Defending champion Travieso began its title defense and Valiente won its opener on Day Two of the Sterling Cup Saturday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.

TRAVIESO 13, U.S. POLO ASSN 8

In the Saturday Polo featured game, defending champion Travieso (Teo Calle, Tony Calle, Sebastian Merlos, Tomas Garcia del Rio), playing with a new lineup this season, needed two chukkers to settle into its game against U.S. Polo Assn (Juan Bollini, Juancito Bollini, Jesse Bray, Mike Azzaro).

Players from Travieso and U.S. Polo Assn on the awards podium with presenter Christina Merlos.
Players from Travieso and U.S. Polo Assn on the awards podium with presenter Christina Merlos.

U.S. Polo Assn jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening chukker and 5-3 after two before Ecuador-based Travieso turned the game around.

“There was no pressure being defending champion and having a new lineup, we tried a little bit too hard at the very beginning in the first two chukkers,” Merlos said. “Then in the third we scored four goals in a row. They wanted to win as much as we did.”

Sebastian Merlos of Travieso hits the neck shot past defender Jesse Bray.
Sebastian Merlos of Travieso hits the neck shot past defender Jesse Bray.

After trailing 5-1 early in the second chukker, Travieso reeled off four unanswered goals to tie the game at 5-5 with 3:18 left. U.S. Polo Assn regained the lead on Bray’s nice scoring run off the throw-in to lead 6-5 at the half.

“Halftime was good for us,” Merlos said. “We talked over a few things. We changed the throw-ins and our knock-ins and it then came out well. They are four guys, very tough, all control the ball very well and all can score.”

Merlos scored a game-high six goals and was named Most Valuable Player.

Also for Travieso, Teo Calle scored three goals and Tony Calle and del Rio each had two goals. For U.S. Polo Assn, Bray led scoring with five goals and Azzaro had three.

“We were a little bit nervous,” Tony Calle said. “We were fast but not thinking through what we were doing. We had to simplify what we were doing and have more confidence in what we were doing and in each other and start playing polo.”

APHA Best Registered Horse of the Game, Kate, owned and ridden by Tomas Garcia del Rio of Travieso.
APHA Best Registered Horse of the Game, Kate, owned and ridden by Tomas Garcia del Rio of Travieso.

Kate, a 7-year-old mare owned and ridden by Tomas Garcia del Rio, was named American Polo Horse Association Best registered horse for the game. Kate was born, raised and trained at Silver Stone Farms in Aiken, S.C. by Moses and out of Gringa. Her groom was awarded $250 by American Polo Horse Association executive director Tiana Smicklas.

The Grand Champions Polo Club Best Playing Pony was Bacall, 9, ridden by Juancito Bollini.

Club Best Playing Pony, Bacall, 9, ridden by Juancito Bollini of U.S. Polo Assn.
Club Best Playing Pony, Bacall, 9, ridden by Juancito Bollini of U.S. Polo Assn.

In the club’s first-ever Fan Appreciation Award presentation for the featured game, Cecilia Bollini and Rosario Novillo Astrada were presented with gifts as two of the club’s most supportive fans.

VALIENTE 9, AUDI 8

Valiente (Poroto Cambiaso, Bob Jornayvaz, Juan Britos, Adolfo Cambiaso) jumped out to 5-2 halftime and 9-3 fourth chukker leads over Audi (Nico Pieres, Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Hector Guerrero) and held off a late surge to win its tournament-opener.

Audi shut out Valiente in the fifth and sixth chukkers and scored five unanswered goals in the last two  chukkers, all by Ganzi.

Valiente's Adolfo Cambiaso pats his son and teammate Poroto Cambiaso on the back after scoring.
Valiente’s Adolfo Cambiaso pats his son and teammate Poroto Cambiaso on the back after scoring.

Ganzi finished with six goals. Poroto Cambiaso, at 12, the youngest player in the field, led scoring with four goals. Britos and Adolfo Cambiaso each had two goals and Jornayvaz added one.

Adolfo Cambiaso of Valiente reaches to defend Marc Ganzi of Audi. Photos by Chiarofoto
Adolfo Cambiaso of Valiente reaches to defend Marc Ganzi of Audi.
Photos by Chiarofoto

The tournament resumes on Tuesday with four games: U.S. Polo Assn vs. Flexjet 10 a.m.; Dutta Corp vs. Valiente, noon; Travieso vs. Tonkawa, 2 p.m.; SD Farms vs. Audi, 4 p.m.

The Sterling Cup is one of two historical tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club resurrected last year after a 22-year absence. The Sterling Cup was resurrected by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi in hopes of recapturing polo’s glory days.