Story Courtesy of Eldorado Polo Club/Tony Gregg.
The Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup 12-goal final played at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California, turned out to be a game of split momentum for five chukkers and then a battle to the finish in the sixth.
From the start, Bensoleimani.com (Ben Soleimani, Santiago Von Wernich, Tomy Alberdi*, Remy Du Celliee Muller*) took control of the game over Highwood (Ron Mathison, Marcos Llambias, Francisco Mera-Rodriguez, Patrick Uretz – substitute for injured Marcelo Rodriguez-Abbiati) with immediate and sustained intensity; two goals from Alberdi, one from the field and a Penalty 3 conversion placed Bensoleimani.com in the lead 2-0 after the first chukker.
Bensoleimani.com’s momentum continued early into the second as Muller and Von Wernich each scored a goal to increase their lead by four. The end of the chukker saw a switch however, as Highwood recovered and was rewarded with a Penalty 2 conversion from Mera-Rodriguez to end the chukker 4-1 in favor of Bensoleimani.com. Highwood began to find their footing in the third as Mera-Rodriguez scored two goals, another free hit from 10-yards and a field goal, narrowing the deficit to one at halftime 4-3.
Highwood sustained their comeback in the fourth as Mera-Rodriguez struck two open goals and a spectacular neckshot from 65-yards to overtake the lead for the first time. Bensoleimani.com was able to stop the six-goal run as Alberdi added a Penalty 4 conversion. Holding onto a slight lead, Highwood led after the fourth 6-5.
The advantage shifted back to Bensoleimani.com in the fifth, Alberdi adding three more goals to the tally, two open goal shots and one from the field. Highwood was able to answer the four-goal run with Mera-Rodriguez launching a 60-yard penalty conversion of his own, however, Bensoleimani.com led again 8–7 headed into the final chukker.
The sixth saw back-and-forth scoring as Alberdi made his seventh goal of the game to lead by two. Mera-Rodriguez brought Highwood back within one, but Von Wernich gave Bensoleimani.com another two-goal lead. Uretz retaliated for Highwood, once again bringing his team within one, however they could not overcome the deficit as Alberdi scored the final goal to give Bensoleimani.com the win 11–9. “We started the game off strong then had a weak chukker, but we were able to come back and maintain the lead. The other team had a great game and fought hard until the last minute,” Alberdi said.
Displaying strong play and accuracy from the penalty line, Tomy Alberdi was chosen as the Most Valuable Player. Nine-year-old homebred Felina, played by Mera-Rodriguez in the sixth chukker won Best Playing Pony honors.
Recent Polo Hall of Fame inductee Karlene Beal Garber, along with her husband Dick, presented the awards.
All photos courtesy ©Kerri Kerley.
*Tomy Alberdi and Remy Du Celliee Muller are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.