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CARLTON & KELEEN BEAL CUP SPANS ACROSS ALL GOAL LEVELS AT ELDORADO POLO CLUB

Feb 11, 2020 12:44 PM

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HIGHWOOD COMMANDS THE CARLTON & KELEEN BEAL CUP

12-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Champions: Highwood - Ron Mathison, Francisco Rodriguez Mera, Jared Sheldon, and Marcelo Abbiati, presented by Karlene Garber.
12-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Champions: Highwood - Ron Mathison, Francisco Rodriguez Mera, Jared Sheldon, and Marcelo Abbiati, presented by Karlene Garber.

Article courtesy of Tony Gregg

The 12-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Final, played on Sunday, February 9, before a large crowd of spectators on a beautiful afternoon, featured Idahoan Jenny Luttrell-Benardoni and her Cotterel team (Jenny Luttrell-Benardoni, Francisco Benardoni, Julian Mannix, Santiago Von Wernich) mounting up to face Ron Mathison’s Highwood from Calgary (Ron Mathison, Marcello Rodriguez-Abbiati, Jared Sheldon*, Francisco Rodriguez-Mera). Dominating the game with a commanding lead established in the second chukker, Highwood captured the 12-goal trophy 12–8.

Jared Sheldon put Highwood on the scoreboard first, however Cotterel answered back just as quickly with a Penalty 4 conversion. Finishing up the opening chukker, Highwood’s Francisco Rodriguez-Mera capitalized on a penalty conversion to take the lead 2-1 after the first. Coming alive in a decisive second chukker, Highwood’s Sheldon took control of the field, scoring four powerful goals while teammate Rodriguez-Mera added one to give their team a 7-1 advantage, keeping their opponents scoreless. Sheldon opening the third with his sixth goal of the game, Cotterel countered for the first time since the first with a field goal by Julian Mannix and a Penalty 2 from Santi Von Wernich. Despite their efforts, Highwood held a comfortable led at halftime 8-3.

Cotterel scored back-to-back goals to open the fourth, but Highwood responded with a pair of goals to double-up the scoreboard 10-5. Sheldon scored his eighth goal of the day in the fifth, Highwood’s stellar defense keeping Cotterel scoreless for a second chukker, extending the lead 11-5.

Highwood's Francisco Rodriguez Mera reaches for the hook on Cotterel's Julian Mannix.
Highwood's Francisco Rodriguez Mera reaches for the hook on Cotterel's Julian Mannix.

A final field goal from Sheldon, his ninth on the day, increased Highwood’s advantage early in the sixth. Highwood was met by an offensive push from Cotterel in the final chukker however, scoring three consecutive goals to narrow the gap. Unfortunately for Cotterel, the offensive drive came too late and Highwood earned the trophy 12-8.

“Our strategy was to communicate and rotate well as a team,” Sheldon revealed. “We [Highwood] are a very balanced team and we do a great job of working for each other and giving someone the best opportunity available on the field. In Sunday’s final most of the opportunities were falling to me and I was able to take advantage of them to score.”

Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Iglehart Award recipient Karlene Beal Garber, daughter of Carlton and Keleen Beal, presented the championship belt buckles to the winners. Scoring nine goals of Highwood’s total 12 goals, Jared Sheldon was named Most Valuable Player.

Best Playing Pony: Felina, ridden by Francisco Rodriguez Mera, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Ignacio Saenz, Emilia Soldiver, Gaby Bracamonte.
Best Playing Pony: Felina, ridden by Francisco Rodriguez Mera, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Ignacio Saenz, Emilia Soldiver, Gaby Bracamonte.

Felina, a 10-year-old mare owned and played by Francisco Rodriguez-Mera in the first and fourth chukkers, was presented with Best Playing Pony honors. “Felina is my best mare because I can always do what I want on her,” Rodriguez-Mera said.

FARMERS & MERCHANTS BANK WIN 8-GOAL CARLTON & KELEEN BEAL CUP

8-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Champions: Farmers & Merchants Bank - Danny Walker, Tim Rudy, Matt Walker, and Leigh Brecheen, presented by Karlene Garber.
8-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Champions: Farmers & Merchants Bank - Danny Walker, Tim Rudy, Matt Walker, and Leigh Brecheen, presented by Karlene Garber.

Article courtesy of Tony Gregg

The 8-goal Carlton and Keleen Beal Cup Final featured Farmers & Merchants Bank (FMB) and Antelope, two teams with a strong history of winning tournaments in the desert. Danny Walker brought his FMB organization (Danny Walker, Matthew Walker, Leigh Brecheen, Tim Rudy) to challenge Geoff Palmer’s Antelope (Geoff Palmer, Grant Palmer, Santiago Trotz, Marcos Llambias). Receiving a goal on handicap, FMB maintained the lead throughout the game, winning the trophy 11-8.

“To win this tournament with my son, Matthew, makes this an exceptionally special victory and a proud moment for both Linda and I to see him recognized as Most Valuable Player. Our team was decided on in November 2019 and the planning of horses and teammates with complimentary skills ultimately resulted in a tournament win.”  – Danny Walker

Leading after the first chukker, FMB scored exclusively from the penalty line with a Penalty 3 from Dan Walker and a Penalty 4 from his son. Scoring a field goal each in the second, Marcos Llambias and Grant Palmer left FMB scoreless, allowing Antelope to even the tally 3-all headed into the third. Mirroring the previous chukker’s plays, FMB added two to the scoreboard off the mallet of Rudy and Danny Walker, allowing them to regain the lead 5–3 at halftime.

