Grand Champions Polo Club will usher in the new decade with what is expected to be the best winter polo season in club history.
With 18 safe and well-manicured fields, the club will host every level of polo for men, women and children including the second season of the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo held outside of Argentina featuring the best players in the world.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm are putting the finishing touches on the turnkey club in anticipation of its biggest winter polo season yet.
The nation’s largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, opens league play on January 8.
The club attracts a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, South Africa and England.
Grand Champions opens its regular season on Jan. 8 with 6, 8, 12 and high goal leagues, weekly WCT Ladies League and prestigious back-to-back tournaments, the Jan. 15-25 Sterling Cup and Jan. 26-Feb. 9 winner-take-all, single-elimination $100,000 World Cup.
The $100,000 World Cup showcases players at every level and is the club’s richest prize purse. What makes the tournament so unique is that it’s open to teams from 0-to-26 on handicap. It’s also an opportunity to showcase the sport’s younger players.
The Sterling Cup was resurrected by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi in hopes of recapturing polo’s glory days. It was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup and last played in 1995. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as sixteen teams.
The WCT Women’s Weekly League in The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned club, created by Alina Carta and Melissa Ganzi, will play Wednesdays through March at Santa Rita Polo Farm. The one-of-its-kind weekly league that continues the legacy of legendary Hall of Famer Sunny Hale, is beginning its fourth season and attracts several top and up-and-coming players. Women’s polo continues to be the largest growing sector in the sport.
Grand Champions is also hosting the Feb. 25-March 8 $50,000 National 12-Goal and March 31-April 4 Sunny Hale’s Legacy WCT Finals.
The biggest highlight of the season is the second season of the World Polo League, the nation’s only 26-goal league featuring some of the world’s top players and team sponsors at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm.
After a successful inaugural season, the 26-goal World Polo League, co-founded by Marc and Melissa Ganzi and Valiente owner Bob Jornayvaz, returns for a much-anticipated season of high goal polo.
The World Polo League will feature the world’s top player Adolfo Cambiaso and other top players. The world-class league will run from Feb. 5 through April 18.
“The league is about the preservation of a level of play that is exclusive to America,” said WPL Commissioner Dale Smicklas. “The first year was about getting the polo right and we did that. The league is about team owners all working for the good of the sport.”
The WPL will open at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm with the Feb. 5-16 All-Star Challenge. A draw party will feature team owners drawing for all-star players at the league’s season-kickoff draw party. The remaining WPL tournaments are Feb. 19-March 1 Founders Cup, March 4-22 Palm Beach Open and March 28-April 18 Triple Crown of Polo.
“After Argentina, the 26-goal in America is the highest level of polo in the world,” said Cambiaso, coming off a record seventh consecutive Argentine Open victory with La Dolfina teammates Pelon Stirling, Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero.
Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments during the winter season, the most of any club in the U.S., including five in January.
“Our team has been busy making significant improvements to ensure players’ safety and increased enjoyment at GCPC,” said Juan Olivera, Director of Polo. “Our field crews have been hard at work preparing the fields since June this past summer. We started making improvements to the fields with significant amount of sand, weed control and fertilizer going down on all the fields consistently the last five months.
“In addition, the Gonzalo Heguy field at Pony Express has been re-planted, irrigation upgraded and significant sand applied through the process. Also, we have built a brand new fourth field at Santa Rita to increase our total field footprint and we have added a new parking lot as well. We now have a total of 11 tournament grade polo fields at GCPC, in addition to leased fields and partner fields, we have access to over 17 fields to ensure safe and fair play. We are confident that the quality and safety of our fields are second to none in Wellington.”
Grand Champions is coming off its finest fall season in the club’s 13-year history. It was the only club in the nation to stage two 20-goal fall tournaments in addition to the International Cup and Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial. The club also hosted a full schedule of successful and highly-competitive medium goal tournaments.
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 four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm’s 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 Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. It 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.
“We pride ourselves in being able to deliver any type or level of polo players desire this season,” Olivera said.