Casablanca won a spirited round-robin to capture the US Trust Cup Sundayat Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Buenos Aires Field.
On a hot, sunny day in front of a good local crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Casablanca, Audi and Team USPA, training for the upcoming FIP World Championship in Australia, played nine chukkers to determine the champion after wet fields from heavy rains cancelled the qualifying round.
In the opening round robin, Team USPA (Matias Gonzalez, 2, Jesse Bray, 5, Jimmy Wright, 2, Felipe Viana, 5) and Casablanca (Cacho Galindo, 2, Grant Ganzi, 2, Mike Azzaro, 6, Jason Crowder, 6) finished deadlocked at 4-4, followed by Casablanca roaring back for an impressive 7-3 win over Audi (Kris Kampsen, 6, Guille Aguero, 5, Marc Ganzi, 2, Brandon Phillips, 5). Audi bounced back with a 5-3 victory over Team USPA.
Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro of Casablanca was selected Most Valuable Player. Azzaro was coming off a successful summer debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club and shows no sign of letting up.
“It’s a goal that I’ve always continue and always will do as long as I can be on top, I’ll continue to compete,” Azzaro said. “The day I start not being able to compete at this level is the day I put the mallets up. I love the game and I love to win.”
Aventurada was chosen Best Playing Pony. The 5-year-old mare, ridden by Marc Ganzi, and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was bred by La Dolfina and purchased from Pablo Spinacci.
Grant Ganzi of Casablanca led scoring with seven goals in six chukkers.
“I am happy with the team and the win,” Ganzi said. “Mike is a major player and pleasure to play with. He is the most valuable team player. He should always be MVP. He is such a good team player and great at giving you good advice. He is very cool in the head and that’s what made him one of the best American players ever.”
In the opening three chukkers, Team USPA jumped out to a 3-0 lead with two goals from Bray and one from Wright. With Azzaro as his team’s field general, Casablanca came back to tie the game with Ganzi’s two penalty-two conversions and goal from the field. Azzaro scored in the final chukker to give Casablanca the lead with 3:10left. Two minutes later, Bray scored to end the game in a tie.
In the second round robin game, Casablanca and Audi took turns exchanging the lead four times in the first two chukkers, before Casablanca, leading 4-3 to open the third chukker, outscored Audi, 3-0, to take a 7-3 win. Grant Ganzi finished with five goals, including two penalty conversions.
“It was very competitive, today was a tough game both sides,” Azzaro said. “Our team came out slow the first chukker of both halves. Both teams had us 2-0 and 3-0 and then we came back the second and third chukker and dominated.
“It’s a lot of experience and just anticipating and knowing where to be on the field.”
In the last three chukkers, Audi took an early 2-0 lead with goals from Aguero and Ganzi. A goal from Phillips early in the second chukker gave Audi a 3-0 advantage. Team USPA started playing catch-up late in the second chukker to trail, 4-2. A penalty-three conversion from Ganzi put the game away, 5-2, with 1:43 left in the game.
“We started out slow but we all came together as a team and came out strong in our last two chukkers,” Ganzi said. “In the second round robin we made a little change and started clicking. We had to take our time and take our shots. All the players playing today were tough on the man. They were all really good players. Everyone today could play polo. This is a great level of polo to start off Grand Champions’ season.”
Six chukkers of highly competitive polo competing against older and more experienced players gave Team USPA an opportunity to fine tune for the Oct. 21-29 XI FIP World Polo Championship in Sydney, Australia.
Team USPA, which has been practicing and playing on various horses at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm, will be one of eight teams from five world zones. Team USPA’s final day at Grand Champions is Saturdaywith the team departing for Australia on Sunday.
“I think it’s a great team,” Azzaro said. “They have Joel Baker as a coach who is awesome and has a lot of great experience and wisdom. Jesse and Felipe are super talented but they need a director out there. The team lacks a little bit of leadership on the field. Personally, I think Carlucho Arellano should be on the field with one of the two bigger players because he is a great leader. But it’s a great team and they will do well.”
Grant Ganzi is a repeat winner of the US Trust Cup as a member of the last year’s winning US Trust team along with Marc Ganzi, Jared Sheldon and Nic Roldan.
It was Crowder’s second consecutive tournament victory after winning last weekend’s season-opening Tackeria Invitational with Audi.
Casablanca, founded by polo players who understand the needs of today’s polo players, supplies a wide variety of polo products, equipment and apparel through superior quality, value and service around the world. Behind the Casablanca brand is a serious pledge to quality, excellence and elegance.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach.
US Trust, founded in 1853, is a wealth management and private banking company designed to address the needs of its clients, regardless of complexity. It provides investment management, wealth structuring, credit and lending services to clients.
The US Trust Cup was the second of six medium goal tournaments along with two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American (Oct. 27-Nov. 5) Cup and USPA National 20-Goal (Nov. 8-19) and the Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting defending champion Team USA against Brazil.
The winner of the season-opening tournament was Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida), 11-10 OT winners over Casablanca.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation’s largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.