WELLINGTON, October 29, 2022—Santa Rita knocked off two-time defending champion Casablanca to capture the USPA North American Cup Friday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
Santa Rita (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Nic Roldan, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Juan Bollini, 3) led from start to finish for a 12-9 victory over Casablanca (Tomacho Pieres, 6, Jason Crowder, 5, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5).
Roldan, who scored a game-high five goals, was named Most Valuable Player. Little Nell, played by Grant Ganzi in the fifth chukker and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
“It’s a fun tournament to win,” Roldan said. “It’s one of the most important tournaments of the fall season. It’s always good to win a USPA tournament.
“It was a fun, open game. There weren’t a lot of fouls which made it really enjoyable. The field was great so it was a nice looking game to play. For me, it’s more important to be winning tournaments than getting MVP. It’s just a bonus.”
Playing well as a team, Santa Rita jumped out to a 5-0 lead with balanced scoring from Roldan (two goals), Ganzi (one) and Bollini (one) after taking a 1-0 lead on handicap. Santa Rita never relinquished its lead and had a 7-2 halftime advantage. Casablanca was taking the shots but couldn’t convert. Santa Rita led in knock-ins, 5-2, and throw-ins 5-4 at the half.
“We jumped out early and sort of controlled the game from then on,” Roldan said. “That was obviously very important. I thought we had a good game, we played better than we did the other day. We know each other very well and we have a good system.”
Casablanca outscored Santa Rita, 7-5, in the second half but could get no closer than two goals and squandered away scoring opportunities.
“I don’t think anyone tried to be the hero, I think the hero today was the team,” said Bollini, at 60 one of the oldest active players to win the sought-after Cup. “Everyone did their job. We played well as a team. We made it simple. Today was a big team effort.
“They tried to get back in it in the second half,” Bollini said. “They are a good team and very strong but I think we jumped out in the beginning and they didn’t have time to catch us.”
In addition to Roldan’s five goals for Santa Rita, Ganzi had four goals and Bollini added two. The team picked up one goal on handicap. Pieres led Casablanca scoring with three goals. Crowder, Ganzi and Sanchez Elia each had two goals.
To advance into the championship final, Santa Rita defeated, 13-11, and Casablanca edged NetJets, 10-9.
In the subsidiary, NetJets (Larry Austin, 0, Sugar Erskine, 6, Jesse Bray, 7, Tommy Biddle, 5) rallied for a thrilling 11-10 overtime victory over Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Kris Kampsen, 6, Agustin Obregon, 6).
Erskine scored a team-high four goals including the game-winner in overtime and was named MVP. Aiken, played by Spinacci and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
Austin, who scored the tying goal to send it into overtime, and Bray each had two goals and Biddle added one. Spinacci led Newport with four goals. Goldstein had three, Obregon two and Kampsen one.
The North American Cup is the club’s first of two 20-goal tournaments of the fall season with a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The second high goal tournament at Grand Champions is the Nov. 7-9 USPA National 20 Goal.
One of the nation’s busiest and innovative polo clubs, celebrating its 16th anniversary, is hosting both medium goal and high goal leagues. Among other highlights of the season is the Nov. 12 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup. This year the GCPC-USA team will put its 10-year winning streak on the line against Switzerland.
On Sunday at 10 a.m., the final of the Fall Plates, the third medium goal tournament of the season, will be held. It is the third round-robin tournament featuring three teams.
NetJets (Larry Austin, 0, Juan Sanchez Elia, 5, Nic Roldan 8, Juan Bollini, 3), Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Jason Crowder, 5, Sugar Erskine, 6, Leo Mandelbaum, 2) and Travieso (Teo Calle, Agustin Obregon, 5, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5), making its fall debut, will compete in the third of eight fall tournaments (three high goal and five medium goal.
In last year’s Fall Plates tournament, Zahedi Chogan (Sy Zahedi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle) won with an 11-10 victory over La Indiana (Matthew Gonzalez, Marc Ganzi, Luis Escobar, Jeff Hall). Biddle was MVP.
In addition to Fall Plates, the remaining fall medium goal tournament schedule is: Oct. 31-Nov. 6 Tackeria Invitational; and Nov. 14-20 Banyan Final. The Tackeria Invitational has a special place in club history as the inaugural tournament when the club first opened in 2007.
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 is live streaming 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.
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 property, 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.