On a hot, sunny day, Flexjet and U.S. Polo Assn. battled their way into Sunday’s championship final of the World Polo League Beach Polo Miami Beach Cup at Collins Park.
In semifinal action of the world’s largest beach polo tournament, Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Wes Finlayson, 4) advanced with a thrilling 8-7 overtime victory over Peroni (Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 6, Jason Crowder, 7).
Astrada got loose from defenders and scored the winning goal in overtime to send Flexjet into the final. With Flexjet leading 7-6 in regulation, Bray scored with 18 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Astrada finished with a game-high six goals. Finlayson added two. Bray led Peroni with five goals.
In another hardfought semifinal matchup, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Carlitos Gracida, 5) edged Speedart Motorsports (Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Tito Gaudenzi, 3), 9.5-9.
U.S. Polo Assn. had a slim lead for most of the game. Speedart Motorsports led 5-4.5 in the second chukker and 6-5.5 in the third chukker before U.S. Polo Assn. took the lead for good when Ganzi outmaneuvered Roldan to score with four seconds left to end the third chukker, 6.5-6. With two goals from Bollini and penalty conversion from Gracida in the fourth chukker, U.S. Polo Assn. never trailed.
Bollini and Gracida each had four goals for U.S. Polo Assn. Ganzi had one and the team received .5 on handicap. Roldan led Speedart Motorsports with four goals.
On Sunday, in front of an expected sellout crowd, Flexjet will play U.S. Polo Assn. at 3:30 p.m. Four other games are scheduled for Sunday.
In the opener at 11 a.m., World Polo League (Vinny Sangaline, 2, Gussie Busch, 2, Kris Kampsen, 9) plays Fiji (Sebastian Schneberger, 2, Santos Bollini, 2, Pablo Dorignac, 7) for third and fourth place in Barbados Cup play.
At 12:15 p.m., Italkraft (Diego Urrutia, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 7, Juan Bollini, 6) will play The Setai (Rommy Gianni, 2, Juan Cruz Greguoli, 5, Pedro Soria, 6) for the Barbados Cup.
In the Barbados Cup qualifying games, Italkraft defeated World Polo League, 6-4. Italkraft jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the opening chukker and never trailed, leading 6-3 after three chukkers. Juan Bollini led Italkraft with three goals.
Gussie Busch had two goals for World Polo League. Busch was hit in the face with a mallet in the second chukker but was able to return to play after getting stitches by the tournament’s medical team.
In the other game, The Setai defeated Fiji, 11-8. The Setai, behind Soria’s hot mallet, opened with a 3-1 lead in the first chukker and never trailed, leading 9-5 after three chukkers. The Argentine finished with six goals. Dorignac led Fiji with five goals.
At 1:30 p.m., the Neiman Marcus Cup will feature a charity game between Give Back For Special Equestrians featuring Argentine super model Ines Rivero, former University of Miami and New York Giants player Jeremy Shockey and a pro polo player against the Museum of Polo Hall of Fame featuring WPLG Local 10 News Miami broadcaster Louis Aguirre, actor Sterling Jones and a pro polo player.
At 2 p.m., Peroni will face Speedart Motorsports in the WPL Beach Polo Cup subsidiary Speedart Cup.
Swiss polo visionary Reto Gaudenzi, the founder of the Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz and several other tournaments, created the Beach Polo World Cup in 2005, one year after beach polo was introduced in Dubai, and hosted the South Beach event through 2008.
Gaudenzi’s son, Tito Gaudenzi of Lifestyle Companies, resurrected the event last year successfully along with WPL co-founders Melissa and Marc Ganzi. Wellington-based Grand Champions is host polo club.
Last year’s winner was La Martina (Riley Ganzi, Jesse Bray, Juan Bollini), 5-4.5 over Macallan (Sarah Siegel Magness, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan) in the La Martina Cup final.
General admission to the competition and adjacent Retail Village is complimentary. Concessions will be available for purchase. VIP tickets are also available.
Gaudenzi’s Lifestyle Companies is one of the leaders in organizing top events around the world including Switzerland, Germany, France, Azerbaijan and Russia.
For more information on the tournament and accompanying events, visit www.miamipolocup.com.
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 Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. 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, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.