WELLINGTON, Fl., March 28, 2016----Dubai, making its U.S. high goal polo debut this season, won its first major title with a thrilling 12-11 victory over Audi in the USPA Gold Cup final Sunday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Led by the Adolfo Cambiaso, at age 40 the world's top-rated polo player, Dubai finished the tournament undefeated at 5-0. It was Cambiaso's 11th Gold Cup title, tying White Birch patron Peter Brant for most wins by a player.
Defending champion Audi, looking to win back-to-back titles and third Gold Cup in six years, finished 3-2.
The game featured seven lead changes and seven ties. After a close first half that ended 7-7, Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola, Adolfo Cambiaso) took a 10-7 lead in the fourth chukker with goals from Cambiaso, Sola (40-yard penalty) and Taranco.
Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Freddie Mannix) tied the game twice (10-10 and 11-11) before Sola scored the winning goal on a 30-yard penalty shot.
Audi had an opportunity to tie the game again with less than a minute left to play. Dubai was awarded a penalty shot at midfield with 42 seconds left when Pieres stole the loose ball after the hit. Pieres drove down the right sideboards before hitting a 100-yarder just falling 15 yards shy of the goal posts
Audi had other opportunities to win the game but untimely penalties stalled its rallies. In the second half, Audi committed eight fouls to Dubai's two and finished with 16 fouls to Dubai's 13. While penalty conversions were even (5-of-5) by both teams, Audi converted only 6-of-14 shots from the field.
"It was a very tough game, either team could win it, we were just a little lucky," said Cambiaso, wearing a bandage on his chin after getting hit with a mallet in Wednesday's semifinal against Coca-Cola. The gash required 12 stitches to close.
Albwardy, Dubai's team captain, Taranco and Sola were emotional in the players' tent after the game
"It is something you dream about playing with the greatest player in the world and winning a Triple Crown tournament," Albwardy said. "I never thought I would play in the U.S. and win."
Sola was named Most Valuable Player after scoring six goals including the game-winner. Four of his goals were on penalty conversions. Cambiaso had five goals.
Pieres had a game-high eight goals including four on penalty shots. Andrade had two goals and Mannix added one.
Flow, a 7-year-old Dark Bay English thoroughbred ridden by Cambiaso was selected Best Playing Pony. The mare is making its Florida debut this season.
Pieres' horse Nerea was awarded the Stella Artois "She's A Thing of Beauty" award.
In the subsidiary Tesoro Cup, White Birch defeated Valiente,13-9. Hilario Ulloa was named MVP after scoring nine goals including six on penalties. Ventura was Best Playing Pony.
At Sunday's game stadium flags were flown at half-staff in honor of polo patriarch Bob Daniels, 74, who died early Saturday morning from injuries sustained during a polo game on Wednesday at his Pony Express field in Wellington.
Before Sunday's game, six sons, including his three youngest, Justin, Benji and Landen, all top junior polo players taught by their father and who competed at Grand Champions, rode out to midfield with a riderless horse led by his top pro and coach Tomas Goti in his honor. The sellout crowd held a moment of silence for one of the sport's pioneers and most beloved players.
Carlitos Gracida, the son of legendary polo great Carlos Gracida, who was also killed in a polo accident two years ago, wrote the young sons a poignant note.
"Loosing your dad is so hard. I've felt what you boys feel and it sucks but just look at it as an opportunity to become a man at a young age..."
A memorial service and asado will be held for Daniels at the Pony Express barn (12940 S. 50th Street) in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m. Daniels was cremated. Some of his ashes will be scattered over the polo field at Pony Express Farms. Flowers may be sent there. Memorial donations may be made to the Polo Training Foundation. Condolences can be sent to 11348 Longmeadow Drive, Wellington, Fla. 33414.
The USPA Gold Cup is the second 26-goal tournament of America's Triple Crown in polo. The 112th U.S. Open, the final jewel, gets under way Saturday with two games. Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Tincho Merlos, Sebastian Merlos, Nic Roldan) plays Lucchese at 10 a.m. and Coca-Cola plays Dubai at 5 p.m.
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-Dubai final was livestreamed 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 is the nation's busiest and most innovative polo club with tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal.
Grand Champions Polo 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 29, Tuesday, Santa Rita Handicap Final, noon; Semifinals, 2 and 4 p.m; April 2, Saturday, Final, 3 p.m.
12-Goal, Top Pony 12-Goal Series, March 29, Tuesday, Wildcat vs. Flexjet, 3:30 p.m.; March 30, Wednesday, 1 p.m.; April 2, Saturday, Final, 1 p.m.; April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup.
8-Goal, The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series: April 2, Saturday, Final, 11 a.m.; USPA Regional President's Cup; April, USPA Association Cup.
6-Goal, Madelon Bourdain Memorial: March 29, Tuesday, Seacap vs. Longfield Farm, 5 p.m.; March 30, Wednesday, Pony Express vs. Valiente, 3 p.m.; March 31, Thursday, March 31, Longfield Farm vs. Smithfield, 5 p.m.; April 3, Sunday, Final, 11 a.m.; 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 Saturday featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.