Santa Rita won its first Hall of Fame Cup Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
By Sharon Robb
Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Barto Castagnola, 9) led Grand Champions (Santos Bollini, 2, Marc Ganzi, 2, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Juan Martin Nero, 10) from start-to-finish to win, 11-9.
Melissa Ganzi scored a game-high seven goals and was named Most Valuable Player.
JM Mascarita, played in the fifth chukker by Grant Ganzi, was selected Best Playing Pony.
It was Melissa Ganzi’s second Hall of Fame Cup title. She won in 2012 with her Piaget teammates Nic Roldan, Gonzalito Pieres and Juan Bollini.
It was the fourth title for Pieres, who won the inaugural game in 2000 with Outback teammates Sunny Hale, Adolfo Cambiaso and Tim Gannon. He also won in 2007 with Black Watch teammates Neil Hirsch, Facundo Pieres and Nacho Figueras and 2014 with Audi teammates Grant Ganzi, Gonzalo del Tour and Rodrigo Andrade.
It was also the fourth title for Grant Ganzi who won in 2015 with Aspen Valley Polo teammates Sebastian Merlos, Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan and in 2016 again with Aspen Valley Polo teammates Juancito Bollini, Rodrigo Andrade and Sebastian Merlos in addition to 2014 and 2022.
Santa Rita shut out Grand Champions in two chukkers and controlled most of the game with a solid offensive attack. Santa Rita led 6-4 at the half and by as many as four goals, 9-5, at the end of the fifth chukker.
Grant Ganzi scored three goals including a 60-yarder and Castagnola added one goal. For Grand Champions, Nero and Bollini each had three goals and Marc Ganzi added two in the sixth chukker. The team was also awarded a goal on handicap.
The inaugural Hall of Fame Cup, the subsidiary for the U.S. Open, was conceived and created by George DuPont, Jr., executive director of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame. It was played on Feb. 19, 2000 as a 22-goal tournament introduced by the newly-formed South Florida league, also known as the “Commuter League” of Wellington.
The Hall of Fame Cup award is a specially commissioned bronze by Rich Roenisch that is an actual edition of the same award presented to all Hall of Fame members upon their induction into the Hall of Fame.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off successful fall and winter seasons.
Grand Champions is host to the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. The WPL Beach Polo World Cup is set for April 29-May 1 and WPL Polo Pride, May 27-29.
Grand Champions also hosts Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held Tuesday late afternoon at 4:45 p.m. on Field One for players and guests.
There is 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 18 well-manicured fields including 13 world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal 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 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.