Aspen Valley Polo Club and Polo Training Foundation made their final appearance at the 118th U.S. Open this past weekend at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
By Sharon Robb
Both talented teams lost by one goal in the quarterfinals.
La Elina (Juan Martin Obregon, 5, Geronimo Obregon, 5, Facundo Obregon, 5, Jared Zenni, 6) eliminated Aspen Valley Polo Club (Vinny Sangaline, 0, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Tommy Collingwood, 5), 11-10, in the featured game Sunday at U.S. Polo Assn Field One.
Sentimental favorite Polo Training Foundation (Carlitos Gracida, 4, Matias Gonzalez, 4, Nic Roldan, 8, Jesse Bray, 6) dropped a 10-9 overtime decision to Tamera (Ale Poma, 1, Segundo Saravi, 4, Magoo Laprida, 8, Diego Cavanagh, 9) Saturday at Isla Carroll East.
Aspen Valley Polo Club and PTF were the last two remaining teams of seven Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams entered in the 2022 U.S. Open. For the first time in U.S. Open history, a record 20 teams competed. Grand Champions Polo Club’s seven team entries that featured four 10-goalers and several young, talented players, enabled the record-breaking accomplishment.
The semifinals are set For Wednesday. At 11 a.m., La Elina plays Tamera and at 3 p.m., Park Place, 9-8 winners over defending champion Scone, plays Pilot, 12-8 winners over SD Farms.
On Thursday in the subsidiary Hall of Fame Cup, Santa Rita will play Grand Champions at 5 p.m.
Aspen Valley Polo Club dug itself out of a hole in the second half after trailing 4-1, 6-2 and 7-3 in the first three chukkers, the result of La Elina’s aggressive play and suffocating defense.
Aspen Valley Polo Club capitalized on La Elina’s thirteen fouls, outscoring La Elina, 3-0, in the fourth chukker, to trail 7-6, and 2-1 in the fifth to tie 8-8.
Aspen Valley Polo Club had its share of missed scoring opportunities in the physical and hotly-contested sixth chukker but stayed in the game with MacDonough breaking a 9-9 tie with a 100-yard goal with five minutes left to play. A minute later, Juan Martin Obregon converted a 30-yard penalty to tie the game 10-10.
With 2:52 left, MacDonough and Geronimo Obregon came together in pursuit of the ball. In one the most controversial calls of the season that fans are still debating, MacDonough was assessed three yellow cards for inadvertently hitting Obregon in the face with his riding whip, sending MacDonough into the penalty box for four minutes. Juan Martin Obregon converted the 30-yard penalty to regain the lead, 11-10.
With 1:13 left, La Elina lost possession hitting over the sideboards. Aspen Valley Polo Club was then called for improper blocking. Seconds later, La Elina fouled and Collingwood had a booming hit from a penalty five which Juan Martin Obregon knocked down. Zenni took over and started running down the clock until La Elina was called for a right of way violation. With five seconds left, Collingwood had another great attempt which Juan Martin Obregon blocked again to end the game.
MacDonough led Aspen Valley with six goals, including two penalty conversions, and Astrada added four goals, all on penalty conversions. Juan Martin Obregon led La Elina with six goals and was named Most Valuable Player. Facundo Obregon had three goals. Zenni and Geronimo Obregon each had one.
MacDonough’s horse Irenita Subaru was selected Best Playing Pony for the second consecutive day. On Saturday, Irenita Subaru, played and owned by MacDonough, was Argentine Best Playing Pony after the final of the World Polo League’s Triple Crown of Polo which Pampa Norte Biotricity won, 14-13, over MacDonough’s Richard Mille team, the defending champion.
In Saturday’s game, both evenly-matched PTF and Tamera entered the quarterfinal with 2-1 records.
The lead changed hands eight times before Cavanagh scored the game-winner on a 30-yard penalty conversion with 3:01 remaining in overtime.
Early in the sixth chukker, Saravi converted a 30-yard penalty to give Tamera a 9-8 lead with 6:02 left. Two minutes later, Roldan scored his fifth goal of the game and 16th of the U.S. Open, on another 30-yard penalty conversion to tie the game, 9-9.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in regulation time. With less than a minute Bray saved Cavanagh’s goal attempt. Gonzalez made one final goal run but was hooked and Bray had one final hit as time ran out sending the game into overtime.
Bray and Gracida came up with goal-saving plays in overtime with Bray knocking down a Saravi attempt and Gracida saving a Cavanagh goal. After Cavanagh missed a safety attempt, Saravi was fouled on a run to goal setting up Cavanagh’s game-winner.
PTF was the sentimental favorite after it was learned Bray, Gonzalez and Gracida used their own horses and did not accept any payment for playing in the U.S. Open.
Roldan led PTF scoring with five goals including three penalty conversions. Bray had two and Gonzalez had one. The team was also awarded a penalty-one.
Cavanagh had five goals for Tamera. Saravi had three goals and Laprida added two.
With the prize money doubling from the previous two tournaments, the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup, the U.S. Open winner will pocket $100,000. U.S. Polo Assn will award an additional $2,500 donation to the finalist teams’ polo charity of their choice. The U.S. Open is being livestreamed on GlobalPolo.com.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off its most successful fall and winter seasons. The club will begin its spring season on Friday with the Eastern Challenge.
Grand Champions is host to the World Polo League, which recently completed its five-tournament grass schedule. It is the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina and attracted a large international field from around the world. The WPL Beach Polo World Cup is set for April 29-May 1 and WPL Polo Pride, May 27-29.
Grand Champions also hosts Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held Tuesday late afternoon at 4:45 p.m. on Field One for players and guests.
There is also the Polo School Grand Champions Women’s League, co-founded by Melissa Ganzi and Alina Carta, for all ages and playing ability held Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
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 18 well-manicured fields including 13 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.
The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, 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 or General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
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.