• With the stunning Tyrolean Alps and Wilder Kaiser Mountains as a backdrop, the 16th annual Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup begins Friday on the outskirts of Kitzbuhel.
    By Sharon Robb
    The field for the world’s largest polo tournament on snow includes defending champion Team Corum and Team Bendura Bank that features Grand Champions Polo Club’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Melissa Ganzi, USPA Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions President along with event co-founder Tito Gaudenzi.
    The 2017 Awards Ceremony with Team Corum.
    Ganzi was the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo Tournament and first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Tournament in Aspen in 2016. Ganzi will return to compete in the Jan. 26-28 St. Moritz event.
    The six international teams were introduced during a presentation to fans and media on Thursday at Hotel Zur Tenne. The matches get underway Friday and continue through Sunday with the final.
    Three games are set for Friday and Saturday at 11:45 a.m., 1 and 2:15 p.m. On Sunday the match for fifth and sixth place is 11:30 a.m., the KCC Cup Final subsidiary at 12:45 and Bendura Bank Cup final at 4 p.m.
    Tito Gaudenzi with Team Corum winning teammates Patrick Maleitzke, Philip Sommer and Lukas Sdrenka.
    The team rosters are:
    Bendura Bank (12): Melissa Ganzi, 1, Tito Gaudenzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8.
    Engel & Volkers (13): Kutlay Yaprak, 0, Augustin Kronhaus, 7, Adrian Laplacette Jr., 6.
    Kitzbuhel Polo Club (12): Sebastian Schneberger, 2, Hector Monserrat, 4, Valentin Novillo Astrada, 6.
    Bernd Gruber (9): Steffi von Pock, 1, Marty van Scherpenzeel, 2, Eduardo Anca, 6.
    Corum (10): Philip Sommer, 3, Lukas Sdrenka, 3, Patrick Maleitzke, 4.
    Maserati (9): Marc Aberle, 0, Caspar Crasemann, 4, Thomas Winter, 5.
    Melissa Ganzi 
    Ganzi, Novillo Astrada, Gaudenzi and Schneberger are coming off the successful return of the Jan. 4-7 Miami Beach World Cup on the beachfront of W South Beach Hotel. In addition to playing with Ganzi and Novillo Astrada, Gaudenzi, founder of Lifestyle Events & Companies, is the Kitbuhel event co-founder and organizer.
    “Each year this tournament gets better and better with both the calibre of the players and the ponies improving year after year,” Gaudenzi said. “With the addition of the Bendura Bank team to this year’s competition, it is set to be the best Snow Polo World Cup yet and we can’t wait to get started.”
    The event was started in 2003 by Tito Gaudenzi and his father Reto with four teams and 1,000 fans. It has grown into one of the country’s major sporting events, six teams and attracts more than 15,000 fans over three days.
    Alejandro Novillo Astrada
    Corum returns the same lineup that won the tournament last year. The trio was the most dominant team, winning the title with a 12.5-6 victory over Engel & Volkers’s Richard Fagan, Michael Henderson and Santiago Torreguitar. Fagan was selected Most Valuable Player. Maleitzke’s 15-year-old mare Taviesa was Best Playing Pony.
    Winter, Germany’s best known player, said the Kitzbuhel event is one of the highlights of the season. “The Kitzbuhel Snow Polo World Cup is for me the world’s best polo tournament on snow. I love this event. It is well-organized and the atmosphere is awesome.”
    With a top field of teams, snow polo action will be fast and furious.
    Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.

    Grand Champions 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 Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.