SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 7, 2017---In front of a record crowd on the private beach of the iconic Hotel del Coronado, Porsche San Diego won the second annual Polo America Beach Polo Cup.
The team of Riley Ganzi, Juan Bollini and Mike Azzaro defeated Westime (Melissa Ganzi, Lucas Lalor, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), 9-6, on Sunday.
Teenager Riley Ganzi scored five goals in the final and nine goals overall in two games and was unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player honors. At 17, Ganzi was the youngest player in the 16-player field.
“I didn’t have any expectation of whether we would make it to the final,” said Ganzi, a senior at Boca Raton St. Andrew’s School. “I knew Juan and Mike would be great teammates. I was definitely hopeful.
“I was the lowest rated player in the tournament so I was a little bit nervous. I was willing to give it my all even though I was playing against older and more experienced players.”
Ganzi’s horse Regalito, a 16-year-old grey gelding owned by Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm was Best Playing Pony. Regalito (Little Gift in Spanish) was a birthday gift from her dad to her mom. Her older brother Grant then rode him before becoming Riley Ganzi’s “favorite horse.”
Ganzi’s teammate Mike Azzaro, a former 10-goaler and Hall of Famer, added four goals. Melissa Ganzi led Westime with four goals and Astrada had two.
“I thought it went really well and I enjoyed myself,” Azzaro said. “The Ganzis are always great hosts and Randy Russell did a great job organizing the event. The crowds enjoyed it and the footing on the beach was great.”
The final pitted mother against daughter and subsidiary game father against son.
“It is a little bittersweet when I play against family members,” Ganzi said. “I have been playing my brother, dad and mom my whole life. It makes us all feel more competitive. It adds to the dynamic of the game.”
In the final, Porsche San Diego jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening chukker with two goals from Azzaro and one from Ganzi. Astrada added a goal in the second chukker to cut the lead to one (3-2) at the half.
Riley Ganzi opened the third chukker with two goals and Azzaro added one for a 6-4 lead. Ganzi added two more goals in the final chukker and Azzaro scored his team’s final goal. Melissa Ganzi had three second-half goals and Astrada added another but were unable to rally.
“It was a lot of fun,” Riley Ganzi said. “The last time I played beach was last year’s event but I play arena polo. It is my favorite thing. The strategy is to use the walls to get the goal. I thought it was kind of funny I kept reminding Juan and Mike to ride along the walls.”
Added Lalor: “They were a tough team. Riley played really well and scored most of the goals. Juan and Mike are experienced players. It was a great competition and the crowd seemed to like it.”
In the subsidiary, U.S. Polo Assn. (Marc Ganzi, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Carlitos Gracida) defeated defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Pablo Dorignac), 5-3.
Marc Ganzi scored a game-high three goals and Astrada added two. Grant Ganzi, Bollini and Dorignac each scored one goal. Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini were members of last year’s winning team.
In the first qualifying game on Friday, Porsche San Diego defeated U.S. Polo Assn., 6-4, and on Saturday Westime knocked off defending champion, Aspen Valley Polo Club, 8-6.
It was only the second time in beach polo history a major beach polo tournament was held on the west coast at the iconic hotel, the second largest wooden structure in the U.S.
Sponsors for the event were Hotel del Coronado, Aspen Valley Polo Club, Westime, Porsche San Diego, Peter Lik Fine Art, Schubach Aviation, Grayse, Bradys, U.S. Polo Assn and Silver Seas Yachts. Marc and Melissa Ganzi provided the event’s horses, based and bred at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
A sellout VIP tent with glistening chandeliers, record crowd of 2,000 and beach passersby enjoyed the beach polo event which is gaining in popularity after only two years. Among VIPs were actor and producer Sterling Jones and Gayle Bass, host of the nationally-syndicated TV show RightThisMinute.
In addition to the polo matches, the Labor Day weekend event featured a lavish multi-terraced VIP tent, fine dining, parties, increased fan seating from 1,500 to 3,000 and Porsche Million Dollar Road Rally. California Polo Club offered polo lessons on the beach all three days. The weekend festivities kicked off with a skydiving show.
Proceeds benefitted Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine. The hospital’s auxiliary created the Endowment for Neuroscience to bring together world-class scientists and physicians focused on discoveries at the intersection of genomics and neuroscience to give the sickest newborns and children the future they deserve.
The Hotel del Coronado has been San Diego’s legendary oceanfront beach resort for more than 128 years. Coronado Beach was recently ranked as the eighth best beach in the nation. Coronado has a long history with polo dating back to the early 190ss when John D. Spreckels first introduced polo to Coronado in 1909 with the Spreckels Cup Polo Challenge that is now played at San Diego Polo Club.
Polo America, headed by event organizer Randy Russell, is the oldest and largest marketing firm that specializes in promoting the sport of polo. The company’s expertise includes creating and producing a variety of world-class polo events throughout the U.S.
Aspen Valley Polo Club is the nation’s fastest growing USPA polo club. The club, which recently broke ground for two more fields, enjoyed increased membership this past summer and continued to grow and introduce polo throughout the valley.
Polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding areas with the club’s offerings of various weekly tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, indoor and outdoor arena polo, charitable events and The Polo School. Practice sessions are always held for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.