WELLINGTON, Fl., April 1, 2016---Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro teams Audi and Flexjet will be among an eight-team field when the 112th USPA U.S. Open Polo Championship begins Saturday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
It is the third and final jewel of America's Triple Crown of polo.
The third 26-goal tournament of the winter season opens with two games in bracket play.
Flexjet plays Lucchese in the opening game at 10 a.m. Coca-Cola faces Dubai, coming off its USPA Gold Cup victory, at 5 p.m.
Flexjet, playing with a new 2016 lineup, is led by Melissa Ganzi, one of only two women competing in high goal polo. She will be joined by 9-goal brothers Tincho and Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan, America's top-ranked player at eight goals. The foursome is playing in its second tournament of the winter season.
Flexjet's new team has played well in four games, including a win over Audi, and is the tournament darkhorse. The team is coming off the USPA Gold Cup where it lost in the quarterfinals.
On Sunday, Audi opens the tournament against C.V. Whitney Cup champion Orchard Hill at noon. Top-seeded White Birch plays U.S. Open defending champion Valiente in the featured stadium game at 3 p.m.
Audi is coming off its finals loss to Dubai in the Gold Cup. The team is led by 9-goaler Gonzalito Pieres and will be joined by Marc Ganzi, 9-goaler Rodrigo Andrade and 7-goaler Freddie Mannix. It is the only team in the field that played together last season.
"The U.S. Open is the Holy Grail of polo," said Audi patron Marc Ganzi of Wellington, whose team won in 2009 and has been in the finals three other times. "Every game is really tough."
Bracket I features White Birch, Valiente, Coca-Cola and Dubai. Bracket II includes Lucchese, Flexjet, Orchard Hill and Audi. The final is April 24th at 3 p.m.
The remaining six U.S. Open team lineups are:
Coca-Cola: Gillian Johnston, 2, Sugar Erskine, 7, Julio Arellano, 8, Miguel Novillo Astrada, 9.
Dubai: Rashid Albwardy, 2, Alejo Taranco, 6, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10, TBA.
Lucchese: John Muse, A, Magoo Laprida 8, Nico Pieres, 8, Sapo Caset, 10.
Orchard Hill: Steve Van Andel, A, Facundo Pieres, 10, Julian de Lussareta, 6, TBA.
Valiente: Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 7, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 8, TBA.
White Birch: Ezequiel Ferrario, 7, Hilario Ulloa, 9, Mariano Aguerre, 9, Peter Brant 1.
Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. Outback won with MVP Memo Gracida winning his 14th U.S. Open title. IPC has hosted the event since 2004. In 2005, Julio Gracida added to the Gracida family's combined record of 36 U.S. Open Polo Championship wins.
"The U.S. Open is so magical," Memo Gracida said. "Every tournament, every game has its own varieties, difficulties and challenges. The Open I am reminded of the most and kept me going is the first one in 1977. That was the first one to make me continue to try and win it. We have played the Open for four decades and all over the United States."
Historically, the U.S. Open has always been the grand prize of polo in North America, one of three 26-goal Triple Crown tournaments at IPC and oldest tournament in the U.S. It's also one of the three top tournaments in the world. The others are the Argentine and British Opens.
The U.S. Open games are being live streamed on ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting. The Wellington-based company is exclusively live streaming IPC 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 featuring U.S. and international players.
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, April 1, Friday, Postage Stamp Farm vs. SD Farm, 1 p.m.; Casablanca vs. Dutta Corp, 3:30 p.m.; April 3, Sunday, Final, 10 a.m.
12-Goal, Top Pony 12-Goal Series, April 2, Saturday, Final, Heathcote vs. Wildcat, 3 p.m.; April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup.
8-Goal, The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series: Tuesday, April 5, Final, Smithfield vs. Longfield Farm, 4:30 p.m.; USPA Regional President's Cup; April, USPA Association Cup.
6-Goal, Madelon Bourdain Memorial: Friday, April 1, Longfield Farm vs. Smithfield, 2 p.m.; Sunday, April 3, Seacap vs. Longfield Farm, 10 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 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.