By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Casablanca, the most dominant team of the spring polo season, won its third tournament Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The talented team of Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Julio Arellano captured the inaugural six-team Power Horse Invitational with an impressive 10-7 victory over Flexjet.
Casablanca led Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Wes Finlayson, Juan Bollini, Tom DeBruin) from the opening chukker. After the teams tied three times, Casablanca took a 6-5 lead at the half and never trailed after that.
Gene Goldstein, who scored three goals, had three assists and played well defensively, was named Most Valuable Player.
Prada, a 9-year-old Dark Bay mare owned by Halo Polo and ridden in the fifth chukker by South African 7-goaler Tom de Bruin, making his Grand Champions debut, was selected Best Playing Pony.
“Everyone is playing well, it’s nice to play with these guys,” Goldstein said. “Julio is Julio. It’s like a clinic playing with him. He has been so helpful. He is a playmaker, he understands the game and tells you where to go. Grant and Juancito are playing above their handicaps.
“We played well today,” Goldstein said. “Grant and Juancito had much harder jobs. They were taking guys above their handicap. That was really the key. They were able to hold their own against those better players.”
Grant Ganzi also scored three goals. Bollini and Arellano each had one goal. Casablanca started with a two-goal lead on handicap. Melissa Ganzi led Flexjet scoring with three goals. DeBruin added two goals. Bollini and Finlayson each had one goal.
The final was a family affair with mother playing against son (Melissa and Grant) and father against son (Juan and Juancito).
“Gene is playing well, he has stepped up his game,” Grant Ganzi said. “I credit two of my goals to him. The first one he hooked the stronger player and left the ball for me to pick up the scraps. Gene scored on three really good runs.
“We just had great team play. On one play, Julio hit a back shot to Juancito, who hits a neck shot to me. I control the ball and hit a cut shot to Gene and he takes it to goal.
“That was the essence of our team, just hit the ball and interact with your teammates. We are not just running-and-gunning. We are looking for the open man and playing smart. We are playing to pick apart the other teams and I think that shows.”
It was the first time Ganzi had the opportunity to play against DeBruin, playing at Grand Champions for three weeks.
“I had seen him play and know he is a very good player,” Ganzi said. “He is a big guy and very physical player. He played really well and crushed the ball. Everyone on that team hit the big ball.”
Casablanca took charge early in the second half. Goldstein scored on a breakaway with 5:12 remaining to give his team a 7-5 advantage. Goldstein scored his third goal of the game with 3:43 left in the fifth chukker for a four-goal cushion and 9-5 lead. Flexjet could get no closer than three goals in the final chukker.
Arellano, one of America’s highest-rated players, has played with Goldstein and Ganzi in three of Casablanca’s tournament wins and enjoys the chemistry he has with his teammates.
“Everybody lined up well and played super this whole weekend,” Arellano said. “Everybody was doing their job and playing their positions well. Everything was just clicking.
“Gene has been playing great,” Arellano said. “He’s getting in position and is in the right place at the right time. The boys did great, too. They are just hustling and hustling which makes my job very easy.”
In the tournament’s subsidiary game, Valiente (Bautista Panelo, Marc Ganzi, Santi Torres, Pablo Spinacci) defeated The Dutta Corp (Tim Dutta, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Timmy Dutta, Jason Crowder), 12-8, late Sunday afternoon at Valiente Polo Farm.
Spinacci scored a game-high six goals and was named MVP. Ganzi added four goals. Dolfina Broomita, a 5-year-old Dark Bay thoroughbred mare, was named Best Playing Pony.
In the consolation game, Sonny Hill (Curtis Pilot, Gonzalo De la Fuente, Francisco Bilbao, Francisco Lanusse) defeated Sea Cap (Mike Davis, Kris Kampsen, Brandon Phillips, JJ Celis), 11-9. Pilot’s 8-year-old Chestnut mare, Open Viola, played by Bilbao, was named Best Playing Pony.
Two tournaments remain on the nine-year-old club’s 2016 spring schedule. They are this weekend’s Polo Gear Challenge Cup and Wellington Chamber of Commerce Kick-Off To Summer event and May 26-29, The Memorial.
In the spring season-opener Grand Champions Cup, the Casablanca team of Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Sebastian Merlos and Kris Kampsen defeated Power Horse (Walter Scherb, Michael Bickford, Tincho Merlos, Nic Roldan),18-17. Kampsen was named MVP.
Casablanca won its second spring tournament the second week of the season in the Spring Challenge Cup. The team of Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano and Kris Kampsen defeated Team NR (Tim Dutta, Melissa Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini), 10-8. Melissa Ganzi was named MVP.
The Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Tony Calle, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Brandon Phillips) won the Sun Cup with an 8-6 win over Newport (Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano, Juancito Bollini). Calle was named MVP.
During the Grand Champions’ spring season, amateur polo players have the opportunity to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players.
ChukkerTV is live streaming Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
Friday-Sunday: Polo Gear Challenge Cup; Sunday, Wellington Chamber of Commerce Kick-Off To Summer with award-winning guest chef Shannon Atkins.
May 21, Saturday: NYTS Tournament, 4 p.m.
May 26-29: The Memorial