The stage is set for the much-anticipated semifinal round of the $100,000 World Cup.
After four second round games on Monday and Tuesday, Valiente I, Valiente II, Orchard Hill and Palm Beach Illustrated advanced into Thursday’s semifinal round of the 16-team, single-elimination, winner-take-all, 0-26-goal tournament.
At 11 a.m., Orchard Hill will play Valiente I and 4 p.m., Palm Beach Illustrated meets Valiente II. Both games will be hosted by Valiente Polo Farm. The winners advance into Saturday’s championship final at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club.
PALM BEACH ILLUSTRATED 9, GSA 8 (OT)
It was only fitting that two of the tournament’s best teams would end up in a defensive battle with a thrilling sudden death overtime finish at Grand Champions.
21-goal Palm Beach Illustrated (Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon, Tommy Collingwood) and 17-goal GSA (Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz, Joaquin Panelo, Matias Magrini) were well-matched despite the four-goal differential.
“We were going in expecting a game like this,” said Zenni who got past Magrini to score the tying goal with 1:49 left in regulation. “We felt pretty good as a team. This is an awesome win.”
It took only nine seconds to clinch the game in overtime. Obregon won the throw-in and raced to goal slipping by Panelo for the winning goal.
“That was one of the best shots of my life, for sure,” Obregon said. “The other team was really tough and we knew that. We had to be patient.”
Both teams, relentless on defense, had their share of opportunities to win the physical game in regulation.
“It was very physical,” Collingwood said. “They are a very physical team and all very good and consistent with the ball. We knew if we couldn’t get them early, every breakaway they could score a goal.
“We all kept telling each other not to get desperate and go play-by-play,” Collingwood said. “We won the throw-in and scored on a quick play. Then we said under thetent before overtime, everybody with their man and if you have a chance to run to goal, take it to goal and that’s what Agustin did.”
Added Torres, “I am very happy. The team played awesome and stayed in the game. We started off losing by four goals but got it back. We were tied, up by one or down by one. We kept our cool, tied it up and made an amazing goal in overtime.”
Palm Beach Illustrated got balanced scoring from its four-man team. Obregon led with three goals and Zenni, Torres and Collingwood each had two goals. Panelo led GSA with three goals and Ruiz had one.
“This is an awesome win,” Collingwood said. “Playing with your friends in this type of tournament where it’s mostly all pros and playing against a great organization like GSA is great. We knew we were young and had to be very consistent and calm and play for each other.”
ORCHARD HILL 12, LA DALILA 9
15-goal Orchard Hill (Frank Evans, Max Secunda, Felipe Vercellino, Lucas Criado) started out with a 2-0 lead and reeled off three unanswered goals for a 5-1 advantage early in the second chukker against 17-goal La Dalila (Pablo Dorignac, Tommy Beresford, Frank Ayala, Agustin Molinas).
“I think we played really well and well as a team,” Criado said. “We scored most of our penalties. It was a good game for us. I didn’t expect we would be in the semifinals but we are doing good and having fun.”
Orchard Hill had leads of 6-3, 9-3, 12-4 and 12-5 before La Dalila scored four unanswered goals in the final chukker.
Evans, a minus-one player and at 64, the oldest player in the tournament, continues to play well after only four years of playing polo. Evans played league hockey throughout his life in the New Jersey area and was a member of adult league national championship teams.
“It’s great to be in the semifinals, it’s thrilling, this is my first semifinal,” Evans said. “These guys really worked hard today. That was a great team. It was a perfect match. It could have gone either way.”
Secunda replaced Lucas Criado Jr. for more experience and physicality and maintained its consistency behind the one-two punch of Criado and Vercellino.
“We knew this game would be rougher,” Secunda said. “We get along well. We are all pretty good friends. It was great to get the big lead because the last chukker we could take it a little easier and save some of the horses. We are excited to be in the semis.”
Criado led Orchard Hill scoring with six goals and Vercellino had four. Molinas led La Dalila with three goals, all in the sixth chukker. Dorignac, Beresford and Ayala each had two goals.
