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Lechuza Defeats San Saba 12-9 In Stanford Financial Group - 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship At International Polo Club Palm Beach

WELLINGTON, Florida – Ten-goaler Sebastian Merlos scored six goals to lead a revamped Lechuza lineup past San Saba 12-9 in a first-round game of the Stanford Financial Group – 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.

In other first-round games, 9-goaler Milo Araujo and 7-goaler Gaston Laulhe scored four goals each as Texas Polo surprised Pony Express 10-9 and 8-goaler Facundo Pieres scored seven goals to lead Old Pueblo over Millarville 12-8.

Lechuza, a finalist in the 2003 U.S. Open, used its third different lineup in three games. For the second straight game, 10-goaler Pite Merlos was sidelines with a pulled leg muscle. He is doubtful for Lechuza’s game against Orchard Hill on Wednesday at noon.

Sebastian Merlos moved to the key No. 3 position usually held by older brother Pite and with patron Victor Vargas, was joined by 7-goaler Guille Aguero, in his second game for Lechuza, and newcomer Francisco Menendez.

“It was a very special game for us,” said Sebastian Merlos, “not playing with Pite and our first time on Field 1. We were a little nervous to begin the game; it was all new for everyone. But after one or two chukkers, we got to know everyone.”

San Saba trailed 4-3 after the second chukker before Lechuza took control, scoring five consecutive goals in the third and fourth chukkers to increase its lead to 9-3 with 58 seconds left in the fourth on Aguero’s short forehand.

San Saba rallied in the sixth chukker with four consecutive goals to make the score respectable.

Vargas, Menendez and Aguero scored two goals apiece to balance Merlos’ heroics.

Nine-goaler Agustin Merlos led San Saba (1-2) with five goals while 8-goaler Hector Galindo scored two goals. Patron Tommy Lee Jones and Gerardo Collardin added one goal each for San Saba.

Not only was it brother against brother, but their father, Cacho, a legendary player in his era, coaches San Saba.

“I think it’s harder on him,” said Sebastian. “He knows all our secrets. On the field, you forget you’re relatives for six chukkers. They’re the other guys, not the enemy, but almost.”

Texas Polo scored the first two goals, one each by Araujo and Laulhe, and never trailed in the game. Patron Michael Price and 9-goaler Pepe Heguy scored one goal each for Texas Polo (1-2).

Ten-goaler Bautista Heguy led Pony Express (2-1) with seven goals and Sapo Caset added two goals. Alex Agote, who was injured and replaced by Hector Guerrero, did not score. Patron Bob Daniels returned to the lineup after missing several games due to a rib injury and did not score.

Old Pueblo’s victory eliminated Millarville (1-3) from the tournament. After spotting Millarville a 2-0 lead in the first chukker on a pair of 60-yard penalty shots by 8-goaler Mariano Gonzalez, Old Pueblo reeled for seven unanswered goals, four by Pieres, to take control of the game.

Eight-goaler Jeff Hall added three goals for Old Pueblo (1-2) while patron John Hall and 9-goaler Matias Magrini scored one goal apiece.

Frederick Mannix led Millarville with four goals while Gonzalez finished with three goals and Daniel Roenisch scored one goal. Augustin Zavaleta did not score.

High-goal polo action in the Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open Polo Championship continues Tuesday when Catamount (2-1), led by 10-goaler Mike Azzaro and 9-goaler Carlos Gracida, plays Bendabout (2-1), led by 10-goalers Adam Snow and Miguel Novillo Astrada.

Thirteen teams, featuring nine 10-goalers, have entered the Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open Polo Championship, the most prestigious polo tournament in North America, highlighting the historic inaugural polo season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. The 26-goal tournament culminates with the championship match on Sunday, April 18 at 3 p.m. Fifteen teams, in 2002, is the record for teams in a U.S. Open.

The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open will be played on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s five world-class Bermuda-grass playing fields and teams will also take advantage of the many private fields in Wellington.

The Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, a privately-held global network of affiliated companies, has signed on as the title sponsor of the 100th U.S. Open Polo Championship in 2004. Stanford’s family of companies provides international private banking, trust and brokerage services and real estate development. Currently, the Stanford organization manages in excess of $17 billion in deposits and assets, serving clients on six continents. The success of the group is the result of entrepreneurial spirit and drive spearheaded by third generation Chairman and CEO R. Allen Stanford.

Like the high-goal teams on the field, the International Polo Club Palm Beach has amassed a lineup of prestigious sponsors for the U.S. Open. The Stanford Financial Group – U.S. Open tournament will feature a different presenting sponsor every Sunday, including Bombardier Aerospace, Cunard Ltd. and HUMMER, Mitchell-Peck Jewelers, Piaget and Roder.

As always, there will be a delicious Sunday brunch, catered by The Breakers, open to the public preceding the featured stadium match, along with the now traditional and very popular champagne divot stomp and an post-match awards presentation.

Individual tickets for the U.S. Open tournament Sunday games range from $15 for general admission to $120 for tailgating spots and are available in advance. For ticket information for the U.S. Open, please call the club at (561) 204-5687 or visit online at Tickets are also available at the gate.

International Polo Club Palm Beach is located at 3667 120th Avenue South, between Pierson Road and Lake Worth Road, in Wellington.


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