WELLINGTON, Fl., March 14, 2016----Audi, still not playing its best polo, was good enough to knock off defending U.S. Open champion Valiente on Sunday in the USPA Gold Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Audi continued its title defense with a 9-7 victory.
The defending USPA Gold Cup champion team of Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix are now 2-0 and assured a quarterfinal berth. Valiente is winless at 0-2.
Audi is 2-0 in its bracket followed by Coca-Cola and Flexjet at 1-1 and Valiente 0-2.
"This is what we have to do," said Audi 7-goaler Freddie Mannix. "We win three more games and we lift the trophy again. One game at a time. We have to recover the horses a bit and recover ourselves.
"We were able to do enough to get the victory. The team is solid, we knew the team was good from last year."
Audicontrolled the game early in the first half, shutting out Valiente in the second chukker and building a 3-1 lead in the first chukker and6-3 halftime lead.
Audi led 7-4 after the fourth chukker and 9-6 after the fifth. Valiente came within two goals in the sixth chukker but could get no closer.
"We knew they were going to catch up and be right there," Mannix said. "All the teams this year are good. I don't see any team that's not with a top organization or top player. I think all the games are going to be like this game."
Audi got balanced scoring. Gonzalito Pieres led with four goals, all on penalty shots; Andrade had three and Mannix added two. Valiente was led by Diego Cavanagh with four goals.
"Every win is really tough," Ganzi said. "The teams are super mounted.
"That is the defending U.S. Open champion, that's the way I look at it. The U.S. Open goes through them. Bob comes to win. They are a very good organization."
Audi converted 5-of-9 shots from the field while Valiente could manage only 2-of-13. Valiente converted 4-of-5 penalties and Audi converted 4-of-6. Audi won more throw-ins, 11-9. Valiente edged Audi in fouls, 12-10.
"I am happy with the way they are playing," said Audi coach Hector Guerrero. "They know each other so that is the advantage we have. We played last year together. The team knows how to play. Today was a tough team. We are only worried about us, no one else."
Pieres played well and was 100 percent at the penalty line.
"This one was quite tough because they had a lot of dribbling and position with the ball," Pieres said. "They didn't run as much but they always try to tap the ball and tried to make us a bit lost.
"When they began to come back that was the only problem," Pieres said. "During the game we were all right. We played the second half with a different tactic. It didn't work so good so we went back to what we were doing. It was good for us because we were able to try a few things."
Audi players agreed there is still room for improvement with their overall game.
"There is room for improvement in a lot of areas," Ganzi said. "We have to correct a few things."
Added Mannix, "The truth is, it wasn't my best day. I was able to do enough to get the victory. Now it's just a matter of performing on every game day and having the horses in the top shape so we give it our best shot."
"We know we are not playing that well right now, not our best," Pieres said. "But we are still winning and that's what's important. We know already we are in the quarters and have a chance to be in the semis."
Audi will play Flexjet on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the battle of the Grand Champions Polo Club-based teams.
"We have a tough game on Thursday," Mannix said. "We've played a lot of practice games against them. They are organized. They are going to be a tough team for sure."
In other Sunday games: Coca-Cola defeated Flexjet, 11-9; Dubai knocked off C.V. Whitney Cup champion Orchard Hill, 10-7; and Lucchese defeated White Birch, 10-9, in overtime. Two powerhouse teams, Orchard Hill and Valiente remain winless at 0-2.
Three other bracket play games are scheduled for Thursday: Orchard Hill vs. White Birch, 10 a.m.; Lucchese vs. Dubai, 3 p.m.; and Coca-Cola vs. Valiente, 5 p.m.
The USPA Gold Cup is the second 26-goal tournament of America's Triple Crown in polo.
Audi, recently rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
The Audi-Valiente game was live-streamed by ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting. Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation's busiest and most innovative polo clubs. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo, 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 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
16-Goal: Santa Rita Abierto, March 15, Tuesday, Casablanca vs. SD Farms, 4 p.m.; March 19, Postage Stamp Farm vs. Dutta Corp, 4 p.m.; March 22, Tuesday, Travieso vs. Dutta Corp, noon; Casablanca vs. High Ground/GSA, 4 p.m.; March 24, Thursday, SD Farms vs. High Ground/GSA, noon; Postage Stamp Farm vs. Travieso, 4 p.m.; March 29, Tuesday, Santa Rita Handicap Final, 11 a.m.; Semifinals, 2 and 4 p.m; April 2, Saturday, Final, 3 p.m.
12-Goal, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 15, Tuesday, Final, Pony Express vs. Palm Beach Illustrated, 3:30 p.m.; Top Pony 12-Goal Series, March 18, Friday, Skaneateles vs. Flexjet, 10 a.m.; Palm Beach Polo vs. Heathcote, 4 p.m.; March 20, Sunday, Whitehall Ranch vs. Heathcote, 10 a.m.; Skaneateles vs. Pony Express, 10 a.m.; Palm Beach Polo vs. Beverly Polo, noon; March 23, Wednesday, Pony Express vs. Wildcat, 3:30 p.m.; March 26, Sunday, Pony Express vs. Flexjet, 11 a.m.; March 27, Sunday, Wildcat vs. Skaneateles, 10 a.m.; Beverly Polo vs. Heathcote, 10 a.m.; Whitehall Ranch vs. Palm Beach Polo, 1 p.m.; March 29, Tuesday, Wildcat vs. Flexjet, 3:30 p.m.; April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup.
8-Goal, The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series: March 16, Wednesday, Odosan/Polologistics vs. Smithfield, 3:30 p.m.; March 22, Tuesday, Odosan/Polologistics vs. Longfield Farm, 3:30 p.m.; March 25, Friday, Skaneateles vs. Odosan/Polologistics, 3:30 p.m.; March 26, Saturday, Smithfield vs. Longfield Farm, 1 p.m.; USPA Regional President's Cup; April, USPA Association Cup.
6-Goal, March, Madelon Bourdain Memorial; April, Las Acacias.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, firstname.lastname@example.org; hotline 561-373-0073.
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 a complimentary Argentine asado by Cilantro's during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.