the Stanford Financial Group – 100th 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.

The 26-goal tournament begins March 19 and culminates with the championship match on Sunday, April 18 at 3 p.m. Fifteen teams, in 2002, is the record for teams in a U.S. Open.

Ten-goalers (the sport’s maximum rating) scheduled to play in the tournament are Mariano Aguerre (White Birch), Javier Novillo Astrada (Las Monjitas), Miguel Novillo Astrada (Bendabout), Mike Azzaro (Catamount), Bautista Heguy (Pony Express), Eduardo Heguy (Orchard Hill), Pite Merlos (Lechuza Caracas), Sebastian Merlos (Lechuza Caracas) and Adam Snow (Bendabout).

Two teams – Bendabout and Lechuza Caracas – have a pair of 10-goalers on their rosters. American Adam Snow and Argentine Miguel Novillo Astrada again form the nucleus for Gillian Johnston’s Coca-Cola team (now Bendabout) that won the 2002 U.S. Open championship. Brothers Pite and Sebastian Merlos of Argentina will patrol the middle for Victor Vargas’ Lechuza Caracas, a team that reached the final in 2003. The Merlos’ won the U.S. Open as teammates on Escue in 1998 and Les Diables Bleus in 1990.

“This is the ultimate year for the U.S. Open,” said Azzaro, who has won the U.S. Open title six times. “Being held at the International Polo Club and being the 100-year anniversary, it’s going to be the U.S. Open tournament to win in our lifetime. The team that wins has to be considered a dominant force in polo.”

The first U.S. Open title game was played in 1904 at Van Cortland Park in New York City where the Wanderers defeated the Freebooters 4 ½-3, the lowest scoring final in the history of the tournament. C Spear, with patron Tommy Boyle, and led by Carlos Gracida, Matias Magrini and Jeff Hall, won the 2003 U.S. Open.

The largest margin of victory occurred in the 1932 U.S. Open when Templeton defeated Greentree 16-3. The smallest margin of victory has been one goal. That has happened 27 times, the most recent in 1994 when Aspen defeated White Birch 8-7.

“There’s no place like Wellington or Palm Beach. This is the mecca of polo,” said John Goodman, who founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach and is patron of the Isla Carroll team. “I think everybody comes here to compete at the highest levels.”

Memo Gracida, a 10-goaler for more than 20 years who was elected to the Polo Hall of Fame in 1997 as an active player, has won a record 15 U.S. Open titles, the last in 1997 with Isla Carroll. His younger brother, Carlos, is second with nine U.S. Open crowns, including last year’s victory with C Spear. For the 2004 U.S. Open, Memo is back with Isla Carroll while Carlos will be playing with Catamount. Both carry a 9-goal rating in 2004.

The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open will be played on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s five world-class Bermuda-grass playing fields and teams will also take advantage of the many private fields in Wellington.

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 U.S. Open tournament will feature a different presenting sponsor every Sunday, including Bombardier Aerospace, Cunard Ltd. and HUMMER.

Bombardier is the world’s standard in business aircraft solutions and offers a full range of air charter services. Cunard owns the Queen Mary 2, the largest, longest, tallest and grandest ocean liner ever built. Hummer, the official vehicle for the inaugural season at International Polo Club Palm Beach, is the world’s No. 1 luxury SUV.

Also, the world-renowned studios of Mitchell Peck have created a spectacular new trophy that will be awarded during “A Salute to The Champions” match on Sunday, April 4. Inspired by the trophies created in the 19th century, it stands 24 inches tall and boast a full team of polo players with heads bowed reverentially, busts of horses in full tack, decorated plinths and a hand-raised bowl 14 inches in diameter.

As always, there will be a delicious Sunday brunch preceding the featured stadium match, catered by The Breakers, the now traditional and very popular champagne divot stomp and an awards presentation.

Individual tickets for the U.S. Open tournament range from $15 for general admission to $120 for tailgating spots. For ticket information for the U.S. Open, please call the club at (561) 204-5687 or visit online at


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