WELLINGTON, Fl.—November 19, 2016---Flexjet captured the coveted USPA North American Cup with a hardfought 11-9 victory over Audi Friday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
In front of a packed house and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Flexjet (Grant Ganzi, 1, Jason Crowder, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Jared Sheldon, 4) broke a 6-6 halftime deadlock by outscoring Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jesse Bray, 5, Carlucho Arellano, 5, Jeff Blake, 6), 5-3, in the second half and shutting them out in the fourth and sixth chukkers.
“This was a tough game,” Roldan said. “There was not a moment in the game where we thought it was going to get away. They were a super strong team with four tough players with a lot of great chemistry.”
Roldan, America’s top-rated player at eight goals, scored a game-high five goals, including three in the second half and was named Most Valuable Player.
“We had a plan and we stuck to it,” Roldan said. “Grant played great, and so did Jason and Jared. They all played solid. It was a good team effort.
“North American Cup is a great tournament,” Roldan said. “It’s a big tournament. We’re excited. It’s good for Grant, it’s good for Jared, his first time here and good for Jason.”
It was Grant Ganzi’s second North American Cup victory. Two years ago, the Lynn University freshman also won the title for Casablanca with Roldan, Blake and Kris Kampsen.
“In the end, we stopped making fouls and they started making some fouls which helped us and we started making some goals,” said Ganzi, who filled in a starting role for his mother, Melissa, bedridden with the flu.
“I knew it was going to be real physical from the get-go. I knew we had to get a little physical to win the game. It’s a huge win.”
The club’s 20-goal season-opener promised to be a battle and it was after Wednesday’s two opening round games were decided by one goal including one in overtime.
In a physical first half, the lead changed hands six times. Flexjet led 3-2 after the opening chukker and Audi led, 5-4, after the second chukker, before the teams ended deadlocked at 6-6.
The tight battle continued in the second half with Flexjet pulling away for an 8-6 lead after Roldan scored back-to-back goals.
Audi found its offense in the fifth chukker, outscoring Flexjet 3-0 with goals from Marc Ganzi, Bray and Blake for a 9-8 lead at the end of the fifth chukker.
Flexjet roared back with both its stingy defense and offensive firepower with three goals. Grant Ganzi converted a penalty-two to enable Flexjet to tie the game at 9-9. With 4:48 left, Roldan weaved his way through a crowd to score the go-ahead goal and Sheldon added an insurance goal with 1:01 remaining.
After a great defensive play by Crowder on Arellano, Grant Ganzi drew a foul by the sideboards.
“For us that amazing foul by the boards was the game-changer for us,” Roldan said. “There was1:40 left and if we didn’t get that foul we were in trouble. After that, it was just a matter of us controlling the ball, not making a mistake or giving up the ball.”
Sheldon and Grant Ganzi each had three goals for Flexjet. Arellano led Audi with three goals, Bray had two and Marc Ganzi and Blake each had one goal.
Narnia, a 5-year-old Bay mare owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Bray, was named Best Playing Pony.
It was Flexjet’s second consecutive appearance in the North American Cup championship final. Last year’s Flexjet team of Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Crowder and Roldan lost to Travieso’s Tony Calle, JJ Celis, Facundo Obregon and MVP Jesse Bray, 12-6.
In the Handicap Final, Casablanca (Gene Goldstein 1, Juancito Bollini, 3, Julio Arellano, 8, JJ Celis, 4) pulled away for an 8-2 halftime lead and went on to defeat Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, A, Kris Kampsen, 6, Guille Aguero, 6, Carlitos Gracida, 4), 12-6.
Arellano, making his fall tournament debut, was named Most Valuable Player. Arellano scored a game-high five goals. Goldstein added three goals. Bollini and Celis each had two goals. Aguero and Kampsen each had two goals for Dutta Corp.
Sizzurp, an 8-year-old Chestnut mare owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Arellano, was named Best Playing Pony.
During the post-game awards ceremony, Marc Ganzi presented Carlitos Gracida with a framed Mayor’s Proclamation from former Mayor Bob Margolis honoring his father and Hall of Famer Carlos Gracida, who tragically died of injuries suffered during a polo game in February 2014.
The proclamation renamed 40th Street within the Equestrian Preserve to Carlos Gracida Street “so that all of Wellington will be forever reminded that we are a better community today because of Carlos Gracida and the Gracida family,” the Proclamation read.
Carlitos Gracida said he, his brother Mariano and his family are grateful his father was honored. “We are happy to continue the legacy polo-wise and to continue being here in Wellington and helping it grow,” Gracida said.
Grand Champions, the only club in the nation to stage USPA-sanctioned 20-goal tournaments during the fall, will next host the USPA National 20-Goal tournament.
The club closes out its fall season with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo game and fifth annual International Cup featuring Team USA against Uruguay on Nov. 26.
The club hosted eight successful medium goal tournaments during the fall season.
The United States Polo Association® was organized and exists for the purpose of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts.
Flexjet has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the entire fall season worldwide. ChukkerTV’s state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions, with eleven well-manicured fields, is enjoying its finest and busiest fall season in the ten-year history of the club.
Grand Champions 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 uniqueprogram.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
2016 FALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 20-23, USPA National 20-Goal.
Nov. 26, Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and fifth annual International Cup, Team USA vs. Uruguay.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes complimentary food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.