High-goal polo action will kick off this weekend at the Bridgehampton Polo Club, with four teams battling it out for the Monty Waterbury Cup in what is the 17th season for the 20-goal tournament. Competition will begin this weekend and run through the first weekend in August, with the championship match tentatively slated for Saturday, August 3, weather permitting. The same teams will then battle for the Hampton Cup in the second half of the season.
For six consecutive Saturdays, games will be played at Two Trees Farm, from July 20 through August 24. Games will also take place other days of the week as well.
White Birch Farm and Lechuza Caracas will take the field for opening day on Saturday, July 20, at 4 p.m. White Birch has won 31 championships and tournaments since its inception, and enters each season at the Bridgehampton Polo Club as the favorite. Sponsor Peter Brant (rated 2 goals) will play alongside longtime veteran Mariano Aguerre (9 goals), and Matias Magrini (8 goals). A fourth one-goal rated player will round out the team, but that player has not been determined yet. Aguerre, like Brant, has played in the Bridgehampton tournament every season. Magrini hails from Argentina, like Aguerre and many of the other players in the tournament, and is the co-owner of the New Bridge Polo and Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina.
Lechuza Caracas is new to the Bridgehampton Polo Club but not to high-level competition. Sponsor Victor Vargas (1 goal), a native of Venezuela, played in the championship of the Palm Beach Open and also won the Gold Cup in Sotogrande, Spain, in 2012. His team will be led by 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, who has won the Sotogrande Gold Cup twice and the Argentine Open three times. Mariano Gracida (3 goals), a Florida native and son of professional player Carlos Gracida, will join the team along with 6-goaler Tommy Goti. Goti won the USPA Sun Cup this year with Pony Express.
Also competing for the Monty Waterbury Cup are the Equuleus and Heathcote, teams that are veterans of the tournament. Equuleus sponsor Joe DiMenna (0 goals) founded Equuleus Polo 14 years ago and has played in the Bridgehampton tournament eight times. DiMenna has won the USPA Bronze Cup twice and the Palm Beach Open and Independence Cup four times.
DiMenna will ride alongside a pair of 8-goalers in Mariano Gonzalez and Magoo LaPrida. Gonzalez has played five summers at Bridgehampton and won several prestigious tournaments, including the Pacific Coast Open, the Palm Beach Open and the USPA Bronze Cup, as well as the Argentina Gold and Silver Cup.
LaPrida is a fan favorite at Bridgehampton. He began playing polo when he was just five, following in the footsteps of his father, who played on the Revlon team in the 1990s. LaPrida has won the prestigious Camara de Diputados three times, as well as the U.S. Open. Five-goaler Martin Pepa, another veteran of the tournament, will round out the team. He has won both the Southampton Independence and the Hampton cups.
Heathcote, with sponsor Steve Lefkowitz (0 goals), rounds out the group of teams. Lefkowitz started playing polo 16 years ago and founded his team in 2004. He has played in Bridgehampton since 2009. Naco Taverna (6 goals) will compete for Heathcote. He has played at Bridgehampton every year since 2001. In 2003, he won both the Hampton and Mercedes-Benz cups playing with White Birch. In 2011, he was a finalist in the Monty Waterbury Cup.
Tommy Biddle (6 goals), also on the team, will compete at Bridgehampton for the 11th time in his career. Biddle won the U.S. Open in 2002, the Canadian Open in 2007, and has been the captain of the U.S. team in tournaments against both England and Mexico. Biddle is rated six goals outdoors, but is the only 10-goal rated arena player in the United States. Nick Manifold (five goals) will play for Heathcote as well. Manifold has played at Bridgehampton since its inaugural season and has been a finalist for both the Bridgehampton and the Monty Waterbury cups.
Because it is a 20-goal tournament, the handicaps of each player on each team should add up to 20. However, teams whose handicap total falls below that number—such as Heathcote (17 goals)—will begin each match with the necessary number of goals to make up the difference. Therefore, Heathcote will start any match against a regularly constituted 20-goal team with a three-goal advantage. In contrast, Equuleus (21 goals) will give each team a goal to start each match.
After opening day, play will continue at Two Trees Farm on Wednesday, July 24, when Heathcote takes on White Birch at 10:30 a.m. Heathcote and Lechuza Caracas will play on Saturday, July 27, at 4 p.m.
Also of note: Nacho Figueras, the longtime veteran of the Bridgehampton tournament and undisputed fan favorite—he’s also a Ralph Lauren model—will not play in the tournament this year as he is recovering from a fractured pelvis he suffered playing in London in May.