Audi, Casablanca Will Play For USPA North American Cup Sunday At Grand Champions Polo Club

  Mike Azzaro of Casablanca follows up his hit downfield.

Mike Azzaro of Casablanca follows up his hit downfield.

WELLINGTON, FL--November 4, 2017---Audi and Casablanca will play for the coveted USPA North American Cup Sunday in the first of two 20-goal fall tournaments at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Casablanca (Mike Azzaro, 6, Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 3, Julio Arellano, 8) advanced with an impressive 13-9 victory over Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, 1, Kris Kampsen, 6, Louis Escobar, 5, Mariano Gonzalez, 7).

Casablanca, making its fifth championship finals appearance during the fall season, will be looking for its third tournament victory. Casablanca won the US Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic earlier this season.

Audi (Guille Aguero, 6, Brandon Phillips, 5, Marc Ganzi, 2, Carlucho Arellano, 5) was also impressive in its 11-6 win over defending champion Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Jason Crowder, 6, Tincho Merlos, 9, Juan Bollini, 5) in a rematch of last year's final.

On Sunday, at 10 a.m. Flexjet plays Goose Creek in the Just For The Love Of It Cup subsidiary game followed by the championship final at noon. Both games will be live streamed worldwide by USPA Polo Network and ChukkerTV.

Audi, a 17-goal team, started off with a 3-0 lead on handicap against 20-goal Flexjet and quickly pulled away behind a wide open, balanced offensive attack for a 7-1 lead by the end of the second chukker. Flexjet came within three goals of closing the gap in the third and fifth chukkers but Audi kept its composure and lead.

"It's always easy to give up those three goals pretty fast so we tried to make sure we came out strong in the first chukker and that worked out well," Marc Ganzi said. "The second chukker we played even stronger, that was our best chukker I think. 

"We tried to make sure Tincho didn't get in a rhythm because when he does you are in trouble at this level. He never found full rhythm which was good. But we got lucky because he got off a plane today from Argentina."

Flexjet had its share of scoring opportunities and shut out Audi in the third and fourth chukkers. Audi had the advantage in knock-ins, 12-4.

"They shot at goal alot, " Ganzi said. "Imagine if half those goals had gone in, we lose by two. The game felt close inside the field, the score didn't indicate that on the board."

Audi has won the USPA North American Cup three times and Casablanca once.

"The last time I won this was with Carlos Gracida so certainly it would be nice to win it in the memory of Carlos," Ganzi said. 

Phillips scored a game-high six goals for Audi. Marc Ganzi and Carlucho Arellano each scored one goal. Juan Bollini led Flexjet with three goals. Melissa Ganzi, Merlos and Crowder each scored one.

The Casablanca-Goose Creek game was a trip back in time with Arellano and Azzaro as teammates for the first time in more than a decade. Paired with young talents Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini and lightning-quick horses, Casablanca looked unbeatable.

Casablanca jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the third chukker behind Arellano's hot mallet with four goals in the first two chukkers. Casablanca led every chukker, 4-0, 6-0, 9-2, 11-4 and 11-6 but Goose Creek made it interesting in the final two chukkers. Goose Creek shut down Casablanca, 2-0 in the fifth and outscored them 3-2 in the final chukker to come within four.

"It was so much fun playing with Mike," Arellano said. "It was so easy out there with him. I am very happy with the win. Once we were able to capitalize in the first chukker on some goals it was kind of maintaining everything, playing good defense and that opened everything up.

"We will try and get ready for Sunday, it will be a tough game. Those guys played well. They had a big lead, too. 

"I love playing together with Juancito and Grant, we played a lot together in the spring with Gene Goldstein," Arellano said. It's great to get to play with them and Mike tried to fill in Gene's spot."

Julio Arellano scored a game-high six goals for Casablanca including three in the opening chukker. Juancito Bollini had four goals and Azzaro added three. For Goose Creek, Brennan and Kampsen each had three goals, Escobar scored two and Gonzalez added one.

Grant Ganzi will be looking for his third North American Cup title. Last year he won with Flexjet teammates Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan and Jared Sheldon. Three years ago, he won the title with Casablanca teammates Kris Kampsen, Sheldon and Roldan. 

The USPA North American Cup has a rich tradition in history dating back to 1974. The tournament has been a mainstay in American and Canadian polo for decades at the 16 and 20-goal level. The inaugural winner was Tulsa with Hall of Famers John T. Oxley and Billy Linfoot, Corky Linfoot and Jim MacGinley. During the late 1990s and early 2000s Calgary Polo Club hosted the tournament. The tournament has been held at Grand Champions since 2011.

On Saturday, the Daylight Savings Cup final will be held at 3 p.m. at Santa Rita Polo Farm's Aspen Field. The game features 12-goal Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Lucas Arellano, 1, Jeff Blake, 6, Carlitos Gracida, 4) against 11-goal Patagones (Gilles Blain, 0, Benjamin Avendano, 1, Jesse Bray, 5, Pablo Dorignac, 5).

Grand Champions is one of only two clubs in the nation to host two 20-goal tournaments, the USPA North American  Cup and USPA National 20-Goal in the fall.

Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi 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.

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.

Casablanca, founded by polo players who understand the needs of today's polo players, supplies a wide variety of polo products, equipment and apparel through superior quality, value and service around the world. Behind the Casablanca brand is a serious pledge to quality, excellence and elegance.

Four of the club's six fall tournaments have already been successfully held. The fifth tournament, the Pedro Morrison Memorial final was postponed because of wet fields and will be rescheduled. 

The first four tournament winners were: Audi, which defeated Casablanca, 11-10, in overtime to win the Tackeria Invitational; Casablanca bounced back with wins in the US Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic; and Sebucan knocked off Casablanca to win the USPA Fall Plates.

The highlight of the fall season is the Nov. 25 doubleheader with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo and International Cup pitting defending champion Team USA against Brazil. Sponsorship packages are still available and tickets are on sale.

During the fall season, roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams to help improve players skills and performance. The games also give players an opportunity to work young horses.

During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.

Grand Champions Polo Cup attracted a record 72 teams during its 2017 winter season that featured the $100,000 World Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal, 20-Goal Sterling Cup and 20-Goal Molina Cup, and another 18 teams during the spring season.

The entire fall season will be live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology. ChukkerTV also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.

Grand Champions Polo Club 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 unique program.