A good crowd packed fieldside at Valiente Polo Farm Monday to watch polo great Adolfo Cambiaso’s winter season debut for Valiente against Pilot in the prestigious Sterling Cup.

“It’s nice to be back in Palm Beach and playing here again, I love to be here,” Cambiaso said after Valiente’s (Gonzalo Ferrari, 4, Salvador Lockey, 2, Poroto Cambiaso, 4, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) convincing 16-9 victory over Pilot (Curtis Pilot, 0, Lucas Escobar, 2, Gonzalo Pieres, 10, Facundo Pieres, 10.

The game marked the only time Cambiaso will play fellow 10-goalers and brothers Gonzalo and Facundo Pieres during the 2020 winter season.

Cambiaso is preparing for the highly-anticipated second season of the 26-goal World Polo League that begins in February at Grand Champions Polo Club and Valiente. 

By the looks of it, Cambiaso is ready.

“For sure I am excited about the World Polo League,” Cambiaso said. “It’s getting bigger with top players. This year we are going to have the Castagnolas (Camilo and Barto) in the World Polo League. It is exciting. We are going to have a lot of great teams, nine, 10, 11 teams is amazing.”

Valiente dominated the fast-paced game. Valiente led 4-0 after the opening chukker and 6-0 before Facundo Pieres scored Pilot’s first goal at 3:22. Valiente extended its lead to 8-2 after the second chukker and 11-3 at halftime.

Pilot tried to rally in the fourth chukker making it exciting by outscoring Valiente, 4-1, to trail 12-7. But it was the closest Pilot would get. Valiente pulled away 16-9 at the end of the fifth chukker. The teams played a scoreless sixth chukker.

There were a few anxious moments when Cambiaso was hit in the knee by a teammate with 6:04 left in the sixth chukker. Cambiaso was off his horse and was examined by paramedics but soon returned to the game. His knee was worked on by a trainer after the game in the players’ tent. Cambiaso said it was fine.

“We played well,” Cambiaso said. “I didn’t expect that kind of score but I expected we were going to be okay because we were pretty much a four-man team. For Pilot, it was a good practice for their season. It was fun for them and fun for us.”

Cambiaso had fun playing with teammates nearly half his age including his 14-year-old son Poroto, 20-year-old Lockey and 18-year-old Ferrari. “I balanced them with my age,” Cambiaso joked. 

“It’s always fun to play with my son obviously. It was very nice to play with Gonzalo Ferrari who works for me and Lockey.”

Valiente got balanced scoring from its lineup. Lockey scored a game-high five goals. Poroto Cambiaso had four, Ferrari had three and Adolfo Cambiaso had two. Valiente also picked up two goals on handicap.

For Pilot, the Pieres brothers each had four goals and Escobar had one. Escobar, 17, was coming off his first tournament win of the season on Sunday in the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series for Newport at Grand Champions.

On Wednesday, two Sterling Cup games are scheduled. Casablanca (1-0) will play Santa Clara (1-0) at 10 a.m. and Valiente (1-0) will host SD Farms (0-1) at noon.

In early tournament games, Casablanca defeated Grand Champions, 12-7; Pilot edged SD Farms, 10-8; and Santa Clara, 19-11.

Last year in one the biggest upsets in Sterling Cup history, Colorado won the title, its first major 20-goal tournament. Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Nick Johnson, 3) rallied for a thrilling 9-8 upset of defending champion Valiente (Kian Hall, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) in front of a good local crowd.

It was Colorado’s biggest tournament win in its two-year history as a team and first time all four players won the Sterling Cup including Johnson, who was making his 20-goal tournament debut.

Argentine 9-goaler Diego Cavanagh was named Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high four goals including the game-winner with two minutes left on an amazing 60-yard safety conversion in  windy conditions.

In the 2018 tournament Adolfo, Mia and Poroto Cambiaso made history by winning their first ever high goal tournament together. Along with teammate Magoo Laprida, Valiente knocked off pre-tournament favorite Audi (Marc Ganzi, Henry Porter, Nic Roldan, Nico Pieres), 10-4, in the final. Mia Cambiaso was MVP.

The Sterling Cup is one of several prestigious tournaments the nation’s largest and most innovative polo club resurrected four years ago after a 22-year absence. It was brought back 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 eighteen teams.

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 WPL, the only 26-goal polo held outside of Argentina featuring the best players in the world.

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, Nigeria 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, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital Wellington. It features 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.

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Sharon Robb

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