WELLINGTON, January 21, 2022—The Aspen Valley 8-Goal Cup League got underway on a windy Thursday with two of the most exciting games in club history.
By Sharon Robb
In the opener at Jan Pamela, Orea Polo (Petra Sobotova, -1, Finn Secunda, 0, Justin Daniels, 2, Santi Torres, 7), trailing by as many as five goals in the fourth chukker, rallied in the final chukker in a wild finish for a thrilling 13-10 victory over Rafool Polo (Ray Rafool, -1, Nico Harriott, 2, Henry Porter, 4, Gussie Busch, 2).
In the opening chukker, Rafool jumped out to a 4-1 lead behind Porter’s three goals, including two penalty conversions, and one goal on handicap. With Daniels, Torres and Secunda scoring, Orea closed the gap and trailed by only one, 5-4. Rafool outscored Orea, 2-1, in the third chukker to lead at halftime, 7-5.
Rafool started to pull away early in the second half, outscoring Orea, 2-0 with goals from Harriott and Busch in the fourth chukker for a 9-5 advantage.
Early in the fifth chukker, Porter’s 60-yard penalty conversion gave Rafool its biggest lead, 10-5, with 6:19 left. It was the last time Orea allowed Rafool to score while reeling off eight consecutive goals.
After two players lost their mallet heads as the same time, the momentum swayed. Orea scored two goals to trail, 10-7, at the end of five chukkers.
Orea’s scoring barrage continued in the final chukker, scoring three more goals including Torres’ 60-yard penalty to tie the game at 10-10 with 3:29 left. Daniels scored the go-ahead goal a minute later to lead for the first time, 11-10. Two more goals by Secunda and Daniels iced the incredible win.
Torres scored a game-high seven goals. Daniels had four goals and Secunda added two goals. Porter led Rafool Polo with six goals with four penalty conversions including a safety.
The second game at Santa Rita Polo Farm was just as exciting with defending champion Dundas (Juan Vidal Dominguez, 2, Hope Arellano, 2, Cable Magness, 0, Roberto Zedda, 4) holding off Santa Rita (Fran Spinacci, -1, Antonio Aguerre, 0, Valentino Echezarreta, 3, Tommy Biddle, 5), 11-9.
Santa Rita, the youngest team in the tournament, jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first chukker with two penalty conversions (60 and 80 yards) from Biddle and another goal from Echezarreta. The team picked up another goal on handicap.
Dundas turned it around in the second chukker outscoring Santa Rita, 5-0, including three from Arellano, to move into the lead, 6-4. The teams tied 2-2 in the third chukker to enable Dundas to remain in the lead at the half, 8-6.
The second half was just as competitive with each team scoring three goals and Dundas shutting out Santa Rita, 1-0, in the final chukker. Santa Rita trailed by one, 9-8 and 10-9 in the fifth chukker but could get no closer.
Biddle scored all three of Santa Rita’s second-half goals with two penalty conversions and one from the field, a 130-yarder at a standstill.
Arellano, coming off her first Argentine season, scored a team-high six goals. Dominguez added four goals and Magness had one.
Biddle led Santa Rita with a team-high six goals, including crushing four between 60 and 130 yards, and Echezarreta added two. The team picked up one goal on handicap.
When did 8-goal get so competitive? The world-class field, horses and players’ skill level were all contributing factors.
“Polo is competitive at all levels,” Biddle said. “It was a fun game. The field today was great. If it was a little more into the season I think we could have pulled it out.
“It was great to be the old man playing with the new generation coming up. I had never played with the kids before today, but was very impressed with their play.”
Action continues on Sunday with two games at fields to be determined. Dundas plays Rafool Polo at 10 a.m. and Santa Rita faces Orea Polo at 1 p.m. Two more games are Thursday with the championship final on Sunday, Jan. 30 at 11 a.m.
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 8-goal play, the Metropolitan 6-Goal and Limited Edition 12-Goal Series will get under way on Jan. 25.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club coming off its most successful fall season, hopes 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. 4-20 followed by the Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Feb. 16-27; 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 22-24.
The high goal club tournaments feature the Sterling Cup, $100,000 World Cup and Santa Rita Abierto.
The 16-goal league play includes the Grand Champions Cup, Power Horse Invitational and Pedro Morrison Memorial.
The 12-goal league will be the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series, Sieber Memorial Trophy, $50,000 National 12-Goal and Top Pony 12-Goal.
In addition to the Aspen Valley Cup, the 8-goal tournament lineup is the Top Pony 8-Goal and Limited Edition 8-Goal.
The 6-goal schedule features the Metropolitan Cup, Halo Polo Trophy and 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 also 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, 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.