Aspen Valley Polo Club Defends Title, Wins Hall Of Fame Cup; Grant Ganzi Named MVP
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Aspen Valley Polo Club rallied from a halftime deficit to capture the Hall of Fame Cup Monday at windswept Isla Carroll West.
Trailing 7-5 after three chukkers, Aspen Valley Polo Club (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Sebastian Merlos, Gonzalito Pieres/ Rodrigo Andrade) defeated Grand Champions Polo Club (Alex Webb, Tincho Merlos, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini), 10-8.
“It was very good fun to play,” said 9-goaler Sebastian Merlos. “I haven’t played much with Gonzalito, Granti, Ro or Juancito, so it was good for me to get to know the younger players and get to play with them.
We wanted to win and we played well together,” Merlos said. “We are all from the same organization. We played hard, but we played very clean. We made some nice runs.”
Grant Ganzi, 17, a senior at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton and youngest player in the game, was named Most Valuable Player.
Ganzi scored a team-high four goals including two on penalty shots. Ganzi scored the go-ahead goal (9-8) in the fifth chukker and insurance goal in the final chukker.
It was Ganzi’s third appearance in the tournament final, winning it with Audi in 2014 and Aspen Valley Polo Club in 2015.
“It’s nice to win it, it’s always fun to play this,” Ganzi said. “It’s good to get my name on the trophy again.
“Thanks to my mom for letting me play another high goal game at the end of the season and letting me use my three horses,” Ganzi said.
Guri Pipi,owned and ridden by Sebastian Merlos, was named Best Playing Pony.
Pieres and Andrade, coming off Audi’s stunning 13-6 victory over Valiente in Sunday’s U.S. Open quarterfinals, each played three chukkers, a tuneup for Wednesday’s semifinal against Dubai at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s always fun to play with the old guys, Sebe, Gonza and Ro,” Ganzi said. “They are all really, really good players, top players in the world. It’s fun when you get to play with them instead of against them.”
For Juancito Bollini, pitted against his father, Juan, a former 8-goaler, the high goal games are always a learning experience.
“It’s fun to play with all these guys,” Bollini said. “We were talking about keeping the tradition going. I don’t think we’ve ever lost a final. It’s good to keep it up.
“You learn so much playing with the more experienced players and it’s fast,” Bollini said.
In addition to Ganzi’s offensive output, 9-goaler Sebastian Merlos scored three goals. Juancito Bollini, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade each had one goal.
For Grand Champions Polo Club, Tincho Merlos scored a game-high six goals including three on penalty shots. Nic Roldan and Juan Bollini each had one goal.
The Hall of Fame Cup, first played in 2000, is the subsidiary game for the U.S. Open Championships, currently being played at International Polo Club Palm Beach. The coveted Hall of Fame Cup has been won by several top teams including Outback, White Birch, Audi, Orchard Hill, La Dolfina and Black Watch.
The Aspen Valley Polo Club-Grand Champions Polo Club game was live streamed by ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and 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.