By Alex Webbe
Daily News Polo Columnist
Polo is back, and with it all of the glitz, glamour and excitement of cocktail parties, champagne brunches, fashion shows and celebrities.
The world’s top polo players are returning to the International Polo Club Palm Beach to do battle for another season, and the public is invited to become part of a Gatsby tradition that’s been part of the Palm Beaches for generations.
For the 13th consecutive season, the International Polo Club offers the highest-rated polo competition in North America with four 20-goal tournaments and three 26-goal contests that will feature many of the game’s top players.
Following last Sunday’s exciting come-from-behind win by Coca-Cola over Villa del Lago in the final seconds of the club’s opening tournament, the Joe Barry Memorial Cup will get started on Saturday. The first of four in a field of 10 teams will take to the massive green playing fields at the International Polo Club for the 20-goal tournament, with Steve Van Andel’s Orchard Hill team prepared to defend its 2015 title. On Saturday, La Indiana plays Enigma at 1 p.m. and Coca-Cola faces Tonkawa at 3 p.m. The final is slated to be played on Jan. 24 and will be closely followed by the Ylvisaker Cup (Jan. 27-Feb. 21).
Returning teams include Coca-Cola, Orchard Hill, Tonkawa, Valiente, Villa del Lago, Audi/Millerville, Palm Beach Illustrated and Jerome Wirth’s Enigma. Two newcomers this year are Michael Bickford’s La Indiana foursome and the highly touted Dubai team of Rashid Albwardy.
Players from nearly a dozen countries will be on the rosters of this year’s competitors, from Argentine 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso to Australian 7-goaler Ruki Baillieu.
The final 20-goal tournament of the season is the Iglehart Cup ,which finds a number of teams dropping out in favor of the 26-goal C. V. Whitney Cup (Feb. 24-March 6).
The C.V. Whitney Cup is the first leg of what polo enthusiasts refer to as the Triple Crown of American polo, and precedes the U.S. Polo Association Gold Cup (March 6-27) and the season-ending United States Open Championship (March 3-April 24).
New fieldside seating on the stadium side of the field has been installed this year, as well as a minibars and food stations.
The obligatory halftime champagne divot stomp (between the third and fourth chukkers) allows polo fans a chance to stretch their legs by walking onto the field where complimentary champagne is being served.
Tailgate tents offer a more-organized approach for the more devoted “poloistas,” while the Polo Pavilion remains on tap for those interested in the club’s champagne brunch and fieldside viewing of the action.
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