Azerbaijan Land of Fire Defends Title In 38th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz; Adrian Laplacette MVP

n a much-anticipated final, Azerbaijan Land of Fire needed a hardfought overtime to win its second consecutive 38th annual Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz title.

By Sharon Robb

In its third consecutive championship finals appearance, Azerbaijan Land of Fire (Elcin Jamalli, 2, Adrian Laplacette, 6, Raul Laplacette, 6, Tarlan Gurbanaliyev, 0/Tito Gaundenzi, 2) defended its title on Sunday with a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory over St. Moritz (Spencer McCarthy, 2, James McCarthy, 2, Max Charlton, 6, Nacho Gonzalez, 4).

Adrian Laplacette scored the game-winner in the final minute on a 10-yard penalty conversion and was named Most Valuable Player. Spencer McCarthy was selected as Best Playing Patron.

The winning trophy, sponsored by Wellington-based World Polo League, was presented by Piero Diller, President of the Board of Evviva Polo St. Moritz. The MVP award, also sponsored by the World Polo League, was a pair of Cartier sunglasses presented by Melissa Ganzi, President of Grand Champions Polo Club and co-founder of the 26-goal World Polo League that begins play in February.

It was the seventh tournament appearance for Ganzi, the first woman to win the 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz in 2019. 

The Polo Times and Evivva St. Moritz Best Playing Pony was awarded to gelding Cicatriz, played by Max Charlton in the third chukker and owned by Spencer McCarthy.

Two other teams, World Polo League and Clinique La Prairie, with several players from Grand Champions Polo Club, won their final games on Sunday.

Clinique La Prairie (Marc Ganzi, 2, Matthias Norman, 0, Nic Roldan, 8, Freddie Mannix, 7) defeated The Kusnacht Practice (Eduardo Greghi, 0, Nico San Roman, 4, Jejo Taranco, 9, Juan Guerrero, 3), 3-2, in overtime to finish third in the tournament and win the St. Moritz Trophy in the subsidiary final. Ganzi scored the winning goal with a 40-yard penalty conversion. Ganzi also sent the game into overtime with another 40-yard penalty conversion with 20 seconds left in regulation.

World Polo League (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Martin Jauregui, 6) defeated Flexjet (Daniel Deistler, 0, Patrick Maleitzke, 5, Clemente Delfosse, 5, Patrick Paillol, 5), 7-5.5, to take the Casablanca Trophy presented by Casablanca Chief Executive Stephen Alexander. Grant Ganzi scored four goals in his finest performance of the three-day tournament.

On Saturday, World Polo League gave Azerbaijan Land of Fire a battle before losing 5-4 in the closing seconds of the semifinals. World Polo League fell behind 3-0 but rallied behind Astrada and Melissa Ganzi for a 3-3 tie at halftime. In the final chukker, Melissa Ganzi converted a 30-yard penalty to tie the game at 4-4 with a minute left before Jamalli scored. 

The event attracted record crowds and was live streamed worldwide by

In the 2022 event Azerbaijan Land of Fire (Elcin Jamalli, 2, Adrian Laplacette, 6, Raul Laplacette, 6, Tito Gaudenzi, 2) won its first-ever championship with a 6-2.5 victory over Clinique La Prairie (Dillon Bacon, 2, Aristide Faggionato, 2, Max Charlton, 6, Robert Strom, 5). Raul Laplacette was MVP. Pixie, a 12-year-old mare owned by Max Charlton, was Best Playing Pony.

Against one of the world’s most stunning mountain backdrops of snow-capped Engadin Valley, the granddaddy of them all attracted six talented teams to the world’s only high goal snow polo tournament.

The world’s most prestigious polo tournament on snow was the first snow polo tournament in the sport’s history created by polo promoter and visionary Reto Gaudenzi, founder and CEO of Snow Polo World Cup.

“We had fantastic weather, great polo and sold every ticket available,” Gaudenzi said. “This year’s event was unbelievable.”

Grand Champions, the nation’s largest  polo club celebrating its 16th anniversary, and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and short work arena. The club has 13 well-manicured fields including nine world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita. 

During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, is hosting  tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 26-goal leagues, WCT Finals, women’s weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.

Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Argentina, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, England, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Venezuela, Chile, and England.

Season highlights for 2023 are the  Sterling Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, Sieber Memorial, John T. Oxley Memorial, the inaugural Richard Riemenschneider Memorial Cup and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and special events including World Polo League Polo Pride and Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails.

The biggest highlight of the season is the fifth season of the World Polo League, the nation’s only 26-goal league featuring some of the world’s top players including 10-goaler Pablo MacDonough and team sponsors at Grand Champions. The WPL has been filling  the void created when the U.S. Polo Association, the sport’s governing body, announced it was lowering high goal polo to 18-22 goals and would not have 26-goal polo.

The winter season will be live-streamed locally and worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV).

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 Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. The stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. It 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. November. The Polo School has nurtured several junior, men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception. 

For more information on leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at  561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.



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