WELLINGTON, Fl., March 31, 2017---In one of the best games of the high goal season, Beverly Equestrian Polo knocked off Dutta Corp to advance into the Molina Cup final Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The first-year 20-goal team broke open a close game in the sixth chukker to defeat previously undefeated Dutta Corp, 14-11, Thursday at breezy White Birch Field in front of a good crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience.
Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, Carlucho Arellano, Magoo Laprida, Inaki Laprida) will meet Travieso (Teo Calle, Toroto Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) in the final showdown at 4 p.m.
Travieso advanced into the final with a 10-7 victory over Goose Creek in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
After the Molina Cup final awards presentation, the draw for the $100,000 World Cup, featuring a club record 17 teams, will be held.
With the game tied 9-9 going into the fifth chukker, Arellano, playing well above his 5-goal rating, converted a 30-yard penalty shot after Dutta Corp was called for shading and lost its challenge on the play. Arellano was able to convert despite his horse walking sideways during his approach.
Beverly Equestrian took a 10-9 lead at the 6:35 mark and never relinquished the lead.
“We did a couple switches in our strategy that were key,” Arellano said. “We started off playing open and it worked. Then they shut us down and started beating us to the ball. We stopped opening up and shut them down early on defense. We held the ball, got close to the goal and then shot. Once we were up by a goal, we opened it up again. That’s what I think made the difference.”
Arellano had three goals and Inaki Laprida had two goals in the final two chukkers to enable Beverly Equestrian to outscore Dutta Corp, 5-2. The Obregon family dog was so excited it ran onto the field during the fifth chukker and was quickly escorted off.
“We have never practiced together but I have seen them play so much that I was looking forward to playing with them,” Arellano said of the Laprida brothers.
Beverly Equestrian dominated the throw-ins while brothers Magoo and Inaki Laprida fed off each other. Both were ball-hawkers when needed, stealing the ball and passing to each other and Arellano.
“These two guys are a lot of fun to play with and Bill is a great sponsor to play for,” Arellano said. “There is a very good vibe on this team.”
On a key play with Beverly Equestrian holding a slim lead, 12-11, with 4:35 left in the game, Magoo Laprida stopped Gracida’s 60-yard penalty after a safety call and passed to Arellano, who scored from 30 yards out with 4:02 left for a 13-11 advantage.
“We had to fight all the way, we knew it was going to be tough,” Magoo Laprida said. “We played well on defense and then we scored the goals and that was the key.”
A frustrated Dutta Corp, one of the pre-tournament favorites, tried to claw its way back but penalties and missed scoring opportunities sealed its fate. After another missed goal by Dutta Corp, Arellano came up with an incredible angled shot with 1:14 left to seal the win.
“It’s crazy, I am really happy for Bill, he is a really good guy,” Magoo Laprida said. “He has a nice organization he is starting. I thank my brother and Nacho Figueras for giving me a chance to play with him.”
For Ballhaus, the team patron, it was a dream come true. He only got on a horse five and a half years ago and slowly worked his way through low and medium goal polo before deciding to field a 20-goal team at Grand Champions, which has helped to develop several new teams including Travieso and Dutta Corp.
“I am just happy that we played well today,” Ballhaus said. “We knew that the Dutta team was going to be really tough because we’ve seen them and we played against them.
“It was a good experience for us because we came out with a strategy and it worked,” Ballhaus said. “Then they stopped it and we had to shift our strategy. It was a good experience for our team to go through that and keep our heads. We worked together as a team to adapt and that made the difference in the game.
“Carlucho made some amazing goals,” Ballhaus said. “Magoo was amazing with the ball and Inaki made some amazing plays. The brothers have played together a long time and it shows. You can see it on the field, they know what each other is thinking, they know what they are going to do before they do it. Carlucho is a great complement, he is the ultimate team player and his style sits really well with Inaki and Magoo.
“Everybody just played really well and we had to, to beat this team. It took all of us playing really well together and that’s what we did and that’s how we were able to squeak out a win.”
Ballhaus was pleased with his string of horses that's taken him four years to develop.
“I am really happy with my horses,” Ballhaus said. “I’ve just built up my string over the last three, four years. I had a lot of confidence in my horses but until you play them in a 20-goal league you don’t know how they are going to do. My horses have played absolutely amazing."
Arellano scored a game-high six goals. Inaki Laprida followed with four goals, Magoo Laprida with three and Ballhaus with one goal.
Magrini and Gracida each had three goals for Dutta Corp. Dutta and Alberdi each had two goals.
“Now we play on Saturday,” Arellano said. “It doesn’t give us much time but we will give it our best.”
Travieso is the first team to qualify for back-to-back 20-goal tournament finals during the winter season at Grand Champions.
Travieso will make its second 20-goal tournament final appearance. Travieso (Tony Calle, Torito Ruiz, Sebastian Merlos, Hugo Barabucci) won the prestigious Sterling Cup.
The Molina Cup, a first-year 20-goal tournament, comes on the heels of the successful and historical 20-goal Sterling Cup.
The two-week tournament features a star-studded lineup of some of the world’s top players from six different countries.
The 120-year-old handcrafted silver Molina Cup trophy was given to Marc Ganzi by Alfredo Molina, Chairman of the Phoenix-based Molina Group and owner of Molina Fine Jewelers.
Ganzi was competing in the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships this past fall and admired Molina’s work with the winning trophy presented to two-time defending champion Aspen Valley Polo Club (Melissa Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) at the Scottsdale event.
The tournament is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
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).
FRIDAY, MARCH 31: Series 2 Madelon Bourdieu 6-Goal Final, Hawk Hill at Patagones.
SATURDAY, APRIL 1: Molina Cup 20-goal Championship Final, Beverly Equestrian Polo vs. Travieso, 4 p.m. followed by $100,000 World Cup Draw; Limited Edition 8-Goal Final, Hawk Hill at Valiente, 11 a.m.; Limited Edition 8-Goal Handicap Final, 11 a.m., Skaneateles vs. Smithfield at GCPC; Series 1 Madelon Bourdieu 6-Goal Handicap Final, Grand Champions Polo Club vs. The Polo School at Santa Rita, 11:30 a.m.
SUNDAY, April 2: Top Pony 12-Goal Final, High Ground/GSA at Patagones, 10:30 a.m.; Madelon Bourdieu 6-Goal Final, Sebucan at Equuleus, noon.
APRIL 3-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all, single- elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 21-23: GCPC Abierto.
APRIL 28-30: USPA Eastern Challenge.
MAY 5-7: USPA Sun Cup
MAY 12-14: The Spring Challenge Cup.
MAY 19-21: Polo Gear Invitational.
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.
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.