Brandon Phillips scored back-to-back goals in the fourth chukker to lead Virginia-based Altair Polo to a 7-6.5 victory over The Polo School to capture the Grand Champions Cup Saturday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
It was the Middleburg, Va.-based Altair Polo’s (Ashley Busch, Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Juancito Bollini) second spring tournament victory in three years.
The foursome of Busch, Santos Bollini, Brandon Phillips and Carlitos Gracida defeated Newport (Lucas Escobar, Gene Goldstein, Lucas Lalor, Nacho Lezica), 10-9, to win the 8-Goal Spring Challenge Tournament at Grand Champions in 2015.
With 3:30 remaining Altair Polo led, 7-4.5 before The Polo School (Rick Desich, Santos Bollini, JJ Celis, Jesse Bray) rallied behind goals by Desich and Celis but ran out of time.
Phillips, a 5-goal rated player, was named Most Valuable Player.
Miss America, an 8-year-old Chestnut mare American thoroughbred out of Hennessey, and owned by Halo Polo, was selected Best Playing Pony.
For Busch, formerly Ashley Van Metre, it was her first win as a newlywed.
The 26-year-old equestrian, who started riding at 5 and playing polo at 11, and race car driver Kurt Busch, a 27-time race winner in the NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and Daytona 500 champion, were wed on Jan. 7 at the Eden Roc Hotel in St. Bart’s. A week later the couple held their reception at The Breakers in Palm Beach.
“It really doesn’t feel any different being married and playing polo,” Busch said. “It’s been great.”
It was Busch’s final appearance in Wellington for the season. She was scheduled to leave on Saturday for Richmond to watch her husband race.
They are each other’s biggest fans. Kurt Busch follows her on ChukkerTV and tweets videos of her games on Twitter.
“This is my first tournament win as a newlywed,” Busch said with a smile. “It was a great, great finale.”
Altair Polo is named after her family’s farm in Virginia and great grandfather’s Navy battleship.
“It was fun playing with this team,” Busch said of her 10-goal team. “I always play with Brandon and then we pick the rest of the team and go with it.
“It’s always fun and I enjoy playing here. It was a great tournament. It’s fun to play with Grant and Juan, they play great together and score lots of goals.
“I wish I had more time to play,” Busch said. “I didn’t bring my horses down this winter so I was renting horses for the past two weekends just trying to get back into it after the wedding and everything.
“This was for fun and trying to get back in the swing of things. It was nice just to get on a horse and play.”
Busch plans to play more polo this summer in Virginia. She is also scheduled to play in the tenth annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on June 3 at Liberty State Park in New York along with Melissa Ganzi and Hilario Figueras, oldest son of Nacho Figueras. The event is raising funds for the Keep A Child Alive non-profit organization.
In Saturday’s final, Phillips and Juancito Bollini each had three goals and Ganzi added one.
Celis scored a game-high four goals and Desich had two goals for The Polo School. The 9-goal team also received .5 handicap point.
“It’s always fun playing with Ashley and we had a good team,” Phillips said. “She enjoys playing and has a good time. It was a great game and great that we won.”
Phillips plans to finish out the spring season at Grand Champions before heading to Greenwich to play with Postage Stamp Farm for the second consecutive season in Connecticut.
Grand Champions Polo Club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its’ eleven well-manicured fields including Santa Rita Polo Farm, during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.