The fall season came to a close at windswept Santa Rita Polo Farm Sunday with the final of the Banyan Cup.
By Sharon Robb
Making their fall debut, Roxbury Raiders (Josh Silverman, 0, Jason Crowder, 5, Santos Bollini, 2, Tommy Biddle, 5) led from start to finish to defeat Aspen Valley Polo Club (Juancito Bollini, 4, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Tito Gaudenzi, 2), 8-6.
Santos Bollini, 23, a junior at Palm Beach State College, was Most Valuable Player. Bollini scored a team-high five goals, all in the first half.
“Santos, Holy Cow, did he come out to play today,” Silverman said. “You put him against his brother and see what happens. Any time you have brothers involved there’s a lot of pride at stake. He really deserved MVP, he played his heart out.”
Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony for the fall season. Malapata Kareoke aka Ronda, played by Juancito Bollini and also owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was the game’s BPP.
Roxbury Raiders jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the fast-paced opening chukker behind Bollini’s hot mallet scoring three goals. Roxbury extended its lead to 6-3 in the second and shut out Aspen Valley Polo Club in the third chukker for a 7-3 halftime lead.
“They had such a great team with Nic Roldan and Sugar Erskine,” Silverman said. “You really got to bring it. To get to play with players at this level is just incredible. It’s such a privilege to be out there with people of that caliber and just trying to learn and get better.”
Aspen Valley Polo Club clawed its way back in the second half, outscoring Roxbury Raiders, 3-1, and held them scoreless in the fifth and sixth chukkers but missed crucial scoring opportunities as time ran out.
“We got the game in, that’s all I care about. I’m so happy we moved it to 9:30, we had luck today with the weather,” said Silverman, who finished with eight goals in two games. The game was moved to early morning because of predicted heavy rain storms that followed immediately after the game.
Silverman has been playing for four years. He gave a talk in Argentina and as a speaker gift was given a free polo lesson and fell in love with the game. “I was 47 years old and had never sat on a horse before,” Silverman said. “It just changed my life. I just absolutely fell in love at that two-hour lesson.” Since then he has been playing with Biddle, primarily at the NYC Polo Club, for the past three years.
“I’m just getting to the level now where I can get out with folks like that,” Silverman said. “I feel good about it. Obviously, there are a lot of opportunities to improve.
“What Tommy’s been working on me is if I get my riding good enough to take the ball then I am in the right position at the right time. I am proud of the fact I can hang and be in the right place when my teammates need me. Tommy is a good teacher and such a privilege to play with, he is an amazing player. I just try to be a sponge and learn as much as I can.”
In addition to Bollini’s five goals, Silverman had three goals. For Aspen Valley Polo Club, Juancito Bollini had a team-high five goals and Erskine added one.
In the opening warm-up game on Friday, Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Tito Gaudenzi, 2) defeated the Roxbury Raiders (Josh Silverman, Jason Crowder, Teo Calle, Tommy Biddle), 9-7. Goldstein and Erskine each had three goals, Gaudenzi had two and Roldan added one. Silverman led Roxbury with a game-high five goals. Crowder and Calle each had one.
The 2022 fall season was both thrilling and fun. “I think everyone had fun, everyone was always smiling,” said Leo Mandelbaum. “Everyone liked each other. There wasn’t one bad apple in the bunch.”
The club hosted eight tournaments, three high goal and five medium goal. Santa Rita swept both USPA 20-goal tournaments.
Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Nic Roldan, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Juan Bollini, 3) knocked off two-time defending champion Casablanca (Tomacho Pieres, 6, Jason Crowder, 5, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5), 12-9. Roldan was MVP and Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi, was BPP.
Santa Rita (Gene Goldstein, 1, Juancito Bollini, 4, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Bollini, 3) won the USPA National 20-Goal with a 9-8 win over Travieso (Tony Calle, 3/Santos Bollini, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Pedro Gutierrez, 5, Tommy Biddle, 5). Juan Bollini was MVP. Cubana and Guri Amalia were APHA and USPA BPPs respectively.
In the International Cup, Team GCPC USA (Daren Tamplin, A, Jack McLean, 1, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8) was tested before extending its tournament win to 11 consecutive with a 6-5 victory over Switzerland (Luca Meier, 1, Sugar Erskine, 6, Tomas Ruiz Guinazu, 5, Fabio Meier, 1). Guinazu was MVP. Little Nell, played by Ganzi, was BPP.
In the rain-delayed season-opener, Barbarossa Leather (Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Jason Crowder, 5, Juan Bollini, 3, Tommy Biddle, 5) rallied for a 4-3 victory over Casablanca (Nick Manifold, 3, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5). Mandelbaum was MVP and Rose Quartz, played by Ganzi, was BPP.
NetJets (Jason Crowder, 5, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Larry Austin, 0, Nic Roldan, 8) rallied to win the Fall Classic with an 8-6 win over Sebucan (Nick Manifold, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Tommy Biddle, 5). Austin was MVP and Little Nell, played by Ganzi was BPP.
Sebucan (Jason Crowder, 5, Pablo Pulido, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Leo Mandelbaum, 2) won the Fall Plates in the final 40 seconds with a 6-5 victory over NetJets (Larry Austin, 0, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Nic Roldan, 8, Marc Ganzi, 1). Mandelbaum earned his second MVP honor. Extravaganza, played by Marc Ganzi, was BPP.
NetJets (Larry Austin, 0, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Tommy Biddle, 5) won its second tournament of the season with a 10-9 win over Travieso (Teo Calle, 1, Santos Bollini, 2, Tony Calle, 3, Sugar Erskine, 6) in the Tackeria Invitational. Biddle was MVP and his 13-year-old mare Maleficent was BPP.
One of the nation’s busiest and innovative polo clubs celebrated its 16th anniversary. The well-organized fall tournaments attracted players from all over the United States and world.
The fall league gave players a chance to improve their skills. For many it was a great way to prepare for the winter season which gets under way in January and is highlighted by the fifth season of the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with more than 150 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.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV live streamed the entire fall season. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
During the fall, winter and spring seasons Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater 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 at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club at the former Pony Express facility, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and October through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.