||2004 POLO EXCELLENCE AWARDS.
Honoring those at the top of their game.
The Polo Excellence Awards, polo’s version of the Oscars, honors exceptional talent in
our sport today. The awards were developed by POLO magazine
founder Ami Shinitzky in 1986 as a way to officially recognize
outstanding talent in the sport.
Nominees are chosen by a select group of their
peers. Awards were divided into five categories:
Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year
Amateur Player of the Year, Horse of the Year
and Corporate Sponsor of the Year. Criteria
for player awards include ability,
performance, win-loss record,
contributions to the team,
horsemanship and sportsmanship.
The Horse of the Year Award was
introduced last year, although we
were unable to reach a consensus
then. This is the first year the award will
be given as a way to honor an
outstanding horse based on its overall
The Corporate Sponsor Award is to
honor a company that has made a
significant contribution to promoting polo
on a local or national basis.
Without further ado, we present to you the
Carlos Gracida won the very first Player of the
Year Award in 1986. This year he is receiving his
fifth Player of the Year Award, a record matched
only by his brother Memo. He was born and
raised in Mexico City and became involved with
horses at an early age. He started stick and
balling while being led around and by age 10
began playing tournament polo. By age 18
Carlos Gracida held a 3-goal rating and had his
first opportunity to play polo in the United
States at Steve Gose’s Retama Polo Center.
A few years later he played in his first highgoal
tournament, competing in and eventually
winning the USPA Rolex Gold Cup and the
International Open at Palm Beach Polo. By then
he was 5 goals and counts these as some of his
most thrilling victories. Five years later Gracida
reached 10-goal status. His years in the sport
have taken him all over the world, playing and
winning in all the major tournaments, including
the U.S. Open, Argentine Open in Argentina, the Queen’s and Gold cups in England, Mexico’s
Open, the Melbourne Cup in Australia and
Deauville’s Gold Cup in France.
He is highly respected in the United States
and abroad. In fact, Gracida is the only
foreigner to have won five Argentine Opens and
Argentina’s Triple Crown with Ellerstina in
1994. Gracida was lowered to 9 goals for 2003
and 2004, but his spectacular play in 2004
prompted his handicap to be raised to 10 goals
for 2005. At 43 years old, Carlos stood out
among a field of young, talented superstars.
His accomplishments in 2004 include
winning the 22-goal Joe Barry Memorial, the
26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup and making it to
the semifinal in the U.S. Open with
Catamount. The team narrowly missed their
chance to advance to the final by succumbing
to White Birch in overtime. Carlos went on to
win the 22-goal Hildon Queen’s Cup in
England. He also competed in Argentina’s
Triple Crown of Polo with Adolfo Cambiaso’s
La Dolfina team. Though the team didn’t win
any of the titles, he won the respect of the top
players in the world.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
|2003 Francisco “Paco” de Narvaez
2002 Adam Snow
1999 Hector Galindo/Memo Gracida
1998 Adam Snow
1997 Memo Gracida
1996 Memo Gracida
1995 Carlos Gracida
1994 Mike Azzaro
1993 Carlos Gracida
1992 Owen Rinehart
1991 Memo Gracida
1990 Memo Gracida
1989 Carlos Gracida
1988 Gonzalo Pieres
1987 Owen Rinehart
1986 Carlos Gracida
Carlos Gracida is the only foreigner to have won the Argentine Open five times.
Queen Elizabeth II decorates Carlos Gracida after a Queen’s Cup victory.
YOUNG PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Ulysses Escapite began 2004 as a talented
16-year-old with an A (0) handicap. He was
asked to play on Scott Devon’s Catamount
team in the 22-goal Joe Barry Memorial at
International Polo Club Palm Beach in front of
Devon, 10-goal Mike Azzaro and then 9-goaler
Carlos Gracida. This would be the first highgoal
tournament he ever played in, and those
watching were impressed. He played such a
significant role in his team’s success that the
handicap committee decided to invoke the
monster rule and raise his handicap to 2 goals.
