Undefeated Dutta Corp, Goose Creek Advance Into Molina Cup Semifinals; Play Continues Monday At Grand Champions
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
In two high-goal polo thrillers, Dutta Corp and Goose Creek remained unbeaten on Day Three of the inaugural Molina Cup Thursday at windy Valiente Farm and Grand Champions Polo Club.
In front of a packed house and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Goose Creek broke its last-chukker jinx for its second victory in a row with an impressive 9-8 victory over Valiente.
Dutta Corp, playing with substitute Nic Roldan, took a commanding lead early and then held on for a thrilling 9-8 victory over Travieso that went down to the wire.
Dutta Corp and Goose Creek remain undefeated at 2-0 and earned the top seed in their brackets.
Beverly Equestrian is 1-1 and secured the second spot in Bracket One and will meet Goose Creek in a rematch in one of the semifinals this week. Goose Creek defeated Beverly Equestrian, 8-7, in the tournament-opener.
On Monday at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions, Casablanca (0-1) and Travieso (0-1) will play to determine the second spot in Bracket Two.
GOOSE CREEK 9, VALIENTE 8
Maureen Brennan of Goose Creek defends Santi Torres of Valiente.
Longtime team Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Peke Gonzalez, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez) needed a few minutes to adjust to a new lineup that Valiente (Rob Jornayvaz, Pablo Spinacci, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Santi Torres) came out with. Torres and Zavaleta played for Roberto Zedda and Diego Cavanagh.
At 18, Peke Gonzalez was the youngest player on the field and one of the most aggressive defensively.
“We knew what we had to do,” said the teenager. “The first chukker we had to see how they played and adjust to their positions. Thankfully, it went the right way for us this time. Today was Goose Creek polo, hit and run. It’s nice to win two games in a row. This is where we wanted to be.”
Santi Torres of Valiente tries to hook Peke Gonzalez of Goose Creek.
With winds gusting up to 20 miles per hour, Goose Creek opened with a penalty-one goal and another goal from Peke Gonzalez to lead 2-1 after the opening chukker. Goose Creek extended its lead to 3-1 with a goal off the knock-in with Mariano Gonzalez passing to del Rio back to Gonzalez for the goal.
Led by Zavaleta, Valiente reeled in Goose Creek in the third chukker and trailed by only one, 6-5, at the half.
In a hotly-contested second half, Valiente outscored Goose Creek, 2-1, in the fourth chukker for a 7-7 tie.
Three Valiente defenders pressure Peke Gonzalez of Goose Creek.
Goose Creek turned around and outscored Valiente, 2-1, behind Mariano Gonzalez’ two goals including a penalty shot to retake the lead, 9-8, going into the sixth chukker.
The teams battled to a scoreless sixth chukker with Goose Creek dominating possession in the final three minutes. Zavaleta had one final chance to tie the game with a penalty shot with 46.1 seconds left but sailed wide right.
“I am really happy today, I don’t usually jump up and down,” said Brennan after getting excited in the players’ tent, hugging her players and family members.
Father and son Mariano and Peke Gonzalez chase Santi Torres of Valiente.
“They were tough, that sixth chukker was a little too close,” Brennan said. “We didn’t know about their new lineup until right before the game. We were ready for a couple of variations but that wasn’t one of them. They are all good teams. Valiente was well-mounted and four good players.”
Goose Creek played its patent aggressive hit-and-go style and didn’t deviate from its game plan.
“This is what we wanted, two games in a row,” Brennan said.
Mariano Gonzalez led Goose Creek with a game-high five goals including three on penalty conversions. Del Rio had two goals and Brennan and Peke Gonzalez each had one goal.
Tomas Garcia del Rio of Goose Creek undefended on a breakaway.
Mariano Gonzalez said one of the biggest factors for Goose Creek’s success over the years has been keeping the same lineup.
“This is great to be playing with the same team,” Gonzalez said. “Skeeter Johnston at one time when he created the APL (North American Polo League) his idea was basically to play with the same team, the same players and organization through the whole year. It was a great idea.”
Zavaleta, coming off his MVP performance in the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup final, and Torres each scored three goals for Valiente. Spinacci added two goals. Valiente finished 0-2.
DUTTA CORP 9, TRAVIESO 8
Hugo Barabucci of Travieso chases Nic Roldan of Dutta Corp.