VALIENTE II 16, SEBUCAN 9
Teenager Nico Escobar made his debut and joined another new teammate, Salvador Lockei, replacing U.S. Open players Matias Torres Zavaleta and Diego Cavanagh dropping the team from 23 to 11 goals.
The 11-goal Valiente II (Rob Jornayvaz, Salvador Lockei, Nico Escobar, Tomas Garcia del Rio) was still extremely competitive against 6-goal Sebucan (Justin Daniels, Pablo Pulido, Alfredo Gerreno, Benji Daniels).
Valiente II overcame its 5-goal deficit in the second chukker when Escobar scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 6-6. Garcia del Rio scored early in the third chukker for a 7-6 lead but Benji Daniels scored the first of his three goals to regain the lead, 8-7. The game was tied one more time before Valiente II took advantage of its scoring machine Garcia del Rio. All three one-goalers played well above their handicap for Valiente II.
Garcia del Rio scored a game-high 11 goals. Escobar and Lockei each had two goals and Jornayvaz added one goal. Benji Daniels scored all three of his team’s goals from the field.
VALIENTE I 16, DEERIDGE 10
Adolfo Cambiaso and his 11-year-old son Poroto Cambiaso played together for the first time in a U.S. tournament. The father and son have practiced together and played in fun tournaments in Argentina, but never had the opportunity to play together in the U.S. until now.
Bob Jornayvaz and Pablo Spinacci dropped off the 18-goal team in favor of the 14-goal Valiente I (Poroto Cambiaso, Bautista Panelo, Robertito Zedda, Adolfo Cambiaso) to play against 7-goal Deeridge (Will Jacobs, Santos Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Wes Finlayson).
“It was fun, very good fun playing with Poroto,” Cambiaso said. “We never played together. We practiced a lot and played fun tournaments. This is our first real tournament and a highlight for me as a father.
“I was looking forward to this,” Cambiaso said. “The last couple of days he was looking at the tournament when I told him he was going to play. I think he played a little bit nervous today but it was fun.
“The idea was to win,” Cambiaso said. “We were down seven goals. So the idea first was to get the seven goals back and then play polo, be competitive and distribute the ball.”
The similarities between father and son are remarkable from their mallet swing to the way they ride and carry themselves on the field.
“I had fun,” said Poroto Cambiaso, who held his own against the bigger and older players throughout the game with his fair share of rideoffs.
Added his father, who had already competed in a tournament with his daughter, Mia, in Palermo, “This is the idea, we will do many more in the future. This was a great opportunity for him. This is an amazing tournament and I think it is a great idea of Melissa Ganzi’s. That is why we support it and put two teams in.”
While Deeridge may have lost, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for teenagers Will Jacobs, 14, a minus-one player, and Santos Bollini, 16, a 0-goal player, to play against the sport’s version of LeBron James. Lalor turned to Jacobs in the players’ tent before the game and encouraged him to “enjoy this.”
“I’m obviously sad because we’re not in the tournament any more but I’m also excited for the experience I just had,” said Jacobs, who scored a goal in the sixth chukker. “This opportunity comes once in a lifetime. I just soaked it up.
“I always go into a game trying to be really serious and thinking we are going to win,” Jacobs said. “When we started playing I thought, wow these guys are really good. This really motivates me even more to want to keep playing polo.”
Added Bollini, “It started off great and fast. Playing against Adolfo Cambiaso was an honor. We went in knowing that there was no way, we just tried to play our best.”
Adolfo Cambiaso led scoring with six goals, Poroto Cambiaso had five goals, Panelo had three and Zedda added two goals.Lalor led Deeridge with two goals and Jacobs scored one.
In each World Cup game, an American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony is selected by a committee. The horse’s groom is awarded $250.
Created in 2006 by legendary polo pioneer Sunny Hale, the association recognizes polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them.
In each World Cup game, a horse that is registered with the APHA, will be selected BPP and its groom given $250. For the final, a BPP for the final, BPP for the overall tournament and third BPP, even if not registered with the APHA, will be selected. Each groom will earn $2,500, according to executive director Tiana Smicklas.
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 history. 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 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 is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.