WELLINGTON, April 8, 2022—After losing its tournament-opener in the final seconds, Sol de Agosto won its first game of the 118th U.S. Open on a rainy Thursday.
By Sharon Robb
After a day off for all seven Grand Champions-based pro teams, Sol de Agosto and Polo Training Foundation were back in action both evening their records to 1-1 in bracket play.
Sol de Agosto (Pacquito de Narvaez, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Toro Ruiz, 7, Juan Martin Nero, 10) broke open a close game in the second half for an 11-9 victory over Dutta Corp/Show (Timmy Dutta, 4, Joaquin Avendano, 3, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 8, Inaki Laprida, 7) at rain-soaked Isla Carroll East.
In the morning game, PTF (Carlitos Gracida, 4, Matias Gonzalez, 4, Nic Roldan, 8, Jesse Bray, 6) gave it all they had before losing to USPA Gold Cup winner Pilot (Curtis Pilot, 0, Mackie Weisz, 5, Facundo Pieres, 10, Matias Torres Zavaleta, 7), 11-6, at La Indiana Field.
On Friday, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jason Crowder, 5, Barto Castagnola, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6) plays Tamera (Ale Poma, 1, Segundo Saravi, 4, Jejo Taranco, 8, Diego Cavanagh, 9) at 10 a.m. at Grand Champions Polo Club in the opening game of a tripleheader.
Grand Champions (Riley Ganzi, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 8, Juan Bollini, 4) plays defending champion Scone (David Paradice, 0, Keko Magrini, 2, Poroto Cambiaso, 9, Sapo Caset, 10) at International Polo Club’s Field 3 at 2 p.m.
The third game features G-String Polo Ponies playing C.V. Whitney champion Park Place at 4:30 p.m. at Park Place’s home field.
Polo Training Foundation and Sol de Agosto are two of seven Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams playing in the 2022 U.S. Open.
For the first time in U.S. Open history, a record 20 teams are competing. Grand Champions Polo Club’s seven team entries that feature four 10-goalers and several young, talented players, enabled the record-breaking accomplishment.
After losing to PTF 11-10 a week ago, Sol de Agosto was determined to bounce back in a must-win game after playing well and leading for most of their opener.
“I was just happy to win,” Ganzi said. “To me it was we lose and we’re out. We went out there to prove we belonged in the Open.
“We should advance to the quarterfinals if we play the way we’re capable of playing. The way we have played in the last two games I think we well-deserve it.”
Ganzi, fully-recovered from a severe riding muscle injury that sidelined him, watched the PTF game film and thought his team played well despite the loss in the closing seconds.
“Watching that tape I wasn’t too upset because we didn’t play poorly,” Ganzi said. “We played really well and that gave me a good feeling about today.”
With two evenly-matched teams, the game was close from the opening chukker. After three consecutive missed goals by Dutta Corp/Show, it finally got on the scoreboard on Dutta’s neck shot set up by a long pass from Laprida at 1:46. A minute later, Nero lofted a 60-yarder over defenders’ heads to end the chukker at 1-1.
The teams battled back and forth in the second chukker with Sol de Agosto leading 2-1 early in the chukker and Dutta Corp/Show regaining the lead, 3-2, at the end of the chukker.
With Nero accounting for all four first- half goals, Sol de Agosto overcame a 4-2 deficit to tie 4-4 at the half.
“The ideas were there, we were just missing goals we should have been making,” Ganzi said. “The second half was more about execution and being more disciplined with the man for Pacquito and I and giving Juanma and Torito a little more time to score.
“The first half was Juanma piling through and us working hard, which is not a bad thing either,” Ganzi said. “But I think it was more of the rotation in the second half and more of us playing the way we want to play. I think that showed especially in the fourth and fifth.”
Despite two rain delays, Sol de Agosto dominated the second half and kept up its intensity, outscoring Dutta Corp/Show, 6-1, in the fourth and fifth chukkers including a 2-0 shutout in the fourth.
Sol de Agosto, playing well on both ends of the field and rotating well, took advantage of Dutta Corp/Show’s 10 missed scoring opportunities while controlling most of the second half. Leading 11-9 with 50 seconds left, Ruiz won the throw-in and ran out most of the clock before Dutta got possession with another wide goal attempt as time ran out.
Nero scored a team-high six goals including a 60-yard penalty conversion for Sol de Agosto. Ruiz had two and de Narvaez and Ganzi each added one goal. The team was also awarded a penalty-one. Laprida led Dutta Corp/Show with six goals. Garcia del Rio had two goals and Dutta added one.
In the fast-paced morning game, reigning USPA Gold Cup champion Pilot jumped out to a 6-1 lead after two chukkers behind plenty of horse power. PTF was shut out in the second and fifth chukkers.
Roldan was forced to sit out the first 19 seconds of the game from a yellow card carried over penalty from PTF’s previous game against Sol de Agosto. Pieres quickly took advantage of a man down winning the throw-in to score at the 7:20 mark.
PTF held Pilot scoreless in the third chukker, 2-0, to trail by only three, 6-3, at the half. PTF got its first knock-in at the 3:55 mark of the third chukker when Pilot missed a 60-yard penalty.
PTF kept clawing its way back with a great effort but was unable to finish its shots. PTF missed 11 shots in the game, four alone in the final chukker. Pilot remains undefeated at 2-0.
The game had an air of familiarity. Gonzalez was playing against his former 2019 Gauntlet of Polo champion teammates Facundo Pieres and Curtis Pilot. Weisz grew up playing tournaments in the Polo Training Foundation.
Pieres scored a game-high nine goals, including two penalty conversions, to lead Pilot. Weisz added two. Roldan led PTF with four goals. Bray and Gracida each had one goal.
With the prize money doubling from the previous two tournaments, the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup, the U.S. Open winner will pocket $100,000. U.S. Polo Assn will award an additional $2,500 donation to the finalist teams’ polo charity of their choice. The U.S. Open is being live streamed on GlobalPolo.com.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off its most successful fall season. The club is hosting winter tournaments through April.
Grand Champions is hosting various levels of polo including the 26-goal World Polo League, now in its fourth season and only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. Currently, the Triple Crown of Polo is under way with the semifinals this weekend.
The high goal club tournaments feature the Sterling Cup, $100,000 World Cup and Santa Rita Abierto. There are 16, 12, 8 and 6-goal tournaments scheduled for April.
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 Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or 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.