Dutta Corp came full circle in its spring season-opening victory in the Santa Rita Abierto final Wednesday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
It was the second consecutive year the team won the tournament. Last year as a 15-goal team, Dutta Corp won the 16-goal rated tournament with pro Matias Magrini, brothers Carlitos and Mariano Gracida and Timmy Dutta.
This year the talented 11-goal team of Tim Dutta, Timmy Dutta, Piki Diaz Alberdi and Carlitos Gracida won the 14-goal tournament with an impressive 12-5 victory over Whitehall Ranch.
“I’m very proud of the team we have,” Carlitos Gracida said. “It means our team is going well.”
Dutta Corp, with a three-goal lead on handicap, jumped out to a 7-0 lead, led 9-2 at the half and never allowed Whitehall Ranch (Bill Lane, Guille Aguero, Nic Roldan, Alex Webb) back in the game.
Timmy Dutta, at 15, one of the sport’s rising young stars, was named Most Valuable Player. Dutta scored a game-high six goals and was outstanding on defense against more experienced players.
“I’m ecstatic to be playing again, I’m excited to be back,” said Dutta, who last played in February in 20-goal and made it to two semifinals.
“I am growing as a player. I am climbing now and I would like to climb to the top. I just have to keep my blinders on and not get distracted. I just want to keep going.”
Mustasa, a 9-year-old mare bred in Argentina by legendary polo great Memo Gracida and owned by Dutta Corp, was selected Best Playing Pony.
The team camaraderie and chemistry have played a key role in Dutta Corp’s progress in the last two years.
“We started with this team two years ago in the first 12-goal and we came together with Piki, Carlitos and my Dad,” Dutta said. “And now in today’s game we almost didn’t have to talk. We just played simultaneously, it was like symbiosis.”
In last year’s tournament, Dutta Corp defeated Postage Stamp Farm, 8-5. It was the first major tournament victory for Dutta, then 14, who started playing polo in 2015, following in his father’s footsteps.
Dutta credited his father and mother, Susie, a world-class athlete in dressage for more than 20 years, for the support and encouragement to play polo which has now become a passion for the teenager.
“I like playing with my father, that’s a big thing, it’s a pleasure to be with him,” Dutta said. “He is the one that brought me to this sport and provides all these horses, my teachers and everything.”
Alberdi, a former 10-goal player in Great Britain, has taken Dutta under his wing as mentor and coach. Alberdi has played for top teams Larchmont, Dubai and Habtoor and won several tournaments including the 1996 Argentine Open. Dutta has spent time in Argentina honing his skills with Alberdi.
“This year we went to Argentina except for Carlitos, who was playing at Grand Champions,” Dutta said. “I got to learn more and more while getting ready with Piki.
“I feel coming back to it now like I have grown in the sense I learned new tricks and how to ride better. I have learned from the horsemanship of my father, mother and Piki. Even when Piki is not around, I keep saying to myself what he tells me: relax and keep playing with my head.
“My mother has taught me a lot about the basics of horses. I think that’s the key for most polo players, your riding is your base. If you can’t ride, you can’t play. Playing is the second feature. You have to ride anything you have. My horses now are not as fit as they were in 20-goal because we gave them time off, but I am still going to ride them and try to get better.”
Gracida added three goals for Dutta Corp. Webb, a top young player from Great Britain, and Roldan each had two goals. Aguero added one goal.
The Santa Rita Abierto spring opener, named after Melissa Ganzi’s grandmother who passed away on Dec. 29, 2012, is the first of six medium-goal tournaments offered in April and May as the GCPC Spring Invitational League. This weekend the Grand Champions Cup (Thursday and Saturday) and USPA Eastern Challenge (Friday and Sunday) will be held.
During the Grand Champions’ spring season, amateur polo players get the chance to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players including Alberdi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jeff Hall, Brandon Phillips, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini and Jesse Bray. It is geared towards improving polo skills and having fun.
“We are focusing on the game and concentrating on giving everyone an opportunity to play polo and improve,” said Polo School Director and former 8-goaler Juan Bollini. “Marc and Melissa (Ganzi) have opened Grand Champions to anybody in polo. We have great tournaments here. We are really trying to make polo better in America. We want to show the world we can have the best polo for everyone.”
The spring league is also a great opportunity for younger players such as Dutta to develop and hone their skills against their peers and more experienced players.
The GCPC spring league features: medium goal practice games at least once a week; stick-and-ball sessions available during the week; two medium goal tournament games for teams every weekend; ambulance and USPA umpires for all tournament games; complete turn-key tournament polo with some of the top professionals in the world; playing polo on some of Wellington’s most prestigious and well-manicured fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players and excellent trophies for all teams every weekend.
Grand Champions hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its eleven well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.