Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Top-class polo returns to the Kingston Polo Club today and Sunday with the fourth annual Scotia Private Client Group Jamaica Open at the Caymanas Estates, starting at 3 p.m. both days.
Details were outlined at yesterday's launch at the ICWI offices in New Kingston.
Fours teams will, as usual, vie for top honours, including defending champions the Scotia Private Client Group team, captained by Paul Lalor.
The other participating teams are Land Rover sponsored by ATL Automotive, Taittinger sponsored by the Wyndham hotel and Borgne Restaurant.
Today's semi-finals will see Land Rover opposing Borgne Restaurant in the first match, followed by Scotia Private Client Group vs Taittinger at 4:30 p.m.
The winners will meet in the final at the Caymanas Estates on Sunday starting at 4:30 p.m. This will be preceded by the subsidiary final between the losing semi-finalists at 4 p.m.
Each team includes one overseas professional with either a six-goal or five-goal handicap. The Argentinian Tomas Gandara (six goals), who has visited Jamaica on several occasions to play in this tournament, is the top-ranked player invited for the tournament.
He will play alongside Marc Melville (captain), Mark Wates and young Hamish Wates on the Taittinger team.
The Land Rover team comprises Member of Parliament James Robertson (captain), John Byles, Jordon Samuda and the visiting Argentinian Jose Lartiroyen, a five-goal handicapper.
The Scotia Private Client Group team comprises Paul Lalor (captain), Raymond 'Mitta' Rousseau, resident Argentinian Jorge Donovan (five-goal handicapper) and the young professional Jason Wates, who at age 23 is already a three-goal handicapper.
The Borgne Restaurant outfit comprises the visiting English professional Jamie LeHardy (five goals), who was here last year; Craig Russell, Shane Chin and his brother Paul Chin, who replaces Jamaica's most celebrated female player Lesley Fong Yee, who has been sidelined after breaking a leg while playing a month ago.
Speaking on behalf of Scotia Private Client Group, Debra Lopez Spence, centre director, said she was delighted to be involved with the very popular Jamaica Open for a fourth consecutive year.
"I have a profound interest in these athletes and the horses and value the opportunity to connect with polo fans," said Lopez Spence, who was quick to add that guests in the Private Client Group pavilion will be treated to a spectacular culinary experience featuring the flavours of Louisiana and the mastery of its celebrated chef, Brian Landry, a New Orleans native. She said the theme for this year's renewal is Champagne and Oysters.
Also speaking were Dennis Lalor, president of both the Kingston Polo Club and Jamaica Polo Association, and tournament coordinator Karen Kranenburg from Barbados, who has organised this and other polo tournaments worldwide.
Associate sponsors are the Wyndham, ATL Automotive, Good Life Water, Rainforest Seafoods and Island Outpost who, according to marketing and sales manger Gregory Shervingtom, will once again make provision for a spa at the venue.