WELLINGTON, October 24, 2022—On a breezy day for polo, NetJets captured its first tournament of the fall season Sunday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
Playing well as a team, NetJets (Jason Crowder, 5, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Larry Austin, 0, Nic Roldan, 8) led from start to finish in the final round robin game to defeat Sebucan (Nick Manifold, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Tommy Biddle, 5), 8-6, to capture the Fall Classic.
Austin, playing his first tournament of the fall season, was named Most Valuable Player. It was his second MVP honor since returning to play in 2021 after a 10-year break for the birth of his son. Last fall he earned the honor in the Royal Poinciana Cup at Santa Rita.
“It was a really fun team, we had laughs the whole game,” said Austin, who last played in May at Grand Champions and took the summer off to let his body rest and turn out his horses. “There was great chemistry. They are just a joy playing together.”
Austin finished with three goals in the game and five overall for the tournament. Austin had played polo for 18 years before taking time off.
“I’ve known Larry for a long time, we have been great friends,” Roldan said. “We have some great memories of playing up north so it was good to see him back on the field. He’s a world-class guy to be around. To have him around the Grand Champions family it’s always nice to see him here.”
Austin said he is going to nickname Roldan ‘Silky’ because “his shot from 120 yards out is so smooth, it goes right through the goal. It’s fun to watch.” Austin plans on playing through the beginning of November and will then join Manifold and Mariano Aguerre in Argentina.
Little Nell, an 8-year-old mare played by Grant Ganzi and bred and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
It was the second consecutive tournament win for Crowder and Mandelbaum. Last Monday the pair won the Pedro Morrison Memorial with Barbarossa Leather.
Three teams competed in the round robin with Friday’s preliminary scores carried over into Sunday’s final. It was the second of eight tournaments including three high goal and five medium goal.
In the opening game, Sebucan defeated Casablanca (Hayley Schaufeld, 0, Sugar Erskine, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Juan Bollini, 3), 5-3. Sebucan entered the game with a 4-1 lead and continued to build on it behind Manifold’s two goals and outshooting Casablanca, 8-5.
In the second game, NetJets, with a 7-4 carry-over lead, topped Casablanca, 11-7. Casablanca came within two goals in the first and second chukker but NetJets had the momentum behind Roldan and Austin, who each had two goals. NetJets led in shots on goal, 7-3.
In the final, NetJets defeated Sebucan, 8-6. Sebucan had a 4-3 advantage entering the game. Behind Crowder and Roldan’s 60-yard penalty conversion, NetJets jumped out to a 2-0 opening chukker to lead, 5-4 and never trailed after that to win the three chukkers, 5-2, and 8-6 for the tournament.
“We were all saying after the game that on most of the goals it wasn’t just one pass and a goal, it was three different people touched the ball every time on most plays. It was great. We had really good team work.”
Added Roldan, “It was a fun weekend, everyone played well. It was a fun team. We had a good time.”
NetJets, founded in 1964, is the world’s largest private jet company, offering fractional aircraft ownership, private jet leases, and private jet card programs.
Last weekend, Barbarossa Leather (Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Jason Crowder, 5, Juan Bollini, 3, Tommy Biddle, 5) won the Pedro Morrison Memorial with a 4-3 victory over Casablanca (Nick Manifold, 3, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5).
In addition to the Pedro Morrison Memorial and Fall Classic, the fall medium goal tournament schedule is: this week’s Fall Plates on Friday and Sunday; Oct. 31-Nov. 6 Tackeria Invitational; and Nov. 14-20 Banyan Final.
Among the highlights of the season are the USPA North American Cup, also this week on Wednesday and Friday 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.