WELLINGTON, Fla., October 30, 2021-–In what promises to be a real treat on Halloween, La Indiana will meet Zahedi Chogan in the Fall Plates championship final Sunday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
La Indiana will be looking for its second straight tournament victory after winning the Fall Classic last weekend while Zahedi Chogan, making its club debut this fall, will be looking for its first title.
In two exciting semifinal games on Friday, La Indiana (Matthew Gonzalez, Michael Bickford/Dulio Diaz, Jeff Hall, Luis Escobar) defeated HL Polo (Harry Landy, Kris Kampsen, Santi Toccalino, Juancito Bollini), 13-11, and Zahedi Chogan (Sy Zahedi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle) held on for a 9-8 victory over Newport (Gene Goldstein, Sugar Erskine, Leo Mandelbaum, Juan Bollini) in the single-elimination tournament.
First up on Sunday at 10 a.m. is the subsidiary round robin between Newport, HL Polo and NetJets (Melissa Ganzi, Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan). The championship final follows at noon.
In the opening game, La Indiana, a 15-goal team, was spotted a three-goal lead over HL Polo, an 18-goal team. Santi Toccalino, an 8-goal player, replaced Pablo Spinacci in the HL Polo lineup prompting the three-goal spread.
Dulio Diaz replaced Michael Bickford in the La Indiana lineup with 3:55 left in the opening chukker. Bickford tumbled off his horse and left the game as a precaution.
In the fast-paced opener, La Indiana pulled ahead 4-1 and 5-2 in the opening chukker. HL Polo tied the game midway through the second chukker after winning three consecutive bowl-ins. HL Polo maintained a one-goal lead until Diaz scored his second goal with 1:47 left to tie the game 7-7 at the half.
In the second half, the lead changed hands three times before La Indiana took a 9-8 lead on Hall’s goal with 10 seconds left in the fourth chukker. La Indiana never relinguished the lead after that. Escobar made it 10-8 early in the fifth chukker with the help of Hall taking out two defenders. HL Polo came within one goal three times. Hall put the game out of reach with a great 35-yard neck shot after a nice run. A minute later Hall saved a HL Polo goal attempt and Gonzalez stole the ball in the closing minute.
Escobar led La Indiana with four goals and Hall had three. Gonzalez and Dulio each had one goal. Toccalino scored a game-high eight goals for HL Polo. He converted five goals including three 60-yarders. Bollini added two goals and Kampsen added one.
In the second game, Newport started out with a two-goal lead on handicap and led the entire first half with a 5-4 halftime advantage.
Zahedi Chogan outscored Newport, 5-3 in the second half including a 3-1 fourth chukker. Biddle connected with Zahedi scoring with 2:12 left in the fourth chukker for a 7-6 lead. Zahedi Chogan never trailed after that. Mandelbaum closed the gap with goal scoring with 1:13 left in the game. Biddle saved Goldstein’s goal attempt with 43 seconds left but a safety call set Newport up for a tying goal. Bollini’s penalty shot sailed wide left and Biddle brought the ball in and ran out the clock.
“I’m excited to play good polo,” said the big-hitting Biddle. “Playing 8-goal polo all summer long and now to get to play 14 to 20 goal polo especially with a bunch of high quality players is great.”
Zahedi led scoring with four goals and Biddle had three. Crowder and Phillips each had one goal. Erskine led Newport with three goals. Mandelbaum had two goals on penalty conversions and Goldstein added one.
In last year’s Fall Plates, Newport (Gene Goldstein, Sugar Erskine, Michel Dorignac, Juan Bollini) defeated La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Jeff Hall, Mariano Gonzalez, Nick Manifold) in overtime, 11-10. Casablanca (Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Santi Bermudez) downed Sebucan (Gussie Busch, Pablo Pulido, Horacio Heguy, Pablo Spinacci), 10-8, to advance to the championship. The final was not played or rescheduled because of heavy rain and conflicting tournament schedules.
Fall Plates is the third of five medium goal tournaments. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek won the season-opening Fall Classic and La Indiana won the Tackeria Invitational last weekend. Four high goal tournaments are also scheduled for the fall including the Nov. 3-11 USPA Continental Cup, Nov. 9-14 USPA North American Cup and Nov. 16-21 USPA National 20 Goal.
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.
During the fall season, roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams to help improve players skills and performance. The games also give players an opportunity to work young horses.
The fall season also gives American players who don’t have a chance to go to Argentina an opportunity to improve their polo and keep them playing year-round.
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 will be 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.