WELLINGTON, Fl., March 3----The much-anticipated $100,000 World Cup opens Tuesday with the largest field and richest prize purse in Grand Champions Polo Club history.
One of the most prestigious tournaments in polo, featuring a club record sixteen teams from 0-to-26 goal rating, will open with a doubleheader at Valiente Polo Farm.
Valiente I, led by 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, plays Audi at 10 a.m. and Valiente II plays Flexjet, led by 9-goalers Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade, at 4 p.m. Valiente Polo Farm will host both games.
World Cup games are scheduled every day this week at either Grant Champions Polo Club, Santa Rita Polo Farm or Valiente.Wednesday’s schedule features a tripleheader at 10 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.
The World Cup is the second of two classic and prestigious tournaments that Grand Champions owners and high goal polo players Melissa and Marc Ganzi are reviving thanks to the generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where they were last played in the late 1990s. The first tournament they revived was the Sterling Cup.
The World Cup has the richest prize purse offered in a tournament in the club’s 10-year history. Grand Champions is trying to recapture the legacy and prestige of polo’s glory days.
Making it even more interesting is the tournament is open to teams 0-26 goal on handicap, similar to the Copa Republica in Argentina where teams of any handicap from 0-to-40 can compete.
“In Argentina they find that more teams in the 20-goal range end up winning the tournament,” said Tony Coppola, the legendary voice of polo during Saturday’s World Cup draw.
In World Cup play, GSA, a 12-goal team with teenagers Henry Porter, Torito Ruiz, Santino Magrini and Juan Martin Zubia, would get a 14-goal advantage if it takes on a 26-goal team.
The lowest rated team is Equuleus at four goals and highest ranked teams are Orchard Hill, Audi, Valiente and Flexjet at 26 goals.
International Polo Club Palm Beach is sponsoring a team with Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray, one of the pre-tournament favorites. IPC opens play against Villa del Lago Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Grand Champions.
“We are very excited that the World Cup is coming to Grand Champions Polo Club,” polo manager Juan Olivera said. “It is a great tournament.”
The prestigious World Cup is a tournament steeped in tradition. American businessman and polo player Bill Ylvisaker, then CEO of a Fortune 200 battery company in Chicago, created the Gould World Polo Championship with a prize purse of $150,000.
It was first held in 1976 at the Butler Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ylvisaker's staff sent out invitations to countries all over the world known to have top-ranked pro polo teams.
Three teams from the United States were recruited and joined Mexico, India, England and Argentina in the field. The inaugural event was won by Argentina, attracted great crowds and was deemed a success.
In 1977, Ylvisaker bought 2,000 acres to develop a polo resort. The Palm Beach Polo and Country Club was built with 14 polo fields and soon became the polo capital of the world.
The first season at the new club featured the $150,000 Michelob World Cup Polo Championship. Held April 3-15, it was the highlight of the season attracting top players and sponsors from around the world. Back then it was the world’s richest and most premier polo event and one of the most significant polo championships.
In 1988, Landmark purchased the club for $25 million and continued the club’s growth until it was sold at auction in 1993 to Straub.
The tournament will be 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 in all walks of life 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).
APRIL: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), APRIL 4-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), single- elimination:Tuesday, 10 a.m., Audi at Valiente; 4 p.m., Flexjet at Valiente; Wednesday, 10 a.m., IPC vs. Villa del Lago; noon, La Dalila vs. Equuleus at Santa Rita; 3 p.m., Sebucan vs. The Polo School at Santa Rita;Thursday, 10 a.m., Casa Dio vs. GSA; Friday, 4:30 p.m., Orchard Hill vs. Travieso; Saturday, 4 p.m., San Saba vs. Deerridge; Second round, April 9-10.
APRIL 5-25: 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.