WELLINGTON, Fl., January 17, 2020–Trailing 6-2 at the half, Santa Clara rallied to win the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series opener Thursday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.

Santa Clara (Jack Whitman, 0, Santino Magrini, 4, Nico Escobar, 4, Luis Escobar, 4) defeated Sebucan (Santos Bollini, 1, Pablo Pulido, 2, Juan Monteverde, 5, Julio Escurra, 3), 9-8. Both teams were playing together for the first time.

It was like watching two different games with Sebucan dominating the first half and Santa Clara controlling the second half.

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After a 1-1 opening chukker, Sebucan shut out Santa Clara, 3-0, with two goals from Monteverde and another goal from Bollini in the second chukker for a 4-1 lead and added two more goals to lead 6-2 at halftime.

The second half was all Santa Clara even though Sebucan had its share of scoring opportunities.

Luis Escobar and his three teenage teammates including oldest son Nico, shut out Sebucan, 2-0, in the fourth chukker and 3-0 in the fifth to take a 7-6 lead going into the final chukker. Nico Escobar scored the tying goal (6-6) with 5:30 left in the fifth and Magrini’s goal at the 2:43 mark gave Santa Clara its first lead (7-6) of the game.

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Monteverde’s penalty-four conversion early in the sixth chukker tied the game at 7-7, but it was the closest Sebucan would come. Nico Escobar tapped in a goal off Margrini’s long pass and Luis Escobar scored with 1:15 left for a 9-7 lead. Monteverde scored in the closing seconds to close the gap to one goal.

“They were a good team, you could tell they have played together and know each other well,” Luis Escobar said. “They played very well in the first half. 

“This was the first time we played together with Santino and Jack,” Escobar said. “In the second half we were able to get organized and get better. The boys played well. Hopefully, we will start getting a little bit better and a little more organized.”

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Despite the win, Escobar said there is no clearcut favorite in the four-team tournament.

“Any team can win, there are four very competitive teams, it’s pretty fun,” Escobar said. 
  
Nineteen-year-old Nico Escobar scored a game-high five goals for Santa Clara. Luis Escobar and Magrini each had two goals.

Monteverde led Sebucan with four goals. Bollini had two goals and Pulido added one. Sebucan picked up one goal on handicap.

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On Friday at 3:30 p.m., Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Poroto Cambiaso, 4, Hilario Figueras, 3, Tolito Ocampo, 5) plays defending champion Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Lucas Escobar, 2, Nick Manifold, 3, Michel Dorignac, 6) at Grand Champions’ Field 4.

Newport captured last year’s January Limited Edition 12-Goal Tournament that featured eight teams.

Trailing by as many as four goals in the first half, Newport (Gene Goldstein 1, Tomas Schwencke, 2, Michel Dorignac, 6, Nick Manifold, 3) rallied in the second half for a thrilling 9-8 victory over Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Bautista Panelo, 3, Nick Johnson, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4) in the championship final. It was their first tournament win in two years. Newport finished with a 3-1 record. Dorignac was named Most Valuable Player after scoring five goals all on penalty conversions including a 60-yarder in the sixth chukker. 

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Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments during the winter season, the most of any club in the U.S., including five in January.

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.

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, Nigeria, South Africa and England. 

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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.

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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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