Newport captured the final tournament of the spring polo season Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In a defensive battle, Newport held off Polo Gear in the final minutes to win the Santa Rita Memorial Cup, 9-8, in front of a good crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.
It was the first tournament win of the spring season for Newport (Gene Goldstein, Carlitos Gracida, Felipe Viana, Guille Aguero).
Gracida, 24, son of polo great Carlos Gracida, was named Most Valuable Player. Gracida’s clutch steal from Roldan with 2:02 left enabled Viana to score an insurance goal for a 9-7 lead.
“It’s great playing with Gene because every time I hit the ball he is running up front and I’m not used to seeing that,” Gracida said. “It was so easy, every time I hit it, he was there.
“Win or lose, it was a nice way to end the season,” said Gracida, who heads to Mexico for a month to work with sixteen green horses before playing summer polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
“I am happy to be here. This is my home for me. Just being here with the Ganzis and Tim Dutta is a pleasure. I feel really lucky to be here.”
Pure Magic, a 7-year-old Chestnut mare ridden by Melissa Ganzi in the sixth chukker and owned by Halo Polo, was selected Best Playing Pony. The Argentine thoroughbred was purchased from Canadian polo player Freddie Mannix.
Before the championship game, a moment of silence was held for 15-year-old Matt Cohen, who grew up playing polo at Grand Champions Polo Club. Cohen died Tuesday from complications with diabetes. The American flag was flown at half-mast at the polo field in his honor.
Polo Gear (Annabelle Gundlach, Melissa Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Nic Roldan) opened the game with a 2-0 lead based on handicap. Newport shut out Polo Gear in the first chukker while back-to-back goals by Aguero evened the score at 2-2.
Newport shut out Polo Gear, 1-0, in the second chukker with Goldstein scoring the go-ahead goal with 3:48 left.
Roldan’s penalty goal tied the game at 3-3 before Goldstein put his team back in the lead with a goal at the 1:04 mark for a 4-3 halftime lead. Newport’s stingy defense did not allow Polo Gear to score from the field in the first half.
After Gundlach tied the game at 4-4 with 4:57 left in the fourth chukker, Newport took control forcing Polo Gear into several missed scoring opportunities while regaining its offensive momentum.
Goldstein’s goal with 37 seconds left in the fourth chukker enabled Newport to regain the lead (5-4). Newport never trailed after that.
“We needed a few chukkers to wake up and come together,” Aguero said. “We did the same thing in our last game. I am happy for Gene. He had a great time and we won the tournament.
“Carlitos’ steal was the turning point,” said Aguero, who now heads to Greenwich, Conn. for summer polo. “Our team played great at the end of the season. Melissa and Marc Ganzi did a great job here. The people, the organization, it was just great polo.”
Goldstein led scoring with three goals. Aguero, Gracida and Viana each had two. Roldan led Polo Gear with three goals. Ganzi, Gundlach and Phillips each had one goal.
The event is named after Melissa Ganzi’s Ocala-based Santa Rita Farm which was named after her grandmother, who passed away on Dec. 29, 2012.
In the subsidiary game, Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Facundo Obregon, Piki Alberdi, Scott Swerdlin) defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Hector Guerrero, Kris Kampsen), 10-9.
Alberdi, a former 10-goaler in England, led scoring with four goals and Dutta, at 13 the youngest player in the tournament, added three goals. Obregon had two goals and Swerdlin scored one.
For Audi, Grant Ganzi and Kampsen each had three goals, Marc Ganzi added two and Guerrero had one.
Grand Champions concluded its most competitive spring season with Ecuador-based Travieso as the most dominant team with three tournament titles.
The 2015 spring tournament champions were:
Santa Rita Memorial Cup-Newport (Gene Goldstein, Carlitos Gracida, Felipe Viana, Guille Aguero).
The Memorial–Travieso (Teo Calle, Marc Ganzi, Piki Alberdi, Hector Guerrero).
Polo Gear Challenge Cup–Travieso (Teo Calle, Marc Ganzi, Miguel Novillo Astrada, Hector Guerrero).
USPA Eastern Challenge Cup–Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Wes Finlayson, Nic Roldan).
USPA Sun Cup– Palm Beach Equine (Scott Swerdlin, Facundo Obregon, Brandon Phillips, Martin Estrada).
USPA Spring Challenge–Travieso (Tony Calle, Carlucho Arellano,Julio Arellano, Teo Calle).
Grand Champions Cup–Psycho Bunny (Piki Diaz Alberdi, Brandon Phillips, Andrew Seibert, Kris Kampsen).
One of the biggest highlights of the spring season was the use of state-of-the-art technology featuring live streaming, instant replay, challenges and team review from Chukker.TV, which also received rave reviews on its new and improved interactive website and soon-to-be released App.
In January, 2014, Grand Champions Polo Club became the first polo club worldwide to offer instant replay and team review much to the delight of players and patrons in hopes of improving officiating and the quality of play at all levels of polo while introducing the sport to the masses.
Chukker.TV provided unduplicated state-of-the-art technology to provide instant replay. In addition, the technical staff live-streamed games that have been viewed around the world on its website.
Chukker.TV also partnered with Roku, Inc. to bring polo to fans live in the comfort of their homes at no cost. Chukker.TV has a channel on Roku.
Grand Champions had its finest spring season in the history of the club, which opened in 2008. Family, friends, fans and several new sponsors enjoyed community polo throughout the season.
“We were so lucky to have some new players as well as our regular players and we had some new sponsors,” said Grand Champions Polo Club President Melissa Ganzi.
“It’s always exciting when we have new sponsors come to our club. They are all excited and coming back. That’s exciting when you have new sponsors and new people in the sport.”
Polo will return in the fall with a full schedule in addition to the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo Game and International Cup in late November.
2015 POLO ON DEMAND
Grand Champions Polo Club, featuring five world-class fields, offers polo in the winter, spring and fall seasons. Let our polo experts create a turn-key experience including top pros to bring out the best in you and your team. Lessons are available in addition to The Polo School League.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.