Defending champion Valiente will meet SD Farms in the championship of the World Polo League’s All Star Challenge Sunday at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz 2, Diego Cavanagh 9, Poroto Cambiaso 4, Adolfo Cambiaso 10) and SD Farms (Sayyu Dantata 2, Santi Torres 7, Guillermo Terrera 8, Juan Martin Zubia 8) survived the 10-team, single-elimination tournament. 

Cambiaso and Torres were members of last year’s winning team.

Last year’s inaugural All Star Challenge winner was Valiente (Agustin Nero, Santi Torres, Pablo MacDonough, Poroto Cambiaso) after defeating Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, Juan Martin Zubia, Rodrigo Andrade, Jero del Carril), 10-9 in overtime. MacDonough was MVP.

SD Farms and Valiente advanced into the final after two hard-fought semifinal games on Thursday and Friday.

SD FARMS 12, SEMINOLE CASINO 8

In the opening semifinal on Thursday at Valiente Polo Farm, Seminole Casino (Melissa Ganzi 0, Nic Roldan 8, Lucas James 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada 8) started with a 2-0 lead on handicap but it didn’t take long for SD Farms to make up the deficit.

Dantata scored the first two goals to tie the game with 3:14 left. James scored his team’s first goal from the field to regain the lead, 3-2. The teams battled back and forth which resulted in a 5-5 second chukker. 

The next four chukkers was all SD Farms with Torres’ goal giving them a 6-5 lead. Zubia hit back-to-back goals for an 8-5 halftime lead.

Seminole Casino had its share of scoring opportunities but was unable to capitalize. SD Farms maintained at least a two-goal advantage throughout the second half.

The game was stopped with 6:56 left in the fifth chukker when Dantata was hit by a mallet on the right elbow. He was attended by trainers and returned to the game.

“A small price to pay,” Dantata said with a smile. “The mallet hit the muscle and not the bone. I’ll be fine for the final.”

Dantata said the semifinal provided a challenge for his team which has dominated the tournament including its opening 12-2 win over Sebucan.

“It was a tough game and they were a tough team,” Dantata said. “They gave us a run for our money, up and down the field. In the beginning we told each other to take it easy, stay calm and keep pushing. It pays to understand the game plan.”

Last year SD Farms (Sayyu Dantata, Santi Torres, Guillermo Terrera, Adolfo Cambiaso) won the Palm Beach Open, the first 26-goal tournament victory in team history. Cambiaso was MVP.

“I am quite excited to be in another final,” Dantata said. “We have a nice team. How could I ask for better players?”

Terrera played a key role in his team’s victory.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough game,” said Terrera. “We were two goals down from the beginning and we tried to go into the game focused 100 percent to score quickly and we did it.

“We played to the chemistry of the team, moving the ball around and it went pretty well. The final is going to be a tough one.”

Terrera and Zubia each had four goals, Dantata scored three goals and Torres added one. Roldan led Seminole Casino with four goals and James had two goals. Seminole Casino picked up two goals on handicap.

VALIENTE 9, CASABLANCA 6

In a wild second semifinal on Friday at Valiente Polo Farm, Valiente prevailed to defend its title on Sunday.

The marathon game featured an inadvertent flagrant foul that had one player sitting out for two minutes, Cavanagh getting knocked off his horse but uninjured and an injured horse late in the sixth chukker.

The game marked the World Polo League debut of 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa who replaced Juan Martin Nero, who re-injured his ankle he broke at the Argentine Open. Three-goaler Bautista Crotti also made his WPL debut replacing an injured Grant Ganzi.

With two new players in the Casablanca lineup (Bautista Crotti 3, Hilario Ulloa 10, Rodrigo Andrade 8, Juancito Bollini 4) it took time to jell as a team which was a difficult task against a strong Valiente team. 

The game was sticky and not as free-flowing as the majority of WPL games. Adolfo Cambiaso hit an incredible long ball from a standstill to score with 14 seconds left for a 6-3 halftime lead.

Crotti was impressive for his first 26-goal outing. He tapped in a missed Ulloa penalty conversion to cut Valiente’s lead to one, 6-5. But it was the closest Casablanca would get.

Cavanagh scored a game-high five goals. Adolfo and Poroto Cambiaso each had two goals. For Casablanca, Ulloa, Andrade and Crotti each had two goals.

In addition to Most Valuable Player and Play of the Game, the APHA Best Playing Pony of the tournament and game and World Polo League Best Playing Pony will be selected after Sunday’s final. 

The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is the hospitality sponsor for the World Polo League. Open 24/7, 365 days a year, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek presents a fully integrated, energized, stylish and upscale local’s casino experience, world-class dining, including its award-winning steakhouse, NYY Steak and live entertainment.

Tickets, ranging from $15 to $250, for the Sunday featured WPL games at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club are on sale now at www.worldpolo.org.

Ticket price breakdown for the new CoCo Cabana Stadium is:

VIP $250, Upper Level (rain or shine, no refunds), includes VIP parking access,  exclusive luxury-style bar and lounge seating, gourmet light dinner buffet, exclusive chef station, VIP Open bar (excluding champagne and bottle service) and VIP swag bags.

VIP $100, Lower Level (rain or shine, no refunds), includes VIP parking access,  exclusive luxury-style bar and lounge seating, gourmet light bites and Worth Avenue retailer experience.

Valet Parking $15, select quality valet parking and general admission.

Co-founded by Grand Champions owner and president Melissa Ganzi and Valiente Polo Farm owner Bob Jornayvaz, the successful World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The WPL is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the U.S. 

The WPL, with 11 tournament-quality fields to play on, features the Feb. 6-16 All-Star Challenge which ends on Sunday, Feb. 19-March 1 Founders Cup, March 4-22 Palm Beach Open and March 28-April 18 Triple Crown of Polo. 

The WPL schedule also features the unique April 6-12 U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship, created by Jornayvaz. It pairs men and women players. There is also the April 9-12 WPL Beach Polo World Cup in Miami Beach.

The World Polo League 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 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 three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.

For more information and to watch the games go to www.worldpolo.org for a complete library of WPL first-season games.

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Sharon Robb

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