He then competed in the FIP World Cup for
Mexico, with the team advancing to the final playoffs
in France. Before the trip to France, he was asked to
play on Mike Hakan’s 20-goal Duende team during the
summer high-goal season in Santa Barbara. He played
impressively and the team went on to win the Santa
Barbara Cup, the subsidiary of the America Cup. He
was raised to 3 for 2005.
Escapite lives in El Paso, Texas, and
learned to play polo from his uncle at a club
MIGUEL TORRES JR.
Miguelito Torres, now 16, was born into a
polo family in California. He competes at the
Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California, and
the Santa Barbara Polo Club.
In 2004, he won two 8-goal tournaments,
one at Eldorado and the other in San Diego.
His team was runner-up in Eldorado’s 14 goal,
and he was on the winning team in Aiken,
South Carolina’s 16-goal, even earning MVP
honors. After training with 10-goal Adam
Snow, Snow was so impressed with him that
he thought Miguelito would be a good fit for
Antelope’s 20-goal team in Santa Barbara.
Was he ever! The team went on to win the
coveted Pacific Coast Open championship
over eight other highly competitive teams.
Snow said, “He’s extremely talented, and I
feel lucky to have something to do with the
start of his polo career.” After California’s
high-goal season his handicap was raised
from 1 to 2.
MIGUEL TORRES JR.
|2003 Weston Gracida
2002 Julio Gracida
2002 Frederick Mannix Jr.
1999 Jeff Blake
1998 Nicholas Roldan
1997 Jeff Hall
1996 Joe Wayne Barry
1995 Lucas White
1994 Tiger Kneece
1993 John Gobin
1992 Todd Offen
1991 Julio Arellano
1990 Mike Azzaro
1989 Ted Moore
1988 Tom Biddle Jr.
1987 Mike Azzaro
1986 Dana Fortugno
The monster rule was invoked in 2004 for Ulysses Escapite.
Miguel Torres’ defense helped his
team win the Pacific Coast Open.
Scott Devon is one of the top amateur players in
the country. He started playing when he was 20 years
old thanks to his late father, Wes. Wes hired a young
pro by the name of Cali Garcia-Velez to play in an 8-
goal league in the Midwest at the time, which
inspired Scott to start playing. After, Joe Henderson
played with the Devons and helped teach Scott the
basics. Scott first played at Oak Brook Polo Club in
Chicago then followed some of his Chicago friends,
including the Kuhns and Wigdahls, to Florida and
other polo places. “I had very memorable times with
Adam and Michael Butler, traveling with them to play
in international events throughout Europe.” In
Florida, Devon had the opportunity to play with
several good players, including Fortunato and Agusto
Gomez, Samuel Moreno, Juan Bollini, Rob Walton,
Sunny Hale and Wicky el Effendi.
In the late 1980s Devon got a taste of high goal
when he played with the Revlon team, which was a
great experience for him. Overall, much of his
experience has been with low- and medium-goal polo,
which he still very much enjoys. In fact, one mediumgoal
tournament stands out. “Our last team [in those
earlier years in Florida] with Julio Arellano and Dave
Offen won the 14-goal, which was very special to me
because it was the last time my dad played,” he said.
Devon’s father became ill, so he took six years off
from polo to take over the family business concerns
with the hope of someday returning to the sport. Boy,
has he ever! Wes Devon’s favorite player to watch in
the 1980s was Carlos Gracida. “I guess I must have
taken good notes back then since I decided to form a
team with Carlos as captain. He has been a pleasure to play with and is a gentleman as well as a great
player. Mike [Azzaro] was also a family favorite as both
of my parents knew Mike’s family from the Chicago
days.” In 2004, he assembled his Catamount team
with Carlos Gracida and Mike Azzaro and got off to a
wonderful start, winning the 22-
goal Joe Barry Memorial and the
26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup. Though
his Catamount team was eliminated
in the semis, it was one of the early
favorites to win the tournament.
It is no doubt Devon was one of
the reasons for the team’s success.