Needing a little time to adjust to a new lineup, Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Carlitos Gracida, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Nic Roldan) fell behind early in the game, 3-1, but settled in late in the second chukker to tie Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci), 3-3.
Early in the third chukker Roldan found Gracida open in front of the goal to give Dutta Corp a 4-3 lead with 3:22. For most of the next two chukkers Dutta Corp was in control extending its lead 8-4.
Travieso started to reel in Dutta Corp in the fifth chukker with three goals from Merlos, Barabucci and Ruiz. With 5:40 left in the sixth chukker, Merlos scored after a great run to tie the game at 8-8.
Tony Calle of Travieso tries to work the ball out of the air in a crowd.
“We let our guard down when Sebe came alive,” Dutta said. “We got too comfortable.”
After Gracida came up with two key defensive stops of goal threats, Roldan took advantage of a broken knock-in play, jumping on a loose ball by the sideboards at midfield and racing to goal with 2:20 left.
Travieso had one final shot at tying the game when Ruiz passed to Barabucci who tapped the ball close to goal only to watch it go wide as time ran out.
Alberdi was playing with a bandaged lip after getting five stitches to close a deep gash after after getting hit in the mouth with a mallet in the Casablanca game.
Timmy Dutta of Dutta Corp avoids the hook of Torito Ruiz of Travieso.
Magrini sat out the game with a pulled riding muscle and was replaced by another 8-goaler, Roldan, who was mounted by Magrini.
Dutta, at 16, the tournament’s youngest player, played well defensively against Merlos, one of the world’s top players.
“I feel in order to get better you have to play against better players,” Dutta said. “Sometimes it shows when a better player is against you and other players back away. They are better than you and they know more tricks. You have to go to him, work your best and try all you can do.”
Roldan blended in well with his new teammates.
Tony Calle of Travieso hits past Carlitos Gracida of Dutta Corp.
“Nic played outstanding today,” Dutta said. “He was amazing. We never played with each other before. It worked out perfectly. Nic is a huge hitter and amazing player. He hit the ball to me and
Carlitos and worked well with Piki, it was the best thing out there.”
Gracida led Dutta Corp with four goals including two penalty conversions. Dutta and Roldan each
had two goals. Dutta Corp, a 19-goal team, received one goal on handicap.
Merlos led Travieso with four goals. Barabucci had two goals and Calle and Ruiz each had one goal.
Piki Diaz Alberdi of Dutta Corp defends Torito Ruiz of Travieso.
Photos by ChukkerTV
The Molina Cup, a first-year 20-goal tournament, comes on the heels of the successful and historical 20-goal Sterling Cup won by Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci).
The two-week tournament features a star-studded lineup of some of the world’s top players from six different countries including Ecuador and India.
The 120-year-old handcrafted silver Molina Cup trophy was given to Marc Ganzi by Alfredo Molina, Chairman of the Phoenix-based Molina Group and owner of Molina Fine Jewelers.
Ganzi was competing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships this past fall and admired
Molina’s work with the winning trophy presented to two-time defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) at the Scottsdale event.
The tournament is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is 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.
2017 GRAND CHAMPIONS WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
MARCH 17-APRIL 1, Molina Cup (20 goal): March 27, Monday, Travieso vs. Casablanca, 4 p.m.;March 29, Wednesday, Semifinal Game One, March 30, Thursday, Semifinal Game Two, April 1, Final; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal): Sunday, 10 a.m., Hawk Hill vs. Willow Farm at Grand Champions; 10 a.m., Cavalleria Toscana vs. Pony Express at Santa Rita; noon, The Polo School at Equuleus; 12:30 p.m., Horseware at Patagones; Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; Top Pony 12-Goal Series: Sunday, noon, Skaneateles vs. High Ground at old Travieso.
Women’s League, every Wednesday, 10 and 11 a.m.,March 29, Monthly League Final, consolation 10 a.m., final 11 a.m.
APRIL 3-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all, single- elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 21-23: GCPC Abierto.
APRIL 28-30: USPA Eastern Challenge.
MAY 5-7: USPA Sun Cup
MAY 12-14: The Spring Challenge Cup.
MAY 19-21: Polo Gear Invitational.
MAY 26-29: The Memorial.