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Azzaro Leads Catamount Over Bendabout 10-9 In Whitney Cup Final At Internastional Polo Club Palm Beach

WELLINGTON, Florida – Catamount, led by 10-goaler Mike Azzaro’s nine goals, made it two-for-two in championship matches as it defeated Bendabout 10-9 in the final of the 26th annual C.V. Whitney Cup 26-goal polo tournament Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The championship contest was a rematch of the season’s first high-goal tournament, the 22-goal Joe Barry Memorial final, which Catamount won 13-10. Bendabout also reached the title game of the season’s last 22-goal tournament, the Hall of Fame Cup, losing 11-9 to ERG.

There were four ties in the game and Bendabout held three-goal leads twice – at 6-3 in the third chukker and 7-4 in the fourth chukker. But Carlos Gracida scored on a 30-yard forehand at the end of a 200-yard run with 1:38 remaining in the fourth to cut the margin to 7-5 and begin Catamount’s comeback.

Azzaro took over in the final two chukkers. He scored on a short forehand with 5:48 left in the fifth to cut the lead to 7-6. Bendabout patron Gillian Johnston tapped in a long pass from Miguel Novillo Astrada to push the margin to two but Azzaro responded with two goals in a 59-second span to tie the game at 8-8.

Azzaro continued to dominate, converting a 30-yard penalty shot 32 seconds into the final chukker to give Catamount a 9-8 lead, its first since 3-2 at the end of the second chukker. Bendabout’s Adam Snow tied the game at 9-9 on a tail shot going away from goal with 5:25 remaining.

Azzaro dribbled in between Snow and Astrada and hit a 10-yard forehand to give Catamount a 10-9 lead with 3:25 remaining. He spent the rest of the game shutting down Bendabout’s attempt to tie the game, hitting long back shots to thwart their offense.

Fittingly, with 40 seconds remaining, Azzaro gained control of the ball, dribbled three times and hit a long neck shot wide right that ate up the rest of the clock and gave Catamount a perfect 6-0 record.

“(At halftime trailing 6-4) We were down and we were a little frustrated, but we pulled it together at halftime,” said Azzaro. “We came out and said, “Listen, we’re champions. They can’t take it from us. The only way they can beat us is if we beat ourselves.’” The last three chukkers, we didn’t make a mistake. We came out (in the second half) and we just kept fighting and fighting and fighting and it just made all the difference in the world.”

Azzaro then praised his patron, Scott Devon, a 3-goaler who has been instrumental in the team’s success all year.

“Scott came out very slow the first half, but then he played outstanding the second half,” said Azzaro. “He really made the difference in the second half,” said Azzaro. “What a year for Scott. Who comes to Palm Beach and wins two major tournaments?”

Ten-goaler Adam Snow led Bendabout (3-2) with five goals while 10-goaler Miguel Novillo Astrada scored two goals and patron Gillian Johnston and Alejandro Novillo Astrada added one goal each.

“I feel happy to have played in a great final,” said Snow, who finished the tournament with a team-high 27 goals in five games. “I’m exhausted and a little disappointed. We had the game in our control for a while and weren’t able to put them away. They found a way to come back and tie the game. Then it’s anybody’s game in the sixth chukker. I feel a little unlucky to have lost, but you make your own luck.”

Azzaro was named the MVP and his horse, Godiva, was selected as Best Playing Pony.

In the semifinals, Catamount scored the first four goals and coasted to a 10-6 victory over Everglades. Bendabout scored four consecutive goals in the final two chukkers, two apiece by patron Gillian Johnston and Miguel Novillo Astrada, to break open a close game en route to an 11-7 victory over Lechuza.

Thirteen teams entered the tournament, which is a prelude to the Stanford Financial Group – 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship, the most prestigious polo tournament in North America.

The tournament is named in memory of Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney, who along with his brother John Hay Whitney, were important polo patrons in the 1930's. The son of Hall of Fame patron Harry Payne Whitney, C.V. won the U.S. Open three times (twice against his brother), and was a renowned owner and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses.

The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open Polo Championship begins Wednesday with a tripleheader starting at 10 a.m. The polo matches are open to the public. Tickets for the Sunday games at the International Polo Club Palm Beach are available at the gate, beginning at $15 each. For information or advance tickets, call (561) 204-5687 or visit the club website at

International Polo Club Palm Beach is located at 3667 120th Avenue South in Wellington. From I-95, take the Forest Hill Boulevard exit and go west approximately 12 miles. Turn left onto South Shore Boulevard and go two miles. Turn left onto Pierson Road, travel about one mile and then make a right onto 120th Avenue South. The club is on the right. From Florida’s Turnpike, take Exit 93 (Lake Worth Road) and go west about six miles. Make a right onto 120th Avenue South. The club is on the left.


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