WELLINGTON, April 18, 2022—In one of the biggest upsets of the World Polo League season, Pampa Norte Biotricity knocked off defending champion Richard Mille to win the Triple Crown of Polo Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
Pampa Norte Biotricity (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, 0, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Inaki Laprida, 7, Martin Jauregui, 6), making its 26-goal finals debut, defeated Richard Mille (Santos Bollini, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 14-13, in the WPL season-finale.
Vercellino, 27, of Chile, competing in only his second Wellington season, was named Most Valuable Player. He led his team’s scoring with four goals, three on penalty conversions including two 60-yarders. Nero scored a game-high eight goals for Richard Mille.
“For me this was really important,” Vercellino said. “It was 26-goal, the highest level after Argentina and highest level here in the U.S. To win the last tournament of the World Polo League is amazing for me playing the first time in the league. To win a tournament is incredible. It can’t be better to finish the season like that.”
Pampa Norte Biotricity was the tournament underdog because of its 20-goal rating. Other teams in the field were rated 25- or 26-goal. Richard Mille, a 25-goal rated team, had to spot Pampa Norte Biotricity a 5-0 lead before the game started.
“They say it’s like one in a thousand games we have our chance,” Al-Siddiq said. “We happened to have an unbelievable day. The unbelievable field at Grand Champions helped. Today was our day. It’s a dream, it’s amazing. That’s the beautiful thing about polo, on any given day anyone can win.”
Despite playing against two 10-goalers, an emotionally-charged Pampa Norte Biotricity led 6-2 and 8-3 in the first two chukkers. Richard Mille bounced back by scoring four unanswered goals in the third chukker to trail by only one, 8-7, at the half.
“It was a really tough, fun game,” Vercellino said. “They gave us five goals which was a good advantage for us. At the beginning they were playing better than us and they were losing by one at halftime. The second half we played better. We played man-to-man and stayed always positive.”
While the teams battled to a 6-6 second half, Pampa Norte Biotricity never trailed in the final three chukkers, 11-8, 13-10 and 14-13. With Pampa Norte Biotricity leading 14-12 after Vercellino converted a 40-yard penalty, Nero scored on a neck shot with 1:48 left but Richard Mille was unable to mount another offensive threat against Pampa Norte Biotricity’s aggressive defense.
“We just had to play each play, chukker by chukker and really focus playing our own game and not getting sucked into a bad play or bad foul,” Al-Siddiq said. “We wanted to keep our head in the game. Finals are very special games. We just had to play our game.”
Added Vercellino, “For Waqaas it was incredible in his second season playing here. It was good to win with so many good players like Pablo, Polito and Juanma in the league. Waqaas did a great job. With every game he got better.”
Vercellino leaves for Argentina on Monday and will work with his horses for a week before playing 20-goal in Brazil for a month and a half. In mid-June he will return to Santa Barbara to play with patron Alicia Seidler. He hopes to return to Wellington for his third winter season in 2023.
Matsu, played by Nero, was selected American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony. Irenita Subaru, played and owned by MacDonough was Argentine Best Playing Pony; and Open New Zealand, played and owned by Laprida, was WPL Best Playing Pony.
The championship final capped a full day of polo at Grand Champions. The Sterling Cup, featuring Seminole Casino Coconut Creek’s 16-12 win over Casablanca started off the day. The Santa Rita Abierto Work To Ride fundraiser followed with an impressive 7-7 tie between Work To Ride student-athletes along with freshly-minted 10-goal brothers Barto and Jeta Castagnola.
The pre-game festivities featured a spot-on performance by Team Fastrax skydivers displaying the American and WPL flags while landing at midfield during a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by singer/performer Galxara. Wellington’s Mari Lauder Pati presented the awards.
It was the fifth and final grass tournament of the World Polo League. The final WPL event is the April 29-May 1 WPL Beach Polo World Cup in Miami Beach, featuring eight teams from 10 countries.
The Triple Crown of Polo’s magnificent trophy was 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.
Pampa Norte Biotricity’s players will have their names inscribed on the trophy, joining 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 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 Cavanagh, 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.
In the Palm Beach Open, Catamount (Scott Devon, 1, Toro Ruiz, 7, Polito Pieres, 10, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8)knocked off Richard Mille (Santos Bollini, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 9-7. Pieres was MVP.
The World Polo League, now finishing up its fourth year, is the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, attracting a large international field from around the world. The World Polo League has preserved the highest level of polo and its rich tradition in the U.S.
Grand Champions hosts 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, hosted several tournaments at various levels during the winter season.
The club hosts 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 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 leagues or the 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.