WELLINGTON, Fla., November 15, 2021—Playing the best polo of the fall season, Casablanca captured the USPA North American Cup Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
In front of a good crowd, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jeff Hall, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5) took a 7-3 halftime lead and went on to cruise to a 12-7 victory over Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Jason Crowder, 6, Santi Toccalino, 8, Brandon Phillips, 4/Pablo Spinacci, 6).
The defending champion with four American players dominated the two-day, four-team tournament.
Biddle, the team’s big-hitting field general, was named Most Valuable Player. It was the first time since 1992 that the 2022 Hall of Fame inductee had won the North American Cup. It was also his second MVP honor during the fall season.
“It means a lot to win it in the fact that the last time I won it was twenty nine years ago,” Biddle said. “It’s been a long time.”
Biddle said his teammates also deserved MVP honors. Kampsen played his first tournament in Palm Beach at 14 with Biddle. Hall was 18 when he played high goal with Biddle.
“What a fun team,” Biddle said. “We just talked about it before hand and said let’s just try and play good polo. The team sets up so well where the positions we play. It’s just a lot of fun. We all have the same ideas on how to play good polo.”
Charlatton, a 10-year-old gelding owned and played by Jeff Hall, was Best Playing Pony.
For Grant Ganzi, Brand Ambassador for Casablanca, it was his fifth USPA North American Cup in the last eight years at age 23.
“It was an important tournament to win in the fall,” Ganzi said. “It was pretty cool to see four Americans win it. It’s always nice to play with fellow American players. It’s a good feeling to have. I’m really happy with the win. We played as well as we could have. We all played well.
“The chemistry was working in the first game the other day and we just tried to build off that,” Ganzi said. “We had a strategy and it worked.”
Kampsen scored a game-high six goals. Ganzi had three goals, Biddle had two and Hall added one. For Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Toccalino led with four goals and Crowder had three.
Before the game even started, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek suffered a setback when starter Juan Bollini pulled a riding muscle and was unable to play. He was replaced by Brandon Phillips, who injured his back with 3:46 left in the fourth chukker. Spinacci filled in for Phillips and then went on to play for Newport in the subsidiary game.
Playing simple, classic polo with loads of chemistry between teammates, Casablanca, after a 2-2 opening chukker, came up with 3-1 and 2-0 chukkers to lead 7-3 at the half. In the second half, Casablanca led 9-3 in the fifth chukker and 11-5 early in the sixth.
“We played well, we played good polo,” Biddle said. “We missed a few goals in the first couple chukkers that could have been even been better for us.
“In the second half we tried not to get soft,” Biddle said. “We kept marking hard on them and kept doing what we were doing. I think the best thing we did was play really good polo. We hit the ball away. There were a couple of times where I picked up the garbage in the back and instead of screwing around with the ball I just pounded it back up to the boys and it was great.”
In Friday’s semifinals, Casablanca advanced with a 14-11 victory over Newport (Sugar Erskine, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Agustin Obregon, 6, Gene Goldstein, 1). Seminole Casino Coconut Creek rallied in the final four minutes to defeat Audi (Juancito Bollini, 4, Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Luis Escobar, 5), 12-11.
Casablanca will keep the same lineup for the USPA National 20-Goal tournament that begins this week at Grand Champions.
In Sunday’s subsidiary, Audi (Juancito Bollini, 4, Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Luis Escobar, 5) defeated Newport (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, 0, Sugar Erskine, 6, Agustin Obregon, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6), 10-7.
Roldan was selected Most Valuable Player. Blind Spot, a 9-year-old Chestnut mare owned by Ash Erskine and played by Sugar Erskine, was Best Playing Pony.
Bollini led scoring with a game-high four goals. Ganzi had three, Roldan had two and Escobar added one. For Newport, Erskine and Spinacci each had two goals and Obregon and Al-Siddiq had one apiece.
After a close first half (4-4), Audi outscored Newport, 6-3 in the second half. Audi shut out Newport in the second and sixth chukkers.
The North American Cup was the club’s first of two 20-goal tournaments of the fall season with a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The second high goal tournament is the Nov. 16-21 USPA National 20 Goal.
The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16- to 20-goal level. The inaugural winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament with Millarville dominating the competition. The tournament has been held at Grand Champions since 2011 and in 2019 made its debut at Aspen Valley Polo Club before returning to Grand Champions last year.
The highlight of the fall season is the Nov. 27 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and 10th annual International Cup. Sponsorship packages are available.
Santa Rita Polo Farm has hosted four of five medium goal tournaments. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek won the season-opening Fall Classic; La Indiana won the Tackeria Invitational; Zahedi Chogan won the Fall Plates; and Audi won the John T. Oxley Memorial Tournament. The final medium goal tournament is the Nov. 20-24 Banyan Cup.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation’s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal including the 26-goal World Polo League in addition to special events.
During the winter season, Grand Champions and Santa Rita will host 23 tournaments from Jan. 15 to April 15.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, 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. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
The entire fall season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology including 4K TV currently making its’ debut. ChukkerTV also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.