With a backdrop of the breathtaking Tyrolean Alps, the 2020 snow polo season opens with the 18th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup.

The three-day tournament’s eight teams featuring players from 11 nations will be introduced Thursday at the Hotel zur Tenne in the heart of Kitzbuhel Village and Welcome Party at the Casino Kitzbuhel. 

The matches get under way Friday at 10:30 a.m. and continue through Sunday.

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Grand Champions Polo Club will be well-represented with 2018 champion Bendura Bank’s Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Tito Gaudenzi and Melissa Ganzi. In the 2018 final, Bendura Bank defeated Engel & Volkers, 10-6.5. The World Polo League will sponsor its first team with Marc Ganzi, Juan Bautista Peluso and Nic Roldan. 

“It is so exciting to be back for another year of snow polo in Kitzbuhel,” said Gaudenzi, the event organizer and co-founder. “Our eight teams are blessed with some new faces as well as welcoming back past champions, so we can’t wait to get the tournament under way. It is, without a doubt, set to be the best Snow Polo World Cup yet. The lineup has never been so exciting.”

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Team rosters are:
Bendura Bank (12): Melissa Ganzi, 1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Tito Gaudenzi, 3.
Engel & Völkers (12): Ana Escobedo, 1, Segundo Darritchon, 3, Jonny Good, 8.
World Polo League (13): Marc Ganzi, 2, Juan Bautista Peluso, 3, Nic Roldan, 8.
Corum (10): Eckhardt Juls, 1, Patrick Maleitzke, 5, Juan Ruiz-Guiñazú, 4.
Bernd Gruber (11): Helmut Wieser, 0, Pato Bolanterio, 4, Santiago Marambio, 7.
GP Mobility (10): Henrique Schalldach, 2, TC Marcus Schalldach, 2, Guilhermo Lins, 6. 
INTOCAST (12): Matthias Normann, 1, Micky Duggan, 5, Martin Juaregui, 6.
Laurent-Perrier (11): Sebastian Schneeberger, 2, Phillip de Groot, 2, Valentin Novillo Astrada, 7.

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In last year’s event, Ciroc Vodka won its debut in the 17th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup. The team of Sebastian Schneeberger, Aki Van Andel and Valentin Novillo Astrada, 7, dominated the six-team tournament in ideal weather and playing conditions.

In front of a packed house, Ciroc Vodka defeated Engel & Volkers (Kutlay Yaprak, 1, Agustin Kronhaus, 4, Adrian Laplacette, 7) in the championship final on Sunday, 9-5. Dutch player Aki Van Andel was Most Valuable Player in his debut.

In the other two games, Corum (Eckhardt Juls, 0/Enno Grans, 0, Patrick Maleitzke, 4, Juan Ruiz-Guinazu, 6) defeated Bernd Gruber (Eduardo Greghi, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Pierre Henri Ngoumou, 7), 7-6, to win the Kitzbuhel Country Club Cup subsidiary final. Defending champion Bendura Bank (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8,/Isidro Strada, 7, Tito Gaudenzi, 3) trounced Maserati (Marc Aberle, 1, Thomas Winter, 5, Caspar Crasemann, 4), 13-6.5, to finish fifth.

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, eight teams and attracts more than 15,000 fans over three days.

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Four games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday. On Friday: 10.30 a.m. Corum vs. Bernd Gruber; 11.45 a.m. GP Mobility vs. Laurent Perrier; 1 p.m. Intocast vs. Bendura Bank; and 2:15 p.m. World Polo League vs. Engel & Völkers.

On Saturday, 10:30 a.m.: First semifinal, KCC Cup, runnerup; 11:45, Second semifinal, KCC Cup, runnerup; 1 p.m. First semifinal,  Bendura Bank Trophy; 2:15 p.m., Second semifinal, Bendura Bank Trophy.

On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., the game for seventh and eighth place is the opening game. At 11:45 p.m., the La Martina Trophy game for third and fourth place will be held; at 1 p.m. Kitzbuhel Country Club Cup will be held for fifth and sixth place; and at 2:15 p.m. the Bendura Bank Trophy final will be held followed by the team and awards presentation at 3:45 p.m. 

The tournament will be live streamed on the Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel Facebook page during the early morning in South Florida because of the six-hour time change. Fans can already watch the match draw that was streamed earlier in the week.

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Melissa Ganzi was the first woman to win the 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz in January, 2019. She was also the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo Tournament in 2016 and first woman to make the final in 2017. She is also first woman to win both the St. Regis World Snow Polo Tournament in Aspen for Flexjet in 2016 and 2018 Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup. Ganzi will also compete in St. Moritz with Nic Roldan, Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Juan Bautista Peluso for Badrutt’s Palace.

Jan-Erik Franck, the voice of polo who also announces the 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm, will handle the announcing in Kitzbuhel and also at the Jan. 24-26 St. Moritz World Snow Polo Cup.

During the winter season in Wellington, Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments, the most of any club in the U.S., including five in January. The highlight of the schedule is the second season of the 26-goal World Polo League, featuring at least 11 teams and most of the best players in the sport.

With 18 safe and well-manicured fields, including 11-tournament grade, 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.

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The club attracts a large international field of players from all corners of the world  including Australia, Chile, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, South Africa and England.

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 and new parking lot.

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.

Sharon Robb

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