The exciting fall polo season continues with the fourth tournament of the season at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
The USPA Fall Plates Tournament begins Friday with a doubleheader. The fourth medium goal tournament of the season features four teams, including Casablanca, which has won the last two medium goal tournaments.
Flexjet opens the tournament at 3 p.m. against Sebucan followed by Casablanca playing Newport at 5 p.m.
|Winning Travieso team of Carlucho Arellano, Jared Sheldon, Tony Calle, Teo Calle and awards presenter Wendy Calle.|
The winners of each game advance into Sunday’s final. Two games are scheduled for 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Sunday. The game order will be determined after Friday’s semifinals.
The impressive lineup of pro players competing during the fall season is headed by legendary American Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro. Azzaro, winner of eight U.S. Open titles and rated at 10 goals for 13 years, was Most Valuable Player in both the US Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic.
The USPA Fall Plates team rosters are:
Casablanca (13): Benjamin Avendano, 2; Grant Ganzi, 2; Mike Azzaro, 6; Juancito Bollini, 3.
Flexjet (15): Melissa Ganzi, 0; Brandon Phillips, 5; Pablo Dorignac, 5; Juan Bollini, 5.
Newport (15): Gene Goldstein, 1; Marc Ganzi, 2; Jason Crowder, 6; Kris Kampsen, 6.
Sebucan (16): Pablo Pulido, 2; Carlitos Gracida, 4; Guille Aguero, 5; Luis Escobar, 5.
Luis Escobar is coming off a successful summer at Santa Barbara Polo Club. Playing for Santa Clara, Escobar made it to five finals in six tournaments and won two.
In last year’s USPA Fall Plates final, Travieso, one of the club’s winningest teams, won with a 7-3 victory over Palm Beach Polo. The foursome of father and son Teo and Tony Calle, Jared Sheldon and Carlucho Arellano defeated the team of Glenn Straub, JJ Celis, Nacho Lezica and Guille Aguero.
Teo Calle, one of the club’s top amateurs and patron of the Ecuador-based team, was named Most Valuable Player. Maserati, a 12-year-old chestnut mare owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Sheldon, was named Best Playing Pony.
Arellano, a veteran five-goal player, is currently in Sydney, Australia for the XI FIP World Championships. Arellano is a member of Team USA along with Jesse Bray, 5, Felipe Viana, 5, Matias Gonzalez, 2, Cacho Galindo, 2, and Jimmy Wright, 2.
The U.S. team, which trained for two weeks at Grand Champions before leaving for Sydney, is coached by veteran Joel Baker. The team manager is USPA CEO Bob Puetz. In 2015, the U.S. lost by one goal in the overtime final to Chile. The U.S. last won the title in 1989.
The U.S. opens up against Argentina Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST. Argentina’s lineup is Valentin Novillo Astrada, 5; Hector Guerrero, 5, who played and coached at Grand Champions; Ivan Buteler, 4; Tomas Panelo, 3; Ignacio Bello, 2; and Lucio Ocampo, 2. The team is coached by Diego Braun.
Also in the U.S. bracket are Spain and host country Australia. In the other bracket are England, Chile, India and New Zealand.
England features 2-goaler Henry Porter, who has competed at Grand Champions and is a member of GSA, winners of this year’s $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament at Grand Champions and East Coast Open at Greenwich Polo Club.
India features 2-goaler HH Padmanabh Singh, 18, who played with Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi on the Liberty Comets at the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. in June. The Comets lost to Veuve Clicquot, led by Nacho Figueras, 9-7. Singh is the youngest player to represent India.
In last year’s Fall Plates Handicap Final, Riverview (Riley Ganzi, Martin Estrada, Wes Finlayson, Kris Kampsen) defeated Newport (Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Jesse Bray, Carlitos Gracida), 10-8. Riley Ganzi was MVP and Marco Polo, a 7-year-old dark bay stallion, also owned by Santa Rita, was Best Playing Pony.
Flexjet has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
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.
The USPA Fall Plates is the fourth of six medium goal tournaments during the fall season. In the first three tournaments of the season, Audi defeated Casablanca, 11-10, in overtime to win the Tackeria Invitational and Casablanca bounced back to win the US Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic.
Grand Champions is one of only two clubs in the nation to host two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American (Oct. 27-Nov. 5) Cup and USPA National 20-Goal (Nov. 8-19) in the fall.
The highlight of the fall season is the Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting defending champion Team USA against Brazil.
During the fall season, roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams to help improve players skills and performance. The games also give players an opportunity to work young horses.
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.
Grand Champions Polo Cup attracted a record 72 teams during its 2017 winter season that featured the $100,000 World Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal, 20-Goal Sterling Cup and 20-Goal Molina Cup, and another 18 teams during the spring season.
The entire fall season will be live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology. ChukkerTV also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
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.