It was only natural one of the most competitive eight-goal leagues in club history would be decided in double overtime.
By Sharon Robb
In a battle of the unbeatens, Orea Polo (Petra Sobotova, -1, Finn Secunda, 0, Justin Daniels, 2, Santi Torres, 7) needed eight chukkers to defeat defending champion Dundas (Juan Vidal Dominguez, 2, Hope Arellano, 2, Cable Magness, 0, Roberto Zedda, 4), 9-8, Sunday at Jan Pamela Field.
Torres scored the game-winner with 6:55 left in the eighth chukker at a standstill from 90 yards out. Torres finished with a game-high eight goals and had a key defensive stop in overtime on a potential goal to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
“The winning goal happened fast,” Torres said. “I didn’t want to lose it and have them run the other way. Everyone was clumped together. I had their whole team in front of me and I had to hold it so I shot it.”
Loteria, an 11-year-old Chestnut played by Zedda in the sixth chukker and owned by J5, was Best Playing Pony.
It was the first 8-goal tournament title for the second-year team.
“It was a tough game against a formidable team and organization,” Daniels said. “To win against them showed us that we are doing things right. We did our best, kept a positive atmosphere, and left our hearts on the field.
“I am very proud of my teammates and our hard work to get to the field. To come out with a hardfought victory is a victory in itself. The conditions were amazing, the field amazing, the umpires best in the world and the opponents are some of the best-mounted and talented players.
“For me it all led to an unforgettable experience and a real feeling of achievement and accomplishment,” Daniels said. “I know I have worked to be back in an up-and-coming operation for the last five years. This final was the first time I feel like we have proof we have created something special and better than I have ever imagined we could have. I am so unbelievably proud of everyone–my team, my horses, my friends and my family.”
The game was a tight battle with only one goal separating the teams for the first three chukkers with Orea leading 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 in the first half.
Taking advantage of two missed penalty shots by Dundas, Orea pulled ahead by two goals, 6-4, in the fourth chukker when Torres took the knock-in, passed to Sobotova whose hit was followed up by Secunda for the score.
After Dominguez and Arellano scored from the field to tie the game, 6-6, Dundas missed two more scoring opportunities on penalty shots while Torres outraced Zedda to score for a 7-6 lead after the fifth chukker.
After two missed Dundas penalty conversions, Torres converted a 40-yard penalty with 5:15 left in regulation to give Orea an 8-6 advantage. Two minutes later Zedda came back with a 40-yard penalty conversion of his own to cut Orea’s lead to one, 8-7.
With 39 seconds left in regulation, Daniels cleared out Zedda’s goal attempt. With eight seconds left, a broken play enabled Zedda to come up with the ball and was coming down the line when Torres was called for a foul setting up Zedda’s 30-yard penalty conversion to send the game into sudden death overtime at 8-8.
Zedda had the first opportunity to score on a 60-yard penalty but Torres came up with the game-saver tapping the ball out of the air. Dundas had four more scoring opportunities, with Secunda stalling two of them, in the chukker but came up empty sending the game into the eighth chukker.
Torres won the bowl-in and was looking for a teammate when the umpire Gaston Dorignac told him to use it so he calmly looked at the goal posts and lofted it 90 yards from a standstill to win the game.
“There were so many good players out there, it just happened,” Torres said. “Eight-goal polo is fast. It gets faster and faster every year. Everyone has better horses and the players are more experienced. It just all came together for us yesterday. This is the team’s second year and we’re off to a good start so hopefully we keep it going. You live and you learn. You never stop learning. “
Finn Secunda, 14, an eighth grader at St. Edwards School, scored Orea’s other goal and was outstanding on defense with his ride-offs. Secunda, the grandson of British great Julian Hipwood, was the MVP in the recent Polo Training Foundation Tackeria Cup.
Dundas got balanced scoring from its lineup. Zedda led with three goals. Arellano and Magness each had two goals and Dominguez added one.
In last year’s Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup final, Dundas (Sarah Siegel-Magness, Fran Spinacci, Mariano Fassetta, Roberto Zedda) defeated Bushwood (Nick McClelland, Nick Manifold, Kris Kampsen, Michael Armour), 12-9. Zedda was Most Valuable Player.
In addition to the Aspen Valley Cup, the 8-goal tournament schedule continues with the the Feb. 15-Mar. 5 Top Pony 8-Goal and Mar. 8-26 Limited Edition 8-Goal.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off its most successful fall season. Club officials hope to build off that success when it hosts 23 tournaments from January through April.
The 26-goal World Polo League, co-founded by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, returns for a fourth season. The All-Star Challenge opens the high goal season Feb. 8-26 followed by the Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Feb. 27; Founders Cup, Feb. 23-March 13; Palm Beach Open, March 9-27; Triple Crown of Polo, March 23-April 16 and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach, April 29-May 1.
The high goal club tournaments feature the Feb. 2-12 Sterling Cup, Feb. 9-26$100,000 World Cup and Mar. 1-13 Santa Rita Abierto.
The 16-goal league play includes the Feb. 14-Mar. 5 Grand Champions Cup, Mar. 8-26 Power Horse Invitational and Mar. 29-Apr. 16 Pedro Morrison Memorial.
In addition to this month’s Limited Edition Series, the 12-goal league also features the Feb. 15-Mar. 5 Sieber Memorial Trophy, Feb. 16-27 $50,000 National 12-Goal and Mar. 8-26 Top Pony 12-Goal.
The 6-goal schedule features the Jan. 25-Feb. 12 Metropolitan Cup, Feb. 15-Mar. 5 Halo Polo Trophy and Mar. 8-26 Madelon Bourdieu Memorial.
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 has added Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held Tuesday late afternoon on Field One for players and guests.
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 13 well-manicured, 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 owned by Melissa and Marc Ganzi, 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.