In a lively final game marking the end of the National Twenty Goal® hosted by Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, Casablanca would not be denied the win and gave the spectators a show, defeating 2016 defending champions Flexjet 13-6. Due to Alejandro Novillo Astrada’s travel to Argentina to play in the Argentine Open, Pablo Dorignac stepped in as a substitute, resulting in one goal on handicap for Flexjet at the onset of the game.
Winning the first knock in, Flexjet came up just short on their first attempt at the goal. Jeff Blake was able to momentarily divert the ball, which fell dangerously close to Casablanca’s goal, with a swift backshot. Seizing his opportunity, Juan Bollini followed up the initial play to score the first goal, easily tapping in the ball, which sat wide open, into goal. As both teams struggled for control, Casablanca was awarded a reaching penalty which Flexjet challenged and lost, leaving Ganzi to capitalize on an open goal Penalty 2. Receiving the ball from teammate Mike Azzaro, Grant Ganzi scored a second time with the help of his pony who kicked the ball to goal. Eager to maintain the lead, Flexjet’s Jason Crowder won the next bowl-in and breezed past Juancito Bollini to end the first chukker 3-2 in favor of Flexjet.
As play began in the second, Casablanca began their steady ascent to the top of the scoreboard; Azzaro picked up a Penalty 2 conversion with the stroke of his mallet, and Blake exhibited excellent control as he guided the ball on a narrow angle and nailed the shot. Grant Ganzi followed it up with his third goal of the game, raising Casablanca’s lead by two headed into the third chukker 5-3. Characterized by the fluidity of play, the third showcased unselfish polo by Casablanca as the ball made its way between players, but elusive of the goal. A whistle on the play with 20 seconds remaining before halftime guaranteed FlexJet the opportunity to hit an open penalty shot in the fourth, ending the third 5-3 with Casablanca in the lead.
Converting the penalty would be the only goal of the next two chukkers for Flexjet, as Casablanca’s Juancito Bollini and Azzaro added three more to their tally in the fourth. Each chukker demonstrated beautiful, strategic plays from Casablanca, Juancito Bollini opening up the fifth with a perfectly executed neckshot to goal on a breakaway. Ganzi continued his assault on the field with two consecutive goals, advancing Casablanca into a commanding lead 11-4. Tired of being shut out, Flexjet rallied in the sixth to make a dent on the leaders. Two additional goals by Crowder and Grant Ganzi closed out the chukker and Casablanca conquered the day 13-6.
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Casablanca’s Jeff Blake. Best Playing Pony accolades went to four-year-old bay mare Pitkin played by Pablo Dorignac and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm.