-The $100,000 World Cup opened Tuesday with six teams combining for 80 goals on opening day at Jan Pamela Fields and Santa Rita Polo Farm.
In the opening games, Audi (Timmy Dutta 3, Nic Roldan 8, Pablo MacDonough 10) defeated Santa Clara (Ale Poma 1, Santino Magrini 4, Nico Escobar 4, Michel Dorignac), 18-15; Dundas Polo (Sarah Siegel-Magness 0, Guillermo Terrera 8, Jejo Taranco 8, Diego Cavanagh 9) topped Palm Beach Equine (Gonzalo Ferrari 4, Hillario Ulloa 10, Gringo Colombres 8, Scott Swerdlin 0), 14-9; and Gracida Wine (Carlitos Gracida 4, Peco Polledo 6, Juan Monteverde 5, Sterling Giannico 4) downed Daily Racing Form (Costi Caset 5, Agustin Obregon 6, Jared Zenni 6, Tommy Collingwood 5), 15-9.
In the last quarterfinal game on Wednesday, Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus 0, Hilario Figueras 3, Poroto Cambiaso 4, Tolito Fernandez Ocampo 5) will play Flexjet (Santos Bollini 1, Juanse Olivera 2, Tincho Merlos, 8, Nacho Novillo Astrada) at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club Field 3. Beverly Equestrian, a 12-goal team, will start off with a 7-0 lead over 19-goal Flexjet. The winner will play Casablanca (Grant Ganzi 3, Juancito Bollini 4, Rodrigo Andrade 8, Lucas James 8) in the semifinal round.
Audi 18, Santa Clara 15
Audi dug itself out of a hole in the first half. Down by eight goals, the 23-goal team relied on the one-two punch of MacDonough and Roldan to reel in 15-goal rated Santa Clara.
Audi scored four unanswered goals in the second chukker before Dorignac scored Santa Clara’s first goal from the field with 2:57 left in the chukker.
MacDonough tied the game at 10-10 in the third chukker and again in the fourth chukker, 11-11, before MacDonough scored again, giving Audi a 12-11 lead with 4:58 left in the fourth chukker. Audi then scored four consecutive goals to take a commanding 16-11 lead and control the remainder of the game.
“You go into a game eight goals down and it’s always tough to look at the scoreboard like that,” Roldan said. “But we knew it was six chukkers and we had to be patient. We knew if we played our game, at some point we would come back.
“We played well, everyone had a hell of a game,” Roldan said. “All four of us played well together. It’s fun to play with Pablo.”
Roldan and his teammates like the World Cup format.
“It’s one of the most important tournaments in the United States,” Roldan said. “Historically, it’s been around for a long time. It was very smart to put it at the start of the season because it adds more prestige to the tournament and more importance. It’s the World Cup and great way to get prepared for the World Polo League.”
MacDonough scored a game-high eight goals to lead Audi. Roldan and Dutta each had three goals. Dorignac and Magrini each had three goals. Pomo added one.
Dundas Polo 14, Palm Beach Equine 9
Dundas patron Sarah Siegel-Magness made an impressive successful high goal debut in Wellington.
Siegel-Magness played with her teammates for a month during the summer in Denver and the chemistry was evident from the opening throw-in.
Palm Beach Equine started off with a 3-0 lead based on team handicap but it didn’t take long for Terrera and Taranco to take control.
Trailing 4-3 after the opening chukker, Dundas went on to outscore pre-tournament favorite Palm Beach Equine, 3-2 and 3-1 for a 9-7 halftime lead and outscored them 5-2 in the second half.
Siegel-Magness was coming off a torn groin injury she sustained a month ago. It was her first competitive game in two months. She played snow polo in Aspen in December but had to stop to allow the injury to fully heal.
“This is the first time I’ve played 26-goal,” Siegel-Magness said. “It’s a lot faster. Everybody is a good player.
“The best thing about high goal polo is if you watch and pay attention you learn where to be and that’s key being in the right place,” Siegel-Magness said. “I really like it.”
Siegel-Magness thanked Valiente’s Robertito Zedda and Adolfo Cambiaso for putting her star-studded team together.
“They are so good and they are lovely to play with,” Siegel-Magness said. “They are just kind. They talk to you. They don’t dumb it down. As soon as you are open for a pass they’ll send it which is how I want to learn and play.”
Terrera scored a game-high seven goals to lead Dundas Polo. Cavanagh had six goals including three penalty conversions and Taranco added one. Colombres led Palm Beach Equine with four goals. Ferrari, coming off Monday’s Sterling Cup title win with Valiente, added two goals.
Her team sponsor Dundas is her clothing company with business partner and designer Peter Dundas.
Gracida Wine 15, Daily Racing Form 9
Gracida Wine led from start-to-finish in its physical game. Gracida Wine started with a 3-0 lead on handicap, added three more goals in the first and pulled away 9-1 in the second chukker.
Daily Racing Form found its offense in the third chukker outscoring Gracida Wine, 4-0 in the third chukker to trail 9-6 at the half. The teams battled to a 2-2 tie in the fourth chukker with Gracida Wine leading 11-8. Daily Racing Form could get no closer than three goals. Gracida Wine shut out Daily Racing Form for the second time, 3-0, in the fifth chukker and added another goal in the final chukker.
Gracida Wine got balanced scoring from its lineup. Polledo led with four goals, Gracida and Monteverde each had three goals and Giannico added two goals.
Obregon led Daily Racing Form with four goals. Zenni and Collingwood each had two goals and Caset added one.
The single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament with the club’s richest prize purse returned after a year’s hiatus with big time players and big time scoring.
The tournament features ten teams from 12 to 23 goal rating.
The 2017 inaugural champion was Palm Beach Illustrated, a 21-goal underdog with players Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon and Tommy Collingwood, all young, talented rising stars.
Palm Beach Illustrated repeated as champions in 2018. Only Collingwood returned from the original team. He was joined by teammates Carlitos Gracida, Juan Monteverde and Peco Polledo.
The tournament was resurrected by Grand Champions owner and president Melissa Ganzi. It was last played at Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in the 1990s.
What makes the tournament so unique is the fact it’s open to teams 0-40 goal on handicap, similar to the Copa Republica in Argentina where teams of any handicap from 0-to-40 can compete.
In 2017, the lowest rated team was Equuleus at four goals and highest ranked teams were Orchard Hill, Audi, Valiente and Flexjet at 26 goals. The 2017 tournament also featured 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso playing with his son Poroto in a U.S. tournament for the first time.
In Argentina, there are more teams in the 20-goal range that end up winning the tournament.
In 2017, Palm Beach Illustrated won the eight-day tournament with an impressive 13-7 victory over Valiente I. Valiente had entered two teams.
Each player receives $25,000 in prize money.
The prestigious World Cup is a tournament steeped in tradition. American businessman and polo player Bill Ylvisaker, then CEO of a Fortune 200 battery company in Chicago, created the Gould World Polo Championship with a prize purse of $150,000.
It was first held in 1976 at the Butler Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ylvisaker’s staff sent out invitations to countries all over the world known to have top-ranked pro polo teams.
Three teams from the United States were recruited and joined Mexico, India, England and Argentina in the field. The inaugural event was won by Argentina, attracted great crowds and was deemed a success.
In 1977, Ylvisaker bought 2,000 acres to develop a polo resort. The Palm Beach Polo and Country Club was built with 14 polo fields and soon became the polo capital of the world.
The first season at the new club featured the $150,000 Michelob World Cup Polo Championship. Held April 3-15, it was the highlight of the season attracting top players and sponsors from around the world. It was the world’s richest and most premier polo event and one of the most significant polo championships.
In 1988, Landmark purchased the club for $25 million and continued the club’s growth until it was sold at auction in 1993 to Straub.
During the winter season in Wellington, Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments, the most of any club in the U.S., including four 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.