WELLINGTON, Fl., March 24, 2017---Audi was eliminated from the USPA Gold Cup with a 12-8 loss to undefeated Valiente in Wednesday’s semifinal at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Playing in only its third game of the 2017 season at IPC, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Tomas Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade) stayed within one or two goals in the first five chukkers while holding Cambiaso to one goal.
Audi led Valiente, 2-1, after the opening chukker and 3-2 midway through the second chukker and tied Valiente three times before trailing by one at the half, 6-5.
Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh, Adolfo Cambiaso) led 9-7 early in the fifth chukker before taking advantage of Audi penalties to pull away in the final chukker.
The game was physical and sticky in the second half. Every time Audi tried to find its rhythm and offensive attack, it was assessed a foul.
A frustrated Audi foursome was unable to run its wide open attack or break way for goal runs.
Andrade and Tomas Pieres kept Audi in the game and trailed by 9-7 in the fifth chukker but Cavanagh converted a penalty shot to give Valiente a 10-7 lead going into the final chukker.
The second half featured more action from umpire whistles than polo mallets with 21 fouls. In the sixth chukker, there were only three penalty-two conversions with Gonzalito Pieres scoring on one and Cavanagh scoring the other two.
Audi and Valiente combined for 32 fouls including an uncharacteristic 21 penalties and two yellow cards assessed Audi.
Audi converted 5-of-8 shots from the field and Valiente scored on 5-of-11. Audi improved its penalty conversions (3-of-5) and Valiente converted 7-of-8. Audi edged Valiente in throw-ins, 13-12.
“It was one of those games where they tried to slow it down and we had a tough time getting going,” Jornayvaz said. “You got to give them credit, they had a strategy. They did a good job of slowing it down and when they did they did well and when we sped up we did better.”
Gonzalito Pieres scored a team-high six goals. Tomas Pieres and Andrade each scored one. Cavanagh scored a game and season-high 11 goals.
Cambiaso has won a record 12 Gold Cup titles including four of the last five seasons. Audi won in 2015.
“It’s good to be in another final, that’s what we are here for, to play finals and try to win it,” said Cambiaso, still the world’s top player in the sport at age 41.
The 10-goaler may have bruised or broken a rib in the sixth chukker during the physical contest.
“I hope he didn’t break a rib, we’ll see,” Jornayvaz said. “He is as tough as they come. They don’t come much tougher.”
After winning the first 26-goal tournament of the season, Valiente is two tournament titles away from winning its first Triple Crown.
“We are not thinking about that, we are taking it one game at a time and right now it’s Coca-Cola on Sunday,” Jornayvaz said. “They are a good team and getting better and better. Gillian is extremely well-mounted. It will be a good final. ”
“I am happy to be in another final and lucky because we didn’t play the way we wanted,” Cambiaso said. “We won anyway. We need to improve. I am happy that we won even though I think the team can improve.”
In the other semifinal, Coca-Cola rallied for an 11-10 victory over Orchard Hill in overtime on Julian de Lusaretta’s short backhand shot into goal after Arellano missed a 60-yard penalty shot and the ball was deflected into Lusaretta’s line of fire. Lusaretta finished with five goals. Coca-Cola came from behind to score three goals in the final three minutes of regulation after winning three-of-four throw-ins.
Coca-Cola, which has never won the USPA Gold Cup, will face Valiente, winners of the C.V. Whitney Cup, on Sunday at 3 p.m. on Engel & Volkers Field.
Audi will now sit out the March 26-April 2 USPA Butler Handicap Cup while Grand Champions Polo Club's other pro team Flexjet will compete with Melissa Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Nic Roldan. It will be Flexjet's 2017 season debut.
Audi and Flexjet will both compete in the U.S. Open. Audi’s lineup will be Marc Ganzi, Magoo Laprida, Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Nic Roldan. Flexjet’s roster is Melissa Ganzi, Nico Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade.
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. Facundo Sola scored the winning goal with 2:57 left for a 12-11 win.
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 will also be 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: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal): Friday, 3 p.m., Cavalleria Toscana vs. Horseware at Santa Rita Polo Farm; Saturday, noon, Sebucan vs. GCPC at Santa Rita; Sunday, 10 a.m., Hawk Hill vs. Willow Farm at Santa Rita; 10 a.m., Cavalleria Toscana vs. Pony Express at Santa Rita; noon, The Polo School at Equuleus; 12:30 p.m., Horseware at Patagones; Limited Edition 8-Goal Series: Saturday,10 a.m., Hawk Hill vs. Smithfield at GCPC; Top Pony 12-Goal Series: Friday, 4:30 p.m., Skaneateles at Patagones; Sunday, noon, Skaneateles vs. High Ground at old Travieso.
MARCH 17-APRIL 1: Molina Cup (20 goal); March 24, Friday, Goose Creek at Valiente, 11 a.m., Travieso vs. Dutta Corp, 2 p.m.; March 26, Sunday, Travieso vs. Casablanca, 10 a.m.; March 29,Wednesday, Semifinal Game One, March 30, Thursday, Semifinal Game Two, April 1, Final; 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).
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.