In one of the most remarkable comebacks in World Polo League history, Richard Mille won its second game of the tournament Saturday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
Trailing 7-0 in the opening chukker, the defending champion (Santos Bollini, 2, Paquito de Narvaez, 2, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10) worked its way back for a thrilling 15-12 victory over White Birch (Antonio Aguerre, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Mariano Aguerre 7, Santi Toccalino, 8).
On Friday, trailing for most of the game, Brookshire Polo (Scott Wood, 0, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Nic Roldan, 8, Pancho Bensadon, 7) rallied in the final chukker to defeat Pampa Norte Biotricity (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, 0, Inaki Laprida, 8, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Martin Jauregui, 5), 13-12.
The two-week, nine-team tournament continues Sunday with a doubleheader. Audi plays NetJets at 10 a.m. and Catamount faces Brookshire Polo at 4 p.m.
White Birch looked unbeatable in the opening chukker. Leading 2-0 on handicap to start the game, White Birch caught Richard Mille flat-footed on the throw-ins with Zubiaurre scoring five goals to take a 7-0 lead. With a minute left in the chukker, de Narvaez scored off the bowl-in.
After both teams missed early goals, Richard Mille regained its rhythm by controlling the pace and outscoring White Birch, 4-0, to cut the lead to 7-5.
In a more defensive third chukker, each team exchanged goals with White Birch leading, 8-6, at the half.
The second half was all Richard Mille, outscoring White Birch, 9-4, including a 5-1 sixth chukker. Richard Mille scored three unanswered goals in the fourth chukker and shut out White Birch, 3-0. Bollini tied the game at 8-8 with 4 minutes left and Nero converted a 60-yard penalty to give Richard Mille the lead, 9-8, for the first time in the game.
Midway through the fifth chukker, White Birch scored its first goal since the third chukker when Toccalino converted a 30-yard penalty to trail, 10-9. Two minutes later, Mariano Aguerre beat his defender to tie the game at 10-10 and Zubiaurre followed with another goal off the throw-in to regain the lead, 11-10 to end the chukker.
The lead however was shortlived in the final chukker with Richard Mille reeling off five consecutive goals for a 15-11 lead with 2:58 left to put the game away.
Richard Mille got balanced scoring from its two veteran 10-goalers and two young up-and-coming players. MacDonough led the team with five goals followed by Bollini with four goals. Nero and de Narvaez each had three goals.
Zubiaurre led White Birch with a game-high seven goals. Toccalino added two and Mariano Aguerre had one. The team picked up two goals on handicap.
On Friday, Pampa Norte Biotricity, making its 2022 WPL season debut, looked to have the game in control behind the hot stick of Vercellino. Pampa Norte Biotricity led 6-2, 7-4, 8-5 and 11-6 in the first four chukkers before Brookshire Polo settled down and found its game.
Brookshire started to regain its momentum in the fifth chukker, outscoring Pampa Norte Biotricity, 2-0, behind goals by father and son Pancho and Rufino Bensadon.
Brookshire was relentless on offense in the final chukker with a 5-1 advantage. Trailing 12-11, Roldan scored the tying goal with 1:26 left and Pancho Bensadon connected with his son who scored the winning goal with 24 seconds left.
“I think it was just patience,” Roldan said. “We were way too rushed trying to make plays at the beginning. We tried to come back and just had more patience. We stepped it up in the last chukker and made some amazing plays. It was a team effort that we won.
“It’s extremely important to start the tournament off with a win,” Roldan said. “Obviously, it sets the tone and gives us confidence. We have a really tough one on Sunday against a really good team in Catamount. It’s Scott Devon’s first year back and he has three incredible players.”
For Brookshire, Rufino Bensadon scored a game-high eight goals. Roldan had three and Pancho Bensadon added two. Vercellino led Pampa Norte Biotricity with six goals. Jauregui had two and Al-Siddiq added one.
In the WPL 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.
Founders Cup defending champion is Richard Mille (Marc Ganzi, Jeta Castagnola, Pablo MacDonough, Paco de Narvaez) which defeated Hawaii Polo Life (Santi Torres, Gringo Colombres, Jejo Taranco, Chris Dawson), 12-6. MacDonough was MVP.
During the 2021 WPL season, Richard Mille qualified for a record four championship finals, winning three of them. In the Palm Beach Open, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Barto Castagnola, Juan Martin Nero) defeated Richard Mille (Marc Ganzi, Jeta Castagnola, Pablo MacDonough, Paco de Narvaez), 12-9. Barto Castagnola was MVP.
The World Polo League, now in its fourth year, is the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. It has attracted a large international field from around the world.
The world-class league will run through April 16. The World Polo League is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich tradition in the U.S.
The remaining WPL tournaments are the Palm Beach Open; Triple Crown of Polo and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach.
The WPL’s new Coco Cabana features polo fare, open bar, rose bar, cigar experience with Montecristo, Worth Avenue retail Pop-Up, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek giveaways and unique photo opportunities. Guests have the opportunity to purchase individual tickets at $250 per person inside the air-conditioned tent or a patio lounge for four guests at $1,000 which includes a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
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, 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 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.
In addition to the Limited Edition and Sieber Memorial the concludes on Sunday, the 12-goal league also features the $50,000 National 12-Goal and Top Pony 12-Goal.
After January’s successful Aspen Valley Cup, the 8-goal tournament schedule continues with the Top Pony 8-Goal and Limited Edition 8-Goal.
The 6-goal schedule, after a successful Metropolitan Cup, continues with the 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 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.