Danny Walker of Farmers & Merchants Bank carries the ball on the nearside riding Best Playing Pony Garrapinada.
Danny Walker of Farmers & Merchants Bank carries the ball on the nearside riding Best Playing Pony Garrapinada.

FMB’s Rudy scored a field goal to open the fourth chukker, but Antelope struck back with two of their own, bringing the deficit within one. Trading goals in the fifth, a field goal from Matt Walker and another Penalty 3 conversion from Danny Walker retained the one-goal lead going into the final chukker 8–7. Striking hard in the final minutes, Matthew Walker launched three goals between the posts in the sixth to one Penalty 2 from Antelope’s Grant Palmer. Capturing the win in regulation, FMB earned the title 11-8.

The tournament awards, including commemorative belt buckles, were presented by Karlene Beal Garber. Demonstrating strong and accurate hitting, Matt Walker was selected as the Most Valuable Player. "The key to Farmers & Merchants Bank’s success was our wiliness to remain confident in our game plan," Matt Walker said. "Antelope is an extremely tough team, especially with Santiago Trotz as its captain. Regardless of our lead, we always knew Santi has an uncanny ability to find a way to win. Our focus on the defensive side of the ball and our over communication on the field was instrumental in assisting with our victory. My father was the key to our offensive prowess as a forward, while Leigh repeatedly cut off any counter offense Antelope attempted. Tim Rudy was the main disruptive force in middle.”

Best Playing Pony: Garrapinada, played and owned by Danny Walker, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Manuel Dolores Garcia.
Best Playing Pony: Garrapinada, played and owned by Danny Walker, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Manuel Dolores Garcia.

Garrapinada (Barullo x Gota), a 9-year-old mare played by Danny Walker in the fourth and sixth chukkers, was adorned with the Best Playing Pony blanket. "She competes at all levels from 8- to 26-goal polo," Danny Walker said. "She is quick to the turn, has excellent speed and is a powerful horse."

LA FORTUNA EDGES OUT EXIT CONSULTING GROUP IN 4-GOAL CARLTON & KELEEN BEAL CUP

4-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Champions: La Fortuna - Luis Saracco, Caroline Anier, TJ Elordi and Elise Bigelow, presented by Karlene Garber.
4-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Champions: La Fortuna - Luis Saracco, Caroline Anier, TJ Elordi and Elise Bigelow, presented by Karlene Garber.

Exit Consulting Group met La Fortuna in the 4-goal Carlton & Keleen Beal Cup Final on Sunday, February 9, at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California. Recently claiming the Pacific Coast Circuit Officers Cup B-Flight, Exit Consulting Group (Lamar Rutherford, Greg Hanson, Rodrigo Salinas, Ashton Wolf) welcomed Ashton Wolf and Greg Hanson to the roster. Their opponents, La Fortuna (Elise Bigelow, Luis Saracco, Caroline Anier, TJ Elordi), held onto an initial lead throughout the game, sealing the victory 8.5-7.

“I think we were very prepared with a few options with different strategies to counter Exit Consulting Group,” Caroline Anier said. “Our team spends a lot of time planning each game on paper before we play and we make sure to have a few spare plans if our first plan doesn’t work. Planning plus a little luck is a good combination. All polo players know that no matter how hard and how smart you can play, luck is also part of the game.”

Starting off the scoring for Exit Consulting Group, Ashton Wolf held his own against La Fortuna, scoring all of his team’s goals in the first half. Receiving a half goal on handicap from the onset, La Fortuna matched Wolf goal for goal to maintain their initial advantage with goals by Luis Saracco and Caroline Anier. Capitalizing on Penalty 3 opportunities on both sides, a battle of the 3-goalers continued in the second chukker to end the half 5.5-4 in La Fortuna’s favor.

La Fortuna's Luis Saracco with Exit Consulting Group's Rodrigo Salinas on his hip.
La Fortuna's Luis Saracco with Exit Consulting Group's Rodrigo Salinas on his hip.

Hammering yet another Penalty 3 between the posts for his fifth goal of the day, Saracco was met by two retaliating goals delivered by Exit Consulting Group in the third. Holding onto a one-and-a-half goal lead 7.5-6 headed into the final chukker, Exit Consulting Group would have to move quickly if they wanted to overtake the opposing team. Each side adding a goal to their tally in the sixth, Luis Saracco proved deadly on penalty shots and was the single scorer for his team in the second half. Experiencing good fortune under the guidance of Saracco, La Fortuna secured the win 8.5-7.

La Fortuna’s Luis Saracco was named Most Valuable Player. “Our idea was to cut the line between Exit Consulting Group’s 3-goalers, Ashton Wolf and Rodrigo Salinas, and to move the ball quickly once we had it,” Saracco said.

Best Playing Pony: Rumba, played and owned by Luis Saracco, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Angela Russo and Dario Mucino.
Best Playing Pony: Rumba, played and owned by Luis Saracco, presented by Karlene Garber, and pictured with Angela Russo and Dario Mucino.

Rumba, a 6-year-old chestnut mare played by Saracco in the second chukker, was chosen as the Best Playing Pony. “Rumba is a homebred that I brought from Argentina last summer,” Saracco said. “She is the daughter of Open Guantanamo (Habana x Sportivo).”

All photos courtesy of ©Kerri Kerley.

*Jared Sheldon is a Team USPA alumnus. The mission of Team USPA is to improve the sport of polo in the United States by developing the talent/skills of young American players through mentored training and playing opportunities, ultimately leading to a pool of higher rated American players.

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