-Santa Clara and Valiente will meet in the championship final of the much-anticipated Sterling Cup Sunday at 11 a.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Gonzalo Ferrari, 4, Poroto Cambiaso, 4, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) came from behind to defeat SD Farms (Sayyu Dantata Jr., 0, Robertito Zedda, 5, Jejo Taranco, 8, Jero del Carril, 7), 9-6, on Thursday and advance into the final.

“I’ve got three days to get into shape,” joked Jornayvaz, who last competed in a final in September in Argentina. “The game plan is I just do what Adolfo tells me to. After this many years, I’ve learned just to listen.”

On Wednesday, Santa Clara (Nico Escobar, 4, Robi Bilbao, 5, Nachi du Plessis, 8, Luis Escobar, 4) led from start-to-finish to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Juan Bollini, 5), 13-6, to advance.

“This was incredible,” said Jornayvaz. “It’s so much fun to be playing again with Adolfo and Poroto. It’s beyond description it’s so much fun. I’m so grateful to be back. I think gratitude is the biggest word I can find.”

After a scoreless opening chukker with both teams feeling each other out, the teams tied in the second chukker, 1-1, with goals from Zedda early in the chukker for SD Farms and 14-year-old Poroto Cambiaso lofting a goal through the posts with 3:19 left for Valiente.

With goals from Zedda and Taranco, SD Farms had a 3-1 halftime lead.

Valiente turned it around in the second half, outscoring SD Farms, 8-3, with Poroto Cambiaso scoring six of those goals.

Valiente score four unanswered goals before SD Farms scored again midway through the fifth chukker.

SD Farms rallied late in the fifth chukker with goals from Del Carril to trail by one, 6-5. Dantata scored a great goal with 4:27 left to tie the game at 6-6, but Valiente finished out the game with goals from Poroto Cambiaso, Ferrari and Adolfo Cambiaso.

Poroto Cambiaso led scoring with a game-high seven goals. Ferrari and Adolfo Cambiaso each had one goal. Zedda led SD Farms with three goals, Taranco had two goals and Dantata added one. 

Jornayvaz returned to the polo field for the first time since September. He last played in the Jockey Club final in Argentina.

“I definitely ran out of steam today but what fun,” Jornayvaz said. “I just can’t describe how much fun it is to be back and playing with all these guys. The horses went well. It’s such a joy. I have nothing but good things to say. The umpires were great, the field played well. It’s just a dream come true.”

Jornayvaz is also gearing up for the second season of 26-goal World Polo League action at Grand Champions and Valiente. The draw for the All-Star Challenge is Tuesday followed by the first tournament of the high goal polo season. 

“The polo just continues to improve in the World Polo League,” Jornayvaz said. “When you look at what we did last summer and globally, the excitement is building and everyone is going to have fun. The key is just to keep positive momentum.”

In early tournament games, Casablanca defeated Grand Champions, 12-7; Pilot edged SD Farms, 10-8; Santa Clara defeated Grand Champions, 19-11; and Valiente defeated Pilot, 16-9.

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).

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, 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 owner and president Melissa 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 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.

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Sharon Robb

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