By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., —-Grand Champions Polo Club opens the much-anticipated fall season Friday with the 12th annual Tackeria Invitational.
The tournament has a special place in club history as the inaugural tournament when the club first opened in 2007.
Two games will open the tournament on Friday at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Field 3.
In the first game at 11, Flexjet (Santos Bollini/Lucas Escobar, Juan Bollini, Melissa Ganzi, Kris Kampsen) plays Santa Clara (Fernando Chavarria, Whistle Uys, Brandon Phillips, Luis Escobar).
In the second game at 4:30 p.m., Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Marc Ganzi, Pablo Dorignac, Carlitos Gracida) plays Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida, Juancito Bolini).
The winners advance into Sunday’s championship final at 10:30 a.m. followed by the subsidiary at a time to be determined.
The Tackeria Invitational is one of six medium-goal touraments in addition to 20-goal action during the season. Grand Champions is one of the few USPA-sanctioned clubs that offers fall polo.
“We are excited about the fall season,” said Director of Operations Juan Bollini said. “We have some great players coming in for the 20-goal and medium goal tournaments. Every one is ready for the season 110 percent.
“The fall season is important to us because it is a continuation of the sport and shows the world you can play polo twelve months a year. It’s good, competitive polo and the best time of the year with great weather and great fields in October and November after five months of rest.”
The fall season is a good tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the debut of the highly-anticipated 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm featuring 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, Pelon Sterling and Juan Martin Nero.
Bollini also said The Polo School is up and running at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. Lessons are offered to all level and ages of players including beginners.
“The Tackeria Invitational is the perfect way to kick off the season,” said Tackeria owner Tony Coppola, the legendary voice of polo and USPA President. “We are proud to be a returning sponsor with the Tackeria Invitational.”
The Tackeria Invitational has a history of exciting finishes.
In last year’s tournament final, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida) rallied in the final chukker to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Andres LaPlacette, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 11-10, in overtime at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
In the 2016 Tackeria Invitational final, Flexjet (Riley Ganzi, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Jason Crowder) defeated Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Jared Sheldon, Carlitos Gracida, Juancito Bollini), 7-6, on Melissa Ganzi’s winning goal just before the 30-second bell in the final chukker.
The Tackeria, a longtime supporter of polo and Grand Champions, has one of the most complete selections of equestrian equipment in the world, importing goods from all over Europe, the Far East and South America to create the best selection of quality items for its customers.
It is a go-to source for equipment, supplies, fashion and gifts for the hunter/jumper, dressage and polo disciplines. The Tackeria is located on the corner of Pierson Rd. and South Shore at 13501 South Shore Blvd.
Grand Champions is one of the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo clubs, hosting both medium and high goal polo highlighted by the Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and International Cup.
Among the highlights of the season are the Oct. 15-27 USPA North American Cup, Nov. 3-17 USPA National 20-Goal Championship; Nov. 14 Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Romero Britto Celebration; and Nov. 24 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup.
This year’s Nov. 24 International Cup will feature defending champion Team USA against Azerbaijan. This year the U.S. team will put its six-year winning streak on the line against Azerbaijan, known as the Land of Fire and Ice, and one of the most improved polo teams in the world. Recently, Azerbaijan finished runner-up to Italy in the FIP European Championship.
Last year Team USA ( Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Julio Arellano, Mike Azzaro) defeated Brazil, 9-7, to capture the sixth annual International Cup event. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year. Since 2012, Team USA has defeated England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay in International Cup history.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. Grand Champions was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments and again is hosting two 20-goal tournament this season.
The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player’s polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off a successful summer season at their Aspen Valley Polo Club which concluded over Labor Day Weekend.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two medium tournament games every weekend; ambulance and USPA umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV will live stream the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm annually hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.