WELLINGTON, Fl., March 1, 2020—Woodrow rallied in the second half to capture the Top Pony 8-Goal League title Saturday at wind-chilled Jan Pamela.

Trailing 2-1, 4-2 and 5-3 in the first three chukkers, Woodrow (Hope Arellano 1, Agustin Arellano 3, Sterling Giannico 4, Chris Finley 0) turned it around in the second half to defeat Altaris (Antonio Arellano -1, Jamal Nusseibeh 0, Santos Merlos 2, Kris Kampsen 6), 9-8.

Sterling Giannico, 26, was named Most Valuable Player to finish out an outstanding month that included winning the $100,000 World Cup with Gracida Wine.

Trick or Treat, played by Agustin Arellano, was Best Playing Pony.

The team finished the league undefeated at 4-0. Altaris finished 2-2. During regular season league play, Woodrow defeated WPL, 10-6; Skaneateles, 9-5; and Altaris, 9-8.

“I think in the first half we were just a little anxious and nervous,” Giannico said. “We relaxed a little more and focused on the ball. We were already celebrating the goal before we even made it. We definitely changed that up in the second half and also did a little bit of changing with the man which made a huge difference.

“We just took our time, we knew what we had to do. I don’t know what happened in the first half, it just wasn’t us.”

After a slow start in the first half, the Middleburg, Va.-based Woodrow team shut out Altaris in the fourth and fifth chukkers and led 9-5 early in the sixth chukker. Altaris scored the last three goals of the game but ran out of time to tie it up.

“It was so much fun, I am so happy I got to play with Woodrow, it was a blast,” said Hope Arellano, one of the sport’s top women players rated at 7 goals in the women’s rankings and one goal in the men’s. 

“It was exciting to finish undefeated. We have a super fun team and the other team was playing really, really well. I think in the first half we were rushing a little bit. We were taking our men but we were rushing a little bit when we went to goal. At halftime we regrouped a little bit and reminded ourselves to take a breath before we go.

“The second half we started playing better and got a little more confidence,” Arellano said. 

Giannico, who hopes to find a team to play with in March, is playing some of the best polo of his career. It was Giannico’s debut playing with Woodrow. 

“It was a pleasure playing with them,” Giannico said. “It was a fantastic season and I really enjoyed playing with Chris, Hope and Agustin. They are warriors on the field and that just makes my job easier.”

Even more satisfying was receiving the MVP award from polo great Mariano Aguerre, who helped to mentor him in the U.S. in 2014.

“It was really nice playing against his son and watching him grow up into a polo player,” Giannico said. “He has a great future.”

Giannico and siblings Hope, 16, and Agustin Arellano, 22, each had three goals for Woodrow. 

Kampsen led Altaris with three goals. Merlos had two goals and Aguerre added one goal. The team also picked up one goal on handicap.

During the winter season in Wellington, Grand Champions is hosting 19 tournaments, the most of any club in the U.S. The highlight of the schedule is the second season of the 26-goal World Polo League currently underway, featuring 10 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. 

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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Candace Ferreira

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