In the biggest upset of the World Polo League season, Richard Mille knocked off previously unbeaten Audi while Seminole Casino Coconut Creek cruised to a victory over Brookshire Polo.
Richard Mille (Santos Bollini, 2, Paquito de Narvaez, 2, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10) stunned Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jeta Castagnola, 9, Barto Castagnola, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6), 12-11, in sudden death overtime Thursday at Grand Champions.
Nero scored the game-winner when he picked up a short pass and found an opening for a quick goal run at the 5:03 mark.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) controlled most of the game for an 11-9 victory over Brookshire Polo (Scott Wood, 0, Nic Roldan, 8, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Pancho Bensadon, 7) Friday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
On Saturday, WPL Bracket II action continues with a doubleheader, NetJets (0-1) plays Richard Mille (1-0) at 1 p.m. at Santa Rita. Pampa Norte Biotricity (1-0) plays Audi (0-1) at 5 p.m. at Grand Champions Field 3.
Audi was undefeated after winning back-to-back All-Star Challenge and Founders Cup tournaments.
Winning the early bowl-ins, Audi jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first chukker with penalty conversions from Ganzi and Jeta Castagnola and de Narvaez goal.
The second chukker was a complete turnaround for Richard Mille, winning every bowl-in, capitalizing on eight Audi fouls and being awarded two penalty ones for a 6-2 chukker and 6-5 lead. MacDonough scored the go-ahead goal on a 60-yard penalty conversion with 36 seconds left after Audi lost its challenge.
The lead changed hands three times before Audi regained the lead for a 9-7 halftime advantage.
Richard Mille outscored Audi, 4-2, in the second half while shutting Audi out in the fourth and fifth chukkers. Back-to-back goals by MacDonough cut Audi‘s lead to one, 9-8, and then tied 9-9 in the fifth chukker.
The lead changed hands three more times in the sixth chukker before Jeta Castagnola‘s 60-yard penalty conversion tied the game at 11-11 with less than a minute left. Both teams missed scoring opportunities sending the game into overtime.
For Richard Mille, Nero scored a game-high six goals. MacDonough added four goals. The team was also awarded two penalty ones. Jeta Castagnola led Audi with four goals, Ganzi had three, Barto Castagnola had two and de Narvaez added one goal.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek controlled the fast-paced game after 2-2 opening chukker. Ganzi, Pieres and Astrada was all the firepower needed for a 3-1 second chukker to take a 5-3 lead.
The well-balanced team never relinquished the lead taking a 7-5 halftime advantage and leading 9-6 and 10-7 after the fourth and fifth chukkers.
Rufino Bensadon came up with a clutch steal and scored with 2:20 left to cut the lead to 10-9. Zubia, playing one of his best defensive games, won the following throw-in and after losing the ball intercepted Roldan‘s pass downfield for possession and started eating up the clock. With 49 seconds left, Brookshire Polo fouled and Pieres converted a 40-yard open goal penalty to ice the victory.
Pieres scored a game-high four goals including two penalty conversions. Zubia and Novillo Astrada each had three goals. Ganzi added one goal. For Brookshire Polo, Roldan and father and son Pancho and Rufino Bensadon each had three goals.
After successful All-Star Challenge, Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial and Founders Cup Tournaments, the Palm Beach Open features eight teams separated into two brackets of four with teams playing within the brackets. The top two teams in each bracket advance into the semifinals.
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 last year‘s Palm Beach Open, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Barto Castagnola, Juan Martin Nero) upset Richard Mille (Marc Ganzi, Jeta Castagnola, Pablo MacDonough, Paco de Narvaez), 12-9. Barto Castagnola was MVP.
During the 2021 WPL season, Richard Mille qualified for a record four championship finals, winning three of them.
The World Polo League, now in its fourth year and only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, has attracted a large international field from around the world. The world-class league will run through April 16. The World Polo League has preserved the highest level of polo and its rich tradition in the U.S.
After the Palm Beach Open, the remaining WPL tournaments are the 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 at 4:45 p.m.
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 hosting 23 tournaments from January through April.
Grand Champions is also hosting various levels of polo. 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‘s Top Pony 12-Goal tournament is currently under way.
After January‘s successful Aspen Valley Cup and March‘s Top Pony Tournament, the 8-goal tournament schedule continues with the 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 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 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.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira
2022 World Polo League Palm Beach Open Schedule
1pm NetJets vs Richard Mille at Santa Rita
5pm Pampa Norte Biotricity vs Audi at GCPC 3
10am Seminole Casino Coconut Creek vs Alegria at GCPC 1
4pm Brookshire vs Catamount at GCPC 2
11am Richard Mille vs Pampa Norte Biotricity
4pm Audi vs NetJets
10am Catamount vs Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
2pm Alegria vs Brookshire
10am & 4pm
4pm Palm Beach Open Final