Grand Champions Polo Club opens its spring season Saturday with the Eastern Challenge at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
The first of six tournaments in April and May kicks off what is expected to be the best spring season in the club’s 15-year history.
Three teams are entered in the Eastern Challenge. They are: Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Ryan Shank, Jason Crowder, Tommy Biddle); The Polo School (Haley Schaufeld, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Meredith Lovegrove); and Grand Champions (Bash Kazi, Tomacho Pieres, Pablo Spinacci, Tommy Collingwood).
The tournament opens Saturday at 10 a.m. with The Polo School playing Sebucan in a single game. On Sunday at 10 a.m., the final will feature a round robin between The Polo School, Sebucan and Grand Champions.
The Eastern Challenge was last held at Grand Champions in 2018. Playing together for the first time as a team, Sebucan’s Timmy Dutta, Pablo Pulido, Lucas Diaz Alberdi and Juan Martin Obregon defeated ChukkerTV (Josh DuBarry, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Pablo Dorignac, Julio Gracida), 16-10.
Pulido, playing well above his two-goal rating, was named Most Valuable Player. The former collegiate player at Cornell scored four goals and was one of the most dominant players on the field.
After a two-year hiatus, the Eastern Challenge was revived last year and hosted at Beverly Polo Club in The Plains, Va. The 2021 winner was undefeated Greenhill (David Greenhill, Lucas Arellano, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Lucio Ocampo, Michel Dorignac, Gaston Lisioli) which used two substitutions against Beverly Polo (Bill Ballhaus, Hilario Figueras, Trevor Niznik, Tolito Ocampo) and won 11-10.
The Eastern Challenge, a 12- to 16-goal national tournament, was first held in 1986 at the Potomac Polo Club in Sugarland, Maryland. The 14-goal winning team consisted of Alan Nash, Jack Whitman, Juan Bollini and Salvadore Socas. The tournament has been played a total of 23 times throughout its history and had resided at Grand Champions since 2010.
Several top and up-and-coming players and patrons will compete during the fun and competitive spring league.
During the spring season, amateur polo players get the chance to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players. It is geared towards improving polo skills and having fun.
The spring league is also a great opportunity for younger players to develop and hone their skills against their peers and more experienced players.
The GCPC spring league features:
*Medium Goal practice games at least once a week.
*Stick-and-ball sessions available during the week.
*Teams get two medium goal tournament games every weekend.
*Ambulance and umpires for all tournament games.
*Complete turn-key tournament polo with some of the top professionals in the world.
*Playing polo on some of Wellington’s most prestigious and well-manicured fields.
*Club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players.
*Excellent trophies for all teams every weekend.
The spring season is being live-streamed worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
The spring schedule (subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts is: April 23-24, Eastern Challenge; April 29-May 1, WPL Beach Polo World Cup; May 6-8, Sun Cup; May 13-15, Spring Challenge Cup; May 20-22, Pedro Morrison Memorial; May 27-29, The Memorial and WPL Polo Pride.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off successful fall and winter seasons.
Grand Champions is host to the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. 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 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 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 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.