Dutta Corp Rallies To Capture Polo Gear Challenge Cup; Benjamin Avendano Named Most Valuable Player
Dutta Corp, trailing for most of the game, rallied in the final two chukkers to capture the ninth annual Polo Gear Challenge Cup, one of the club’s oldest tournaments.
By Sharon Robb
In front of a good crowd at windswept Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Aspen Field and worldwide ChukkerTV audience on Sunday, Dutta Corp (Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6, Carlucho Arellano, 5, Tim Dutta, 0) outscored Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Benjamin Avendano, 1, Pablo Dorignac, 5, Guille Aguero, 5), 3-0, in the fifth and sixth chukkers to win, 8-6.
Lynn University sophomore Benjamin Avendano, 19, was named Most Valuable Player. Avendano, playing above his handicap against more experienced players, scored a team-high four goals and finished with seven for the two-day medium goal tournament.
It was the second time Avendano earned MVP honors. The first time was as a member of Patagones, winners of the inaugural Daylight Savings Cup.
“We had the game the first four chukkers and then we slacked off and they started playing us well,” said Avendano, who called the game another learning experience playing against top pros. “It helps playing the better players. I learn from them, they teach me and help me play better.”
After both teams opened the first chukker missing scoring attempts, Sebucan pulled ahead for a 3-0 lead with goals from Dorignac (penalty-four), Aguero and Avendano.
“We tried to play our game like we did on Friday with a team effort,” Dutta said. “I was playing deep back waiting to catch whoever was coming through. Our timing was a little off and they had three goals early on.”
Dutta Corp, making its fall debut, regained its composure and started to slowly claw its way back in the second chukker. Arellano scored on back-to-back penalty four and six conversions to trail by one, 3-2. Avendano’s penalty-three goal gave Sebucan a 4-2 lead to end the second chukker.
“We huddled together, I got a little more closer and they used me more to block when we were picking up the ball,” Dutta said. “These boys only need to get three seconds. We kind of played Pike (Alberdi) polo. We didn’t fight for the ball, the ball came if you were there.”
In a defensive third chukker, Dutta Corp shut out Sebucan, 1-0, on Gracida’s goal to trail 4-3 at halftime. Avendano scored back-to-back goals in the fourth chukker for a 6-3 advantage. Kampsen countered with his own back-to-back goals for Dutta Corp to trail 6-5 going into the fifth chukker.
The final two chukkers was all Dutta Corp, shutting down Sebucan’s potent offense while scoring three goals. Gracida scored to tie the game at 6-6. Dutta Corp took the lead, 7-6, for the first time in the game on Kampsen’s goal. Kampsen added an insurance goal late in the game.
It was Dutta Corp’s final appearance of the fall season. Dutta’s horses arrived four weeks ago and he used the tournament to ease himself back into action. His last tournament was in May.
“Today was for me easy so I didn’t run them as much,” Dutta said. “They are getting ready for January. It’s a big season for us. This was their first real tournament polo since the end of May. It was great to be back in an open field. It’s been a while so my timing was off. I’m not as fit as I want to be but I will be by January.”
Dutta plans to leave for Argentina to watch his teenage son Timmy compete in 16- and 18-goal polo tournaments with veteran player and mentor Pike Alberdi for Dutta Corp La Mancha.
“Today was a great day, we won in Argentina, too,” Dutta said. “It’s great to win in two places.”
In Friday’s semifinals, Dutta Corp advanced with an impressive 8-3 victory over Santa Clara and Sebucan edged Casablanca, 8-7.
Kampsen led Dutta Corp with four goals and Gracida and Arellano each added two goals. In addition to Avendano’s four goals, Dorignac and Aguero each scored one goal for Sebucan.
Earlier in the day in the Just For The Thrill Of It subsidiary game at Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Buenos Aires Field, Santa Clara (Lucas Escobar, .5, Lucas Arellano, 1, Jeff Blake, 6, Luis Escobar, 5) defeated Casablanca (Santos Bollini, 0, Jason Crowder, 6, Grant Ganzi, 2, Jesse Bray, 5), 10-4.
Father and son Luis and Lucas Escobar shared high scoring honors for Santa Clara. Lucas Escobar, 15, and his father each scored four goals. Jeff Blake added two goals. Jason Crowder scored all four of Casabanca’s goal. Casablanca was shut out in three chukkers and could never find its offensive chemistry.
The Polo Gear Challenge Cup was the sixth tournament of the fall season. Grand Champions is also hosting the upcoming USPA National 20-Goal (Sunday, Nov. 19, semifinals at 10 and noon and Tuesday, Nov. 21, 4 p.m. and Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting five-time defending champion Team USA against Brazil. Sponsorship packages are still available and tickets are on sale.
The first five tournament winners were: Audi, which defeated Casablanca, 11-10, in overtime to win the Tackeria Invitational; Casablanca in the US Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic; Sebucan knocked off Casablanca to win the USPA Fall Plates and Casablanca defeated Audi, 11-9, in the USPA North American Cup final.
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.