WELLINGTON, Fl., April 4, 2016----Heathcote led from start to finish to defeat Wildcat, 15-8, in the championship final of the Top Pony 12-Goal Series Tournament Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The team of Gene Goldstein, Lucas Arellano, Michel Dorignac and Tatin Zubiaurre jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening chukker and never relinquished the lead.
“I am really happy the team won,” Dorignac said. “To win with a team that you enjoy, have the chemistry, great teamwork and you support each other doesn’t happen very often.”
Dorignac, the team’s field general, was named Most Valuable Player. Dorignac’s 12-year-old Argentine thoroughbred Medialuna was selected Best Playing Pony.
“Tatin and I watched the tape of their semifinal game and we talked about a game plan,” Dorignac said. “We said let’s go out, play our best horses the first part and try to dominate them from the very beginning and it worked.”
Zubiaurre supplied most of Heathcote’s offensive firepower with a game-high eight goals. Dorignac had three goals. Goldstein and Arellano each had two goals.
Wildcat, making its Grand Champions debut, featured Ryan Gilbertson, Nick Johnson, Steve Krueger, Jason Crowder and Tommy Biddle. Gilbertson, Johnson and Krueger each scored two goals.
Wildcat was dealt a severe blow in the first chukker when Crowder suffered a severe knee sprain and after trying to play with the injury was forced to leave the game.
With Wildcat trailing, 6-3, Biddle replaced Crowder in the lineup with 4:37 left in the third chukker.
“It was not a concern when Tommy came in. We knew we had to remain patient and focused,” Dorignac said. “We didn’t want to give them a chance to gain their momentum.”
Wildcat was unable to get closer than three goals in the second half. Heathcote maintained a four-goal cushion in the fifth chukker and extended its lead in the final chukker.
At 16, Arellano, the youngest player in the final, played well filling in for Oak Thorn who was sidelined earlier in the tournament with a collarbone injury.
“Lucas played amazing,” Dorignac said. “I think he is one of America’s up and coming players. It’s amazing how much he improved from the first game. We filled him up with confidence and every game he played better and better. He finished the final playing great.”
Arellano, the oldest son of Coca-Cola’s Julio Arellano, one of the top U.S. players, enjoyed gaining experience from his older teammates.
“I’m really happy we won, it was a lot of fun playing with these guys,” Arellano said. “They are all super nice and they helped me out.
“It was important to jump on them early. They almost came back in the second chukker. Both Jason and Tommy are really good players.”
The Heathcote-Wildcat final can be seen on 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
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, Madelon Bourdain Memorial, April 4, Monday, Final, Grand Champions at Valiente, 1 p.m.; April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial
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, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; 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.