His handicap was raised from 3- to
4-goals for 2005.
“I consider myself fortunate to
have played at so many different
levels of polo and can honestly say I
enjoy every level as much as the
next. I have two sons that show an
interest in the sport, so hopefully I
can provide the same type of
experience for them as my father
did for me.”
AMATEUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
|2003 Thomas Boyle
2002 Gillian Johnston
1999 Andy Busch
1998 Steve Van Andel
1997 John Goodman
1996 Georges Daou
1995 Doug Matthews
1994 Fred Mannix
1993 Adam Lindemann
1992 The Busch brothers
1991 Merle Jenkins
1990 Peter Brant
1989 Peter Baldwin
1988 Norman Brinker
1987 Rodger Rinehart
Scott Devon has made the transition from low- and medium-goal polo to high-goal polo with considerable success.
This is the first year we are awarding the Horse
of the Year. Each year a horse is awarded the Willis
L. Hartman Best Playing Pony award in the U.S.
Open. It is traditionally awarded to a horse that
plays in the final match. We didn’t want to limit the
award to the final but wanted to recognize the top
horse playing among all the teams competing,
whether or not it played in the final.
The 2004 Horse of the Year goes to Memo
Gracida’s 8-year-old black gelding, Wembly. Just to
have a 10-goal player say a horse is something
special is, well, something special. But in Wembly’s
case, his name was mentioned by many 10-goalers
and other high-goal players as well.
Gracida purchased Wembly in England three
years ago. He is by a thoroughbred stud, out of
one of Kerry Packer’s Australian mares. He was
trained by Ross Ainsley. According to Gracida: “I
knew he was special after the first 50 yards I rode
him. He does everything effortlessly. He has all
the qualities of a champion.” Gracida has played
him for the past three years.
Gracida said Wembly is very
explosive when you want to
handle him on the ground but
very willing and obedient once
you are on his back. He can
play any level of polo from kids
polo to a 40-goal match.
Wembly has classic
thoroughbred looks and stands
15.3 hands. He has won best
playing pony awards in
Greenwich in 2002 and in the
2004 Ylvisaker Cup. Gracida
ranks him among his best six
and one of the best of all time.
“[He just keeps] getting better
and better,” Gracida said.
HORSE OF THE YEAR
WEMBLY, OWNED AND PLAYED BY
Wembly is one of Memo Gracida’s
all-time best ponies.
Wembly, by artist Melinda Brewer
CORPORATE SPONSOR OF THE YEAR
In 2004, its second year sponsoring polo,
Bombardier Business Aircraft signed on as
presenting sponsor of the 26-goal U.S. Open
Championship at International Polo Club Palm
Beach in Wellington, Florida; sponsor of the 20-goal
Pacific Coast Open in Santa Barbara, California;
and presenting sponsor of the Lamborghini Polo
Cup at the Las Colinas Polo Club in Dallas, Texas.
Bombardier’s commitment didn’t end there.
The company recently expanded its sponsorship of
polo by signing multi-year sponsorship agreements
with polo clubs in Wellington, Houston, Dallas and
“As we enter our third year of polo sponsorship
in the U.S.,” said Brant Dahlfors, vice president of
sales at Bombardier Business Aircraft, “we are proud
to be a mulit-year presenting sponsor of the U.S.
Open Championship at International Polo Club
The Bombardier polo sports
program is managed by Gary
Soloff, Bombardier regional
marketing executive, and
facilitated by Charles Ward of
Idea Works, Dallas.
Bombardier Business Aircraft
manufactures the Bombardier
Learjet, Challenger and Global
business jets. It offers charter
service through Bombardier
Skyjet, fractional ownership
through Bombardier Flexjet as
well as aircraft support services,
and pilot and maintenance
training through Bombardier
International Polo Club Palm Beach founder John Goodman, second from
right, welcomes Idea Works’ Charles Ward, and Bombardier’s
Bob Knebel and Dylan Haynie.
Bombardier has been sponsoring polo tournaments at different levels and in
different cities, including the U.S. Open.