By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira for ChukkerTV
WELLINGTON, Fla., October 16, 2021—In the much-anticipated fall season-opener at Grand Champions Polo Club, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and NetJets earned hard fought victories on Friday to advance into Sunday‘s Fall Classic final.
In the morning game, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Juan Bollini) defeated La Indiana (Matt Gonzalez, Peke Neutzet, Jeff Hall, Luis Escobar), 10-8.
In the afternoon round robin, World Polo League (Teo Calle, Juancito Bollini, Kris Kampsen, Tommy Biddle) defeated Newport (Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Nick Manifold), 7-6; Newport edged NetJets (Santos Bollini, Sugar Erskine, Pablo Spinacci, Leo Mandelbaum), 5-4; and NetJets (Marc Ganzi, Sugar Erskine, Pablo Spinacci, Leo Mandelbaum) stunned World Polo League, 6-3, in the clincher.
On Sunday at Santa Rita Polo Farm, the final will be held at 10 a.m., followed by the subsidiary final round robin at 11:45 a.m. Both games will be live streamed worldwide by ChukkerTV.
In the exciting opening morning match, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held off La Indiana to advance. The lead changed hands six times before Seminole Casino Coconut Creek took control in the fourth chukker with a 3-0 scoring barrage to erase La Indiana‘s 4-3 lead for a 6-4 advantage at the end of the chukker.
While La Indiana came within one goal four times in the last two chukkers, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek never trailed. Jeff Hall looked to score the tying goal with 11 seconds left in the game, but was called for a turning foul by umpire Gaston Dorignac. Crowder and Phillips combined for seven goals with Crowder scoring a team-high four goals. Hall scored a game-high five goals. „It‘s great to be back,“ Crowder said.
Later in the afternoon in a competitive three-team round robin, World Polo League, led by big-hitting Tommy Biddle, looked to be the team to beat. World Polo League pulled away for a 4-1 lead early in the second chukker. Biddle connected on a 150-yard goal in the opening chukker and 80-yard goal early in the second chukker.“I‘m really excited about being back at Grand Champions,“ Biddle said. „It‘s been a couple years since I‘ve played here and I‘m really looking forward to it with all these good players.“
Newport found its game in the third chukker, outscoring World Polo League, 4-2 including a 120-yarder by Roldan, but ran out of time with Roldan scoring the final goal with 29 seconds left. Roldan led scoring with five goals.
In the second game, Newport, fully warmed up, shut out NetJets, 1-0, in the second chukker and pulled away for a 4-2 lead. Goals by Erskine and Mandelbaum tied the game at 4-all. Roldan scored the game-winner with 33 seconds left. Goldstein and Roldan each had two goals. Erskine had a game-high three goals.
In the third and deciding game, World Polo League, after sitting out three chukkers, lost its momentum in a defensive battle. After a 1-1 opening chukker, Ganzi‘s penalty conversion gave NetJets a 2-1 lead. Spinacci and Biddle took turns scoring goals before Mandelbaum blocked a hardhit Biddle goal attempt and raced downfield to score with 20 seconds left for a 4-2 lead. NetJets continued its dominance in the final chukker pulling away for a 6-2 lead after Mandelbaum stole the ball and scored his fourth goal of the game.
The Fall Classic is the first of four medium tournaments. Four high goal tournaments are also scheduled for the fall. The highlight of the fall season is the Nov. 27 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and 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 is important to us because it is a continuation of the sport and shows the world you can play polo twelve months a year,“ said Polo School Director Juan Bollini. „It‘s good, competitive polo and the best time of the year with great weather and great fields in October and November after five months of rest.“
„The fall season 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,“ Bollini said. „It‘s a chance for players to see how good their green horses are and which ones make the cut.“
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation‘s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPS 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.
The entire fall season will be live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology including 4K TV now 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.
2021 Fall Classic Schedule
10am Fall Classic Final
NetJets vs Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
11:45am Fall Classic Subsidiary Final (Round Robin)
Newport vs WPL vs La Indiana
Games live streamed in Eastern Standard Time on https://www.chukkertv.com