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Feb 19, 2019 3:32 PM


An action-packed Sunday, February 10, spectators were treated to two finals at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, with Lockton narrowly edging Ridgway Hemp 11-9 to claim the 8-goal Regional President’s Cup, while Hanalei Bay defeated Evergreen 8-4, capturing the 4-goal National Amateur’s Cup.

Regional President's Cup Champions: Lockton - Shane Rice, Nicolas Maciel, Tommy Costello, Jenny Benardoni.
Regional President's Cup Champions: Lockton - Shane Rice, Nicolas Maciel, Tommy Costello, Jenny Benardoni, pictured with representatives from Stella Artois.

The first final of the day featured two evenly-matched teams in Lockton (Jenny Benardoni, Tommy Costello, Nicolas Maciel, Shane Rice) and Ridgway Hemp (Beau Staley, Meghan Gracida, Carlos Hernandez, Memo Gracida), both teams tightly marking their defenders in a physical game with nearly 20 fouls. Rice and Hernandez each converted a Penalty 2 in the opening chukker, but it was a dominant second chukker in favor of Lockton that proved to be a turning point in the game. Outscoring Ridgway Hemp 5-0, Lockton controlled open play with a strong attack and field goals from Benardoni, Maciel and Rice. Two more penalty conversions for Rice completed a stretch of six unanswered goals, increasing Lockton’s lead 6-1. Ridgway Hemp rallied with a strong third chukker to pull back within three goals, Staley finishing the scoring with his first goal of the game to end the half with Lockton in the lead 7-4.

Most Valuable Player Tommy Costello.
Most Valuable Player Tommy Costello.

The second half began with a back-and-forth chukker as both teams struggled to generate offense. It was Memo Gracida who broke through for a goal as Ridgway Hemp continued to chip away at their early five-goal deficit. Each time Ridgway Hemp was seemingly within reach, it was Lockton’s Shane Rice that pushed his team further ahead, finishing a perfect five-for-five from the penalty line. A late offensive run from Carlos Hernandez added three goals in the final chukker, but it wasn’t enough as Shane Rice’s eight-goal performance resulted in Lockton capturing the Regional President’s Cup. Most Valuable Player was awarded to Tommy Costello and Shane Rice’s second chukker bay mare Pawn Shop received Best Playing Pony honors. “Pawn Shop is an 11-year-old Thoroughbred, trained in Texas and Wyoming by the Lequericas, mostly Troy Lequerica,” said Rice. “I bought her five years ago and have played her in every league and level wherever I go. She is small, but so quick and fast that you have to be ready. She has no bottom and loves to compete.”

Pawn Shop played and owned by Shane Rice.
Pawn Shop played and owned by Shane Rice, pictured with Tito Ortiz.

In the second final of the day on Field 1, Evergreen (Tom Sprung, Quinn Evans, Carlitos Galindo*, Taylor Freeman) sought to capture their second consecutive 4-goal tournament victory, but they ran into a tough Hanalei Bay (Krista Bonaguidi, Joe Coors, Ignacio Saracco, Luis Saracco) that used a dominant second half to claim the win. Hanalei Bay grabbed the early 2-1 advantage thanks to a Penalty 2 conversion from Coors. The remainder of the first half proved a defensive battle on both sides of the ball, with the only offense for either team coming from the penalty line. Galindo and Evans converted a Penalty 2 and 3 respectively, pulling Evergreen into a 3-all tie at the end of the third, leaving the result of the final to the remaining two chukkers.

National Amateur Cup Champions: Hanalei Bay - Luis Saracco, Ignacio Saracco, Joe Coors, Krista Bonaguidi.
National Amateur Cup Champions: Hanalei Bay - Luis Saracco, Ignacio Saracco, Joe Coors, Krista Bonaguidi.

Hanalei Bay raced into the lead in a pivotal fourth chukker, utilizing a balanced attack resulting in field goals from Ignacio and Luis Saracco, along with a Penalty 2 conversion for Bonaguidi. More importantly, Hanalei Bay kept Evergreen scoreless in the chukker, allowing them to double-up the lead 6-3 with only one chukker remaining. Hanalei Bay sealed the outcome early in the final chukker after Ignacio Saracco’s second goal in the half extended the lead to four. A late goal from Galindo was not enough as Hanalei Bay’s exceptional final two chukkers led them to the victory and the National Amateur Cup title. Most Valuable Player was presented to 3-goaler Luis Saracco, Hanalei Bay high-scorer with three goals on the day. Luis Saracco’s chestnut Garua also took home the Best Playing Pony blanket.

Most Valuable Player Luis Saracco.
Most Valuable Player Luis Saracco, presented by a Stella Artois representative.

*Carlitos Galindo is a Team USPA alumni. 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.

All photos courtesy of ©Jim Bremner.



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