In front of a packed house, Dazos La Fe made a lasting impression in its 26-goal debut Friday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
Dazos La Fe (David Farache, 0/Louis Devaleix, 1, Robi Bilbao, 6, Nico Pieres, 9, Fran Elizalde, 9) defeated Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Lucas James, 7, Juan Martin Zubia, 9, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 13-9, in the World Polo League season-opening All-Star Challenge Tournament.
After a 3-3 opening chukker, Dazos La Fe broke open the game with a 4-0 second chukker for a 7-3 lead and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the game.
Leading 8-5 at the half, Dazos La Fe gave up one goal when Devaleix, a one-goal player replaced Farache in the second half but still led, 7-5.
Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen started clawing its way back in the fourth chukker taking advantage of Dazos La Fe penalties. James converted a 40-yard penalty to trail by only one, 7-6. With nine seconds left in the fourth chukker however, Elizalde scored to give Dazos La Fe back its two-goal cushion, 8-6.
Nero opened the fifth chukker winning the throw-in and scoring to trail, 8-7. But it was the closest Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen would get. Dazos La Fe had leads of 11-7 in the fifth and 12-8 early in the sixth chukker.
Elizalde scored a game-high six goals to lead Dazos La Fe. Pieres and Bilbao each had two goals. Farache and Devaleix, who each played three chukkers, each had one. The team was also awarded a penalty one. Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen got balanced scoring from James, Zubia and Nero, who each scored three goals.
Dazos La Fee outshot Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen, 9-5. Santa Rita led knock-ins, 3-1 and throw-ins 7-5. Dazos La Fe committed six fouls to Santa Rita’s one.
The eight-team, single-elimination tournament continues on Super Bowl Sunday with the feature match at 1 p.m. Brookshire (Scott Wood, 0, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Polito Pieres, 10, Jero Del Carril, 8) plays Travieso (Teo Calle, 1, Tincho Merlos, 7, Sapo Caset, 10, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8).
Dazos patron David Farache and Louis Devaleix each played three chukkers. Devaleix wore a protective shoulder brace after undergoing surgery Jan. 29 for a collarbone injury. Devaleix took his first polo lesson three years ago with Carlos Gonzalez and has been playing ever since. Three hours after the WPL game, Devaleix joined Hope Arellano, Hazel Jackson and his fiance Pamela Flanagan for a 6-goal league game.
La Fe is named after Bilbao’s family’s farm and breeding operation in Tranquila, Argentina. La Fe is playing 8, 12, 16, 22 and 26-goal polo and will also field a women’s team in the U.S. Open this season.
The World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, is in its fifth season with a star-studded lineup including six 10-goalers including Pablo MacDonough, Barto Castagnola, Juan Martin Nero, Jeta Castagnola, Polito Pieres and Sapo Caset and four nine-goalers (Gonzalito Pieres, Juan Martin Zubia, Fran Elizalde and Nico Pieres).
The popular 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 world-class league will run through April 16.
In addition to the All-Star Challenge, the remaining WPL events are the Founders Cup, Palm Beach Open, Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Triple Crown of Polo and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach.
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 four at 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 WPL 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 WPL Polo Pride and Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails.
The winter season will be live-streamed locally and worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV Sports).
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 General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.