Beverly Equestrian Wins $100,000 World Cup Opener Against Flexjet; Next Up Casablanca

Underdog Beverly Equestrian won its $100,000 World Cup opener Wednesday with an impressive win over Flexjet.

Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Hilario Figueras, 3, Poroto Cambiaso, 4, Tolito Ocampo, 5) led from the opening throw-in to defeat Flexjet (Santos Bollini, 1, Juanse Olivera, 2, Tincho Merlos, 8, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8), 14-7, at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.

According to Grand Champions Director of Polo Juan Olivera, Beverly Equestrian will meet Casablanca in a quarterfinal matchup. That winner will meet Gracida Wine in the semifinal round. Audi and Dundas have already clinched spots in the other semifinal. The times and sites for all World Cup games are still to be determined. 

Beverly Equestrian, a 12-goal rated team, started off with a 7-0 advantage based on handicap against 19-goal rated Flexjet. Cambiaso scored his team’s first goal for an 8-0 lead after the opening chukker.

Flexjet shut out Beverly Equestrian, 2-0, in the second chukker and 2-1 in the third chukker to trail 9-4 at halftime. However, it was all Beverly Equestrian in the second half, outscoring Flexjet, 5-3.

“We came into it just assuming the score was 0-0, mentally not thinking about the seven goals and just trying to play hard,” Ballhaus said. “We had a good game plan coming in so we wanted to just stick to that game plan and really not think about the goal differential and just focus on playing.”

Beverly Equestrian, making its $100,000 World Cup debut, controlled the tempo for most of the game.

“We’re pretty excited about winning that game,” Ballhaus said. “That was a really tough team and it’s fun to win with these guys. We played the whole month together in January and we will be together in February and March.

“We like playing together and we are getting some experience playing together. It’s a lot of fun for us to work as a team, improve every game and try to get better.”

Ballhaus loves the format of the $100,000 World Cup and playing higher ranked teams. “I like it a lot and I think it’s an opportunity to test ourselves and push ourselves by playing teams that are much higher goal and higher level teams. For us, it’s a great challenge, it gives us a chance to really push ourselves.”

Cambiaso played a key role in his team’s victory with his skillful mallet work and lightning-quick maneuvering between defenders.

“Playing with Poroto is great,” Ballhaus said. “He doesn’t play like a 14-year-old, he doesn’t act like one, he doesn’t think like one. But I can say that for all three of them. Playing with Poroto, Tolito and Hilario is just a blast for me. They are very talented, all hard-working and great teammates.”  

Figueras scored a team-high four goals and Cambiaso added three goals.

“We basically forgot about the score and just played polo,” Figueras said. “We knew that we were seven goals up. We knew we had to play a little bit more defense and concentrate on our man.

“We’re really happy about winning,” Figueras said. “I love it, this tournament is fun. Casablanca is a very good team. Obviously, they are going to be tougher. We’ll just have to play better.”

Merlos led Flexjet with four goals. Bollini, Olivera and Astrada each had one goal.

In early opening day action on Tuesday,  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.

The single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament, returning after a year’s hiatus, is the richest prize purse offered in club history. 

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.


Sharon Robb

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