Casablanca captured the fall season-opening Tackeria Invitational Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club, but it wasn’t easy.
In front of a good crowd on an unseasonably hot day, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Julio Gracida, Mariano Gracida) won a hardfought 10-9 overtime decison over Flexjet (Santos Bollini, Lucas Escobar, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini).
Flexjet controlled most of the game until the sixth chukker when the game was tied twice, 8-8 and 9-9, before Mariano Gracida scored the winning goal in a crowd of players around the goal mouth to clinch the victory.
Gracida, the youngest son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, was named Most Valuable Player. He scored four goals including one in the sixth chukker to tie the game and game-winner in overtime. The game-winner materialized when Gracida hit a good knock-in to Bollini who hit to Ganzi. All four players pushed toward the goal mouth and Gracida came up with the ball and goal.
“I knew I had the line and no one could go for it so I just got there quick, took my time and tapped it in,” Mariano Gracida said. “It feels great to win. I was just worried about playing well. I know it’s the first week and everyone is going at their own pace. It’s always good to win the first tournament of the season. “Today was the hottest day for both the horses and players,” Gracida said. “I think we had a lot of confidence off our first game which took away from our second game. I think today we started off with too much confidence. We weren’t playing as a team in the first half. At halftime we decided to be calmer when hitting the ball and let them make the mistakes. We played our positions a little bit more, took our time and relied on each other.”
Cupid, a 6-year-old gelding owned and played by Julio Gracida, was selected Best Playing Pony for the second time this year. In April, Cupid was Best Playing Pony in the USPA Eastern Challenge at Santa Rita Polo Farm. Ganzi also scored four goals for Casablanca. Juancito Bollini added two goals and Julio Gracida was the big-hitting playmaker and anchor on defense.
“It was a good game, it was two strong teams playing up in polo,” said Julio Gracida, son of Hall of Famer and former 10-goal polo great Memo Gracida. “We are just exhausted, it was a hot day but we played great polo. It was hitting and running. Both teams played at a higher level. We’re just not ready for that right now, it’s just the beginning of the season.” Despite both horses and players being exhausted and soaked in sweat, Casablanca came out poised in the overtime period.
“We just wanted to simplify things and not rush,” Julio Gracida said. “We didn’t want to overdo things, just hit it forward and hit it backwards and respect your teammates. It was a good team effort. We just rotated really well. I’m very happy to win, it’s good to be back.”
Casablanca was the youngest team in the tournament averaging 22 years in age. The foursome are childhood friends who have played with and against each other for years.
The 12th annual Tackeria Invitational is the first of six medium-goal tournaments in addition to 20-goal action during the fall season. The tournament has always had a special place in club history as the inaugural tournament when the club first opened in 2007.”This was a great way to start the season,” said Tackeria owner, USPA President and longtime Wellington resident Tony Coppola. “It was a really exciting final going into overtime. Glad to see so many people out here supporting Grand Champions in the fall season.
“I’m looking forward to the season here with the culmination of the International Cup on Thanksgiving weekend.” The much-anticipated fall season is a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the debut of the highly-anticipated 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm featuring 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, Pelon Sterling and Juan Martin Nero.
The Tackeria Invitational has a history of exciting finishes. In last year’s tournament final, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida) rallied in the final chukker to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Andres LaPlacette, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 11-10, in overtime at Santa Rita Polo Farm. Among the highlights of the season are the Oct. 15-27 USPA North American Cup, Nov. 3-17 USPA National 20-Goal Championship; Nov. 14 Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Romero Britto Celebration; and Nov. 24 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup.
By Sharon Robb
2018 FALL SCHEDULE at Grand Champions Polo Club
MEDIUM GOAL LEAGUE
October 18-21: U.S. Trust Cup
October 24-28: USPA Fall Classic
November 1-4: USPA Fall Plates
November 8-11: Polo Gear Challenge
November 15-18 Pedro Morrison Memorial
HIGH GOAL LEAGUE
October 15-27: USPA North American Cup
November 3-17: USPA National 20-Goal Championship
November 14: The Triple Crown of Polo Tournament, Romero Britto Celebration at Santa Rita Polo Club
November 24: Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup, Team USA vs. Azerbaijan.