In a thrilling opening game, Brookshire rallied in the final chukker to win its first game in the World Polo League’s Triple Crown of Polo Tournament.
By Sharon Robb
Brookshire (Rufino Bensadon, 8, Valentino Echezarreta, 3, Pancho Bensadon, 7, Nic Roldan, 8) defeated Alegria (Tincho Merlos, 8, Juancito Bollini, 4, Juan Sanchez Elia, 6, Fred Mannix, 7), 15-13, Saturday in the single-elimination game at Jan Pamela.
The game went back-and-fourth with the lead changing hands ten times in the second half. With Brookshire leading 6-3 in the second chukker, Alegria clawed its way back to trail by only one at the half, 7-6.
Brookshire jumped out to an early 10-6 lead with 4:49 in the fourth chukker after an incredible angle cut shot by Roldan, but Alegria rallied for four unanswered goals including a penalty-one to tie, 10-10, behind Bollini’s back shot after a great pass from Mannix from center field with 4:54 left in the fifth chukker.
The lead changed hands six more times between the teams that have developed quite a rivalry during the World Polo League. With the game tied 13-13, with 3:10 left, Alegria fouled, setting up Rufino Bensadon’s 40-yard penalty conversion to go ahead 14-13.
Merlos’s goal run with 1:08 gave Alegria another opportunity to tie, but before he could score Alegria committed another foul to hand over possession. With 42 seconds left Roldan worked his way out of a crowd of defenders to score and ice the victory.
Brookshire got balanced scoring from its lineup including Valentino Echezarreta, who subbed for patron Scott Wood. Rufino Bensadon scored a team-high six goals. Roldan had four goals, Pancho Bensadon three and Echezarreta two.
Alegria was led by Merlos with a team-high six goals. Mannix had three goals and Bollini and Elia each had one goal. The team was also awarded a penalty-one.
Teams are playing for the magnificent trophy designed by Tiffany & Co. The trophy is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver.
The WPL tournament winners will be inscribed on the trophy and added to an impressive list of teams that feature several top players including Sebastian Merlos, Mike Azzaro, Tommy Biddle, Adam Snow, Nic Roldan, Matias Magrini, Jeff Hall, Mariano Gonzalez, Michel Dorignac and Kris Kampsen.
The spectacular trophy was created for the ESPN2 television Triple Crown of Polo series created in 2005 with stops at Sarasota Polo Club, Las Colinas Polo Club in Dallas and Santa Barbara Polo Club the first year in 2006 and Sarasota and New Bridge Polo and Country Club in Aiken, S.C. in 2007 during its heyday before it went on hiatus.
The first four WPL tournaments during the league’s fourth season have thrilled fans, worldwide livestream viewing audiences and sponsors on world-class fields at Grand Champions, Santa Rita Polo Farm and Jan Pamela.
Last year’s Triple Crown of Polo winner, Richard Mille (Marc Ganzi, Jeta Castagnola, Pablo MacDonough and Paco de Narvaez) defeated Tamera (Ale Poma, Santi Torres, Diego Cavanaugh, Jejo Taranco), 11-10, for their third title of the WPL season. MacDonough was MVP.
In the season-opening 26-goal All-Star Challenge tournament, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jeta Castagnola, 9, Barto Castagnola, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6) defeated White Birch (Chris Brant, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Mariano Aguerre, 7, Santi Toccalino, 8), 17-12. Jeta Castagnola was MVP.
Seminole Coconut Creek Casino (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) defeated Brookshire Polo (Scott Wood, 0, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Nic Roldan, 8, Pancho Bensadon, 7), 10-9, to capture the Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial. Pieres was MVP.
In the Founders Cup, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jeta Castagnola, 9, Barto Castagnola, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6) defeated Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8), 13-9. De Narvaez was MVP.
During the 2021 WPL season, Richard Mille qualified for a record four championship finals, winning three of them.
The World Polo League, now in its fourth year and only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, has attracted a large international field from around the world. The world-class league will run through April 16. The World Polo League has preserved the highest level of polo and its rich tradition in the U.S.
After the Palm Beach Open concludes on Sunday with Catamount taking on Richard Mille at 4 p.m., the remaining WPL tournaments are the Triple Crown of Polo and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach.
The WPL’s new Coco Cabana features polo fare, open bar, rose bar, cigar experience with Montecristo, Worth Avenue retail Pop-Up, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek giveaways and unique photo opportunities. Guests have the opportunity to purchase individual tickets at $250 per person inside the air-conditioned tent or a patio lounge for four guests at $1,000 which includes a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
Grand Champions has also added Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held Tuesday late afternoon on Field One for players and guests at 4:45 p.m.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off its most successful fall season. The club is hosting 23 tournaments from January through April.
Grand Champions is also hosting various levels of polo. The high goal club tournaments feature the Sterling Cup, $100,000 World Cup and Santa Rita Abierto. There is also 16, 8 and 6-goal tournaments scheduled for April.
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 that will culminate with the April 2 Sunny Hale Legacy Final.
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 and ultimate polo destination with 18 well-manicured polo fields including 13 world-class tournament grade, 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 Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.