WELLINGTON, October 18, 2022-–In an exciting finish, Barbarossa Leather won the season-opening Pedro Morrison Memorial Monday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
Trailing by two goals going into the final chukker, Barbarossa Leather (Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Jason Crowder, 5, Juan Bollini, 3, Tommy Biddle, 5) rallied for a thrilling 4-3 victory over Casablanca (Nick Manifold, 3, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5).
Mandelbaum was named Most Valuable Player. Mandelbaum and Crowder shared leading scorer honors with four goals each in two games.
Rose Quartz, played by Grant Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
“I thought we had a shot but all the teams were even,” Mandelbaum said. “Anybody could have won. I’m happy we won. We all played well together, we had chemistry. Everyone was just on, we got lucky. I am super excited. I think it’s awesome.”
Three teams competed in the round robin to open the 16th fall season. It was the first of eight tournaments including three high goal and five medium goal.
In the opening game, Barbarossa Leather defeated Net Jets (Larry Austin, 0, Sugar Erskine, 6, Augustin Obregon, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6), 5-2. In the second game, Casablanca edged NetJets, 4-3, to set up a true final between Barbarossa Leather and Casablanca.
In the final, Mandelbaum’s opening chukker goal gave Barbarossa Leather an early lead. Sanchez Elia tied the game with 6:12 left in the second chukker. A minute later Manifold avoided a Biddle hook to score the go-ahead goal, 2-1.
Casablanca continued to build its lead early in the third chukker when Sanchez Elia scored again at the 5:37 mark for a 3-1 lead.
The momentum swayed with 4:45 left in the game when Crowder got hot scoring the first of three goals to trail 3-2. Barbarossa then won the throw-in with Biddle connecting with Crowder at the 2:04 mark to tie the game at 3-3.
A minute later, Crowder took Biddle’s penalty-five hit and scored the winning goal. Bollini then came up with the defensive play of the game stopping Manifold’s scoring drive to run out the clock.
“Jason played great, he came through at the end and started putting amazing goals in,” Mandelbaum said. “The team is great. I know them all and they are all great guys. Everybody communicates.”
Mandelbaum is coming off a successful 14-goal season with Mount Brilliant in Kentucky. His best finish was runner-up to Orchard Hill. The Pedro Morrison title was Mandelbaum’s first tournament victory in more than a year.
Mandelbaum started playing in New York when he was 15 during the summer. He played arena polo at University of Connecticut. He took off a few years after a leg injury. He rebuilt his string of horses the last three years and is fully mounted. He plans to play the entire fall season.
Barbarossa Leather, located in Royal Palm Beach, is co-owned by Mandelbaum and his brother Alejandro. Founded over 40 years ago as a family-owned business, Barbarossa Leather is one of the premier leather artisans in the United States, specializing in fine leather for the fashion world and interior design market.
The tournament, rescheduled twice because of rain, was played in honor of Morrison and was a celebration of his life among his friends including longtime friend Arvo Katajisto, who made the award presentations.
“I am so glad to still be a part of this,” Katajisto said. “I am honored to give the trophies out. I have met so many great people and polo players here through the years. The Ganzis have always been very supportive. I’ve had a great time.”
In addition to helping to develop Wellington into a thriving community, Morrison was an avid polo player and patron of the Sympatico Polo Team. Morrison was born in Spain and was a University of Miami alum. He died Dec. 11, 2003 in Wellington at age 49.
In addition to the Pedro Morrison Memorial, the fall medium goal tournament schedule is: Oct. 17-23 Fall Classic; Oct. 24-30 Fall Plates; Oct. 31-Nov. 6 Tackeria Invitational; and Nov. 14-20 Banyan Final.
Among the highlights of the season are the Oct. 18-26 USPA North American Cup and Oct. 24-Nov. 9 USPA National 20-Goal Championship and Nov. 12 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is live streaming the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater 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 at the turnkey facility.
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. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and October through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.