WELLINGTON, Fl., February 28, 2017---Dutta Corp and Valiente, with a mix of experienced and up-and-coming players, opened play in the Sterling Cup on a winning note Monday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In front of a worldwide ChukkerTV audience and another good crowd for the second day in a row, Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Carlitos Gracida, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Matias Magrini) looked impressive in its 12-8 victory over Flexjet (Benjamin Avendano, Lucas Lalor, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Jesse Bray).
It was Dutta Corp’s first 20-goal win of the season at Grand Champions.
Teenager Timmy Dutta, at 15, the youngest player in the seven-team tournament, and his teammates have chemistry and it showed throughout the game.
“Our team is built up of two masters and two up-and-coming stars,” Dutta said. “It is amazing to be out there and have Matias and Piki knowing where to be and telling you ‘okay, go there or go back.’ It is amazing to be on the field with amazing players like Piki and Matias.”
Dutta Corp kept its composure throughout the penalty-riddled game, jumping out to a 6-2 halftime lead.
Flexjet tried to reel Dutta Corp in, cutting its lead to one (7-6) at the 4:43 mark of the fifth chukker but Dutta Corp pulled away with three unanswered goals for a 10-6 lead behind two Magrini goals and one by Alberdi.
“Flexjet was a good team, they work hard,” Dutta said. “I am ecstatic with the win.”
At times it was hard for Dutta Corp and Flexjet to find their momentum and rhythm with so many fouls.
“This was our first game,” Magrini said. “We will get better. This is a nice team. I haven’t been playing 20-goal polo for a couple of months and my horses were a bit heavy. It was a very tough game but we won and that’s what was important.”
With his uncle, legendary Hall of Famer Memo Gracida watching from the sidelines, Gracida scored a game-high six goals including two on penalty conversions. Dutta, Alberdi and Magrini each had two goals.
“This was a lot of fun,” Magrini said. “It’s always a pleasure playing with Piki. I love playing with him. I played with Carlitos last year and he is amazing and Timmy is a pleasure to play with. It’s great to try and help the young ones.”
Novillo Astrada led Flexjet with four goals. Lalor had two goals and Avendano, subbing for Melissa Ganzi, and Bray each had one goal.
VALIENTE 10, TRAVIESO 9
Valiente (Rob Jornayvaz, Roberto Zedda, Pablo Spinacci, Diego Cavanah), playing together as a team for the first time, started slow but rallied for a thrilling 10-9 victory over Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barbucci) on Valiente’s home field.
In another penalty-marred game, Valiente fell behind early but rallied in the final chukker to win its opener.
“It took us a while to get ready,” Jornayvaz said. “They have been playing together for two tournaments already, they knew each other. This was our first time of ever being on the field together. We haven’t even had a team practice. We started a little slow.”
Jornayvaz and Cavanah have played together in several tournaments and Spinacci and Zedda have been teammates, but never competed as a foursome.
Valiente, a 19-goal rated team, took an early lead 2-1 lead in the opening chukker before Travieso started controlling the tempo and momentum and penalty line for 2-1 and 3-1 leads in the second and third chukkers for a 6-4 halftime advantage.
Travieso pulled away 8-5 in the fourth chukker and looked to be in the driver’s seat until Spinacci got a hot mallet scoring three consecutive goals to trail by only one (9-8) heading into the final chukker.
“We started playing really well,” Jornayvaz said. “We missed a bunch at the beginning. We got lucky in those last two chukkers. We made a couple really good set plays and slipped through them.”
Valiente settled into a rhythm and took advantage of Travieso mental errors in the sixth chukker. Cavanah scored a reverse neck shot to tie the game with 2:18 left and scored the game-winner on a 30-yard penalty conversion.
“It just came together, we found our rhythm,” Jornayvaz said. “We played a lot more disciplined in the second half. The last two chukkers we dug deep and just said enough with the stupid fouls, let’s just try to play hard on the man all the time and hit the ball.
“We made our set plays for Spinacci to get the ball and run and it worked. He scored three goals back to back to back. That was huge. Had he not made those goals then we would have lost this game.”
Cavanah was coming off 26-goal Valiente’s 12-3 win rout of Coca-Cola and his MVP performance in the C.V. Whitney Cup on Sunday.
Spinacci and Cavanah each scored four goals. Zedda had one goal.
Sebastian Merlos scored a game-high five goals, including five on penalty conversions, for Travieso. Eighteen-year-old Torito Ruiz added three and Tony Calle had one.
On Thursday, a tripleheader is scheduled. Flexjet (0-1) plays Audi (0-1) at 10 a.m. followed by Palm Beach Equine (0-0) and Travieso (0-1) at 12:30 p.m. and Dutta Corp (1-0) and Casablanca (1-0) at3 p.m.
The Sterling Cup is one of two classic and prestigious tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club has revived thanks to generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where the tournaments were last held.
Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi hope to recapture the legacy and prestige of polo’s hey days. If Sunday’s game is any indication of the seven-team tournament caliber of play, polo fans are in for a treat.
The Sterling Cup was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as 18 teams. It was first played in 1989 at the 18-22 handicap.
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.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, 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.
2017 STERLING CUP SCHEDULE
March 2, Thursday, Flexjet vs. Audi, 10 a.m., Palm Beach Equine vs. Travieso, 12:30 p.m., Dutta Corp vs. Casablanca, 3 p.m.; March 5, Sunday, Flexjet vs. Casablanca, 10 a.m.; Valiente vs. Palm Beach Equine, 10 a.m., Dutta Corp vs. Audi,noon; March 8, Mini-Quarters, noon and 3 p.m.; March 11,Saturday, Semifinals, noon and 3 p.m.; March 14, Monday, One Game, 3 p.m.; Wednesday, March 15, Finals, 3 p.m.;Thursday, March 16, Santa Rita Final, 3 p.m.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
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, Flexjet and Casablanca. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes complimentary food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.