WELLINGTON, Fl., March 4----Valiente took center stage on opening day of the highly-anticipated $100,000 World Cup.
With the largest field and richest prize purse in Grand Champions Polo Club history on the line, Valiente swept both first round games at Valiente Polo Farm in front of good crowds and ChukkerTV worldwide audience in the 0-26 goal tournament.
In Tuesday’s opening game, Valiente I (Bob Jornayvaz, Bautista Panelo, Pablo Spinacci, Adolfo Cambiaso) defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Magoo Laprida, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 16-13, to advance into the second round against the winner of San Saba and Deeridge.
In the second game, Valiente II (Rob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanaugh, Tomas Garcia del Rio) beat Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres), 13-7. Valiente II will meet the winner of Sebucan and The Polo School.
If Valiente I and Valiente II make it all the way to the final, it would be the first time in five years the teams have played against each other. “We did it before and we could do it again,” said Rob Jornayvaz.
World Cup action continues Wednesday with three games:
International Polo Club, 16 goals, (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray) plays Palm Beach Illustrated, 21 goals (Jared Zenni, Agustin Obregon, Santi Torres, Tommy Collingwood) at 10 a.m. at Grand Champions Field One.
La Dalila (TBA, Maco Llambias, Pablo Dorignac, Francisco Ayala), 13 goals, plays Equuleus, 4 goals, (Martin Rodriguez, Marcos Telechea, Daniel Tagliaferro, Luis Funes) at noon at Santa Rita Polo Farm Aspen Field.
Sebucan, 5 goals, (Benji Daniels, Justin Daniels, Pablo Pulido, Juan Olivera) plays The Polo School, 5 goals, (Rick Desich, JJ Celis, Lolly Stanhope-White, Alex Webb) at 3 p.m. at Santa Rita Buenos Aires.
VALIENTE I 16, AUDI 13
Rated at 18 goals, Valiente I started with an 8-0 lead over 26-goal Audi. Valiente I pulled ahead for an 11-2 lead after the opening quarter and 12-2 early in the second chukker after Jornayvaz scored on a nearside shot.
Audi clawed its way back into contention and by the fifth chukker was back in the game. Audi outscored Valiente I, 2-0 in the fifth chukker and 3-1 in the final chukker but ran out of time and was eliminated from the single-elimination tournament.
Audi missed several scoring opportunities throughout the game against a stingy defense. By the third chukker, Valiente had seven knock-ins.
Had the game been played on the flat, Audi would have won, 13-8.
Spinacci led Valiente