Palm Beach Illustrated knocked off International Polo Club with a stunning 14-8 victory on Day 2 of the $100,000 World Cup Wednesday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The talented foursome of Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon and Tommy Collingwood, playing together for the first time, moved into a serious contender’s role after frustrating the talented IPC team of Grant Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray and Juancito Bollini from start-to-finish.
“This was a really big win for us,” said the 21-year-old Zenni. “We are one step closer to the final and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Palm Beach Illustrated will now play the winner of Thursday’s10 a.m. game between 12-goal GSA (Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz, Santino Magrini, Juan Martin Zubia) and 22-goal Casa Dio (Mariano Obregon, Carlucho Arellano, Juan Martin Obregon, Juan Monteverde) in the second round.
GSA, coached by Matias Magrini, has been one of the hottest teams at Grand Champions during the 2017 winter season including a victory in the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, the youngest team to win the title.
“Not just GSA, all the teams are tough,” Obregon said.
In front of a good early-morning crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, 21-goal Palm Beach Illustrated started out in the hole, 5-0, to 16-goal IPC but quickly dug itself out in the first two chukkers.
The physicality and athleticism of Palm Beach Illustrated players led to instant chemistry among the foursome after only a few practices.
“Obviously, starting at 5-0 is tough,” Zenni said. “We just knew we had to come out fast and strong. We were really organized and on top of our stuff. We got three quick goals in the first chukker and that helped us be a little more calm going into the rest of the game. It showed in the result.
“I think when we really started quick in the first two chukkers they lost their composure,” Zenni said. “We took away their five-goal advantage. We started getting more comfortable in the way we were playing and getting into our system.”
IPC got a five-goal lead on handicap but could manage only three more goals in the second, third and sixth chukkers against Palm Beach Illustrated’s smothering defense that held them scoreless for three chukkers.
“We were kind of nervous because the other team started with five goals,” Obregon said. “Our strategy was to be patient at the beginning. We scored three goals in the first chukker and we went from there. This is a great way to start.”
IPC made adjustments moving Crowder to the front and Bray to the back in the second half but still was unable to mount any serious threat.
The IPC foursome, all big scoring threats from any where on the field, missed penalty shots and scoring opportunities from the field.
“This was a lot of fun,” Collingwood said. “Santi is easy to fit into the team. He is a forward player. You just have to work around him. We have been friends for a really long time. The chemistry is great.
“This is a good way for people to see Santi and see all of us,” said the 24-year-old Collingwood, coming off a successful tournament in Sarasota playing for undefeated Hillcroft Farm, 7-6 winners over Wildcat in the final.
“Our strategy was just to not get over our heads in the beginning even though this was the first time we all played together,” Collingwood said. “We just said if the first three chukkers don’t go in our favor, don’t get fired up on each other. Luckily, the first couple chukkers we played very well and we started to find rhythm in the team. We are a four-man team and played simple, classic polo. The easier you play, the easier everything comes along.”
Palm Beach Illustrated had balanced scoring. Torres and Obregon each had five goals, Collingwood had three including a big, booming 120-yarder and Zenni added one. “I just tried to hit it as hard as I could and it went straight luckily,” Collingwood said.
Torres, who has been mostly practicing this season he said, was the newcomer to the team.
“I am very happy for the team,” said the 23-year-old Torres. “It was a lot of fun with these guys. I have played a couple practices with them and that’s it. We said we were going to start one by one and go from there. We said we were going to try our best.”
Palm Beach Illustrated trailed 5-3 after the opening chukker and tied the game at 6-6 on Torres goal, set up by Collingwood’s steal from Crowder, with 33 seconds left.
“It’s tough starting five goals down,” Torres said. “Everyone played quick on our side.”
After Crowder tied the game at 7-7 on a 30-yard penalty conversion in the third chukker, Palm Beach Illustrated took an 8-7 halftime lead when Torres scored again.
Palm Beach Illustrated never let IPC back in the game, outscoring them 2-0, 2-0 and 2-1 in the second half.
In other Wednesday World Cup games at Santa Rita Polo Farm:
15-goal La Dalila (Pablo Dorignac, Jesus Ontiveros, Francisco Ayala, A. Nolinas) defeated 5-goal Equuleus (Martin Naloones, Hugo Taliaferro, Dale Walmer, Danny Tagliaferro), 14-13. Equuleus started out with a 10-goal advantage and tried to hold on to the lead but La Dalila gradually reeled them back in. Dorignac scored a team-high seven goals including scoring what turned out to be the game-winner.
In a battle of 5-goal teams, Sebucan (Benji Daniels, Pablo Pulido, Justin Daniels, Juan Olivera) edged The Polo School (Rick Desich, Lolly Stanhope-White, Alex Webb, JJ Celis), 10-9. The Polo School’s late rally in the sixth chukker fell short. Benji Daniels scored what turned out to be the winning goal. Daniels and Pulido each had three goals and Justin Daniels led with four goals. Celis had a game-high five goals, Webb added two and Stanhope-White had one.
The players continue to rave about the winner-take-all, 0-to-26 World Cup format that has attracted the largest field and richest prize purse in Grand Champions Polo Club’s 10-year history.
“It’s a good format, it grabs everyone’s attention, especially the 100K,” Collingwood said with a smile. “Every team is hungry for this one.”
The World Cup is the second of two classic and prestigious tournaments that Grand Champions owners and high goal polo players Melissa and Marc Ganzi are reviving thanks to the generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where they were last played in the late 1990s. The first tournament they revived was the Sterling Cup.
The prestigious World Cup is a tournament steeped in tradition. American businessman and polo player Bill Ylvisaker, then CEO of a Fortune 200 battery company in Chicago, created the Gould World Polo Championship with a prize purse of $150,000.
It was first held in 1976 at the Butler Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ylvisaker’s staff sent out invitations to countries all over the world known to have top-ranked pro polo teams.
Three teams from the United States were recruited and joined Mexico, India, England and Argentina in the field. The inaugural event was won by Argentina, attracted great crowds and was deemed a success.
In 1977, Ylvisaker bought 2,000 acres to develop a polo resort. The Palm Beach Polo and Country Club was built with 14 polo fields and soon became the polo capital of the world.
The first season at the new club featured the $150,000 Michelob World Cup Polo Championship. Held April 3-15, it was the highlight of the season attracting top players and sponsors from around the world. Back then it was the world’s richest and most premier polo event and one of the most significant polo championships.
In 1988, Landmark purchased the club for $25 million and continued the club’s growth until it was sold at auction in 1993 to Straub.
The tournament will be live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.