WELLINGTON, Fl., March 13, 2017---In a wild finish, Grand Champions Polo Club-based Audi lost its USPA Gold Cup opener to Orchard Hill Sundayin front of a stunned crowd at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
With seconds left, Facundo Pieres raced from midfield to score the winning goal for an 8-7 come-from-behind victory in the featured stadium match on Engel & Volkers Field.
With less than a minute left in regulation time and looking like overtime, Orchard Hill fouled Audi setting up a penalty-five at midfield. Juan Chavanne forced a steal to set up Pieres’ lightning-quick breakaway run to goal as time ran out.
Audi (Marc Ganzi, Tomas Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade) was making its 2017 season debut at IPC in the second 26-goal tournament.
Orchard Hill featured Juan Chavanne, Polito Pieres, Facundo Pieres and Steve Van Andel. The game featured four Pieres from a legendary polo family: brothers Gonzalito and Facundo and cousins Tomas and Polito.
Ten-goaler Facundo Pieres scored a game-high seven goals, including four on penalty conversions. Pieres was named Most Valuable Player and his horse, Jazzita, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Audi got balanced scoring from Gonzalito Pieres and Andrade, each with three goals and 6-goaler Tomas Pieres, making his team debut, added one goal.
Audi started off strong shutting out Orchard Hill in the opening chukker with goals from Gonzalito Pieres and Andrade for a 2-0 advantage. The game turned into a sticky defensive battle after that with both teams missing plenty of scoring opportunities.
Audi was taken out of its trademark wide open game and let Orchard Hill back in the game with its lack of offense and mental errors.
In the third, fourth and fifth chukkers, Audi could hit only 2-of-8 shots from the field and missed two penalty conversions. Its defense, however, was stalwart shutting out Orchard Hill in the first, fourth and fifth chukkers.
In the first half, Orchard Hill was 1-of-6 and Audi 4-of-6 from the field. Audi was 0-for-3 in penalty conversions and Orchard Hill was 3-of-4.
Midway through the sixth chukker, Audi still had a two-goal advantage in the low scoring game for a 6-4 lead. Facundo Pieres rallied his team for three consecutive goals and 7-6 lead. Tomas Pieres took the throw-in and raced to goal for a 7-7 tie in the final minute.
Audi finished the game converting 6-of-12 shots from the field and Orchard Hill, 4-of-17, for a season-low 24 percent. Audi could manage only 1-of-4 penalty conversions and Orchard Hill converted 4-of-5. The fouls and throw-ins were close with Audi leading in fouls, 8-7, and Orchard Hill leading in throw-ins, 12-10.
Audi, one of the sport’s winningest organizations, is one of four teams in the 26-goal field. Coca-Cola, Orchard Hill and Valiente are the others.
Audi will play Coca-Cola, 11-10 losers to C.V. Whitney champion Valiente in the tournament-opener, this Sunday in the featured match at 3 p.m.Orchard Hill and Valiente play at noon.
The USPA Gold Cup is the second jewel in polo’s Triple Crown in the U.S. and second 26-goal tournament at IPC. It was established in 1974 at Oak Brook Polo Club in Oak Brook, Ill. and also featured four teams.
Audi last won the USPA Gold Cup in 2015 with Marc and Grant Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Fred Mannix, 16-15 winners over Orchard Hill. Audi was runner-up to Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola, Adolfo Cambiaso) last year.
The tournament is being live-streamed on the USPA Polo Network at uspolo.org with content provided by production company and Wellington-based ChukkerTV. All games are available for on-demand viewing.
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.
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 GRAND CHAMPIONS WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
March 13-15: Sterling Cup (20 goal), Monday, Semifinal, Casablanca vs. Valiente, at Valiente Farm, 4 p.m.; Wednesday, Final, 4 p.m.
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal), Limited Edition 8-Goal Series and Top Pony 12-Goal Series.
MARCH 14: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament Final, 4p.m. Tuesday, Casablanca vs. GSA.
MARCH 15-April 1: The Molina Cup 20-Goal, Draw, Monday, National Golf Club, 7:30 p.m.; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
Women’s League, every Wednesday, 10 and 11 a.m.
APRIL 1-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all, single- elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 5-8: WCT Finals, Women’s Polo Week and Celebration of Sunny Hale’s Life.
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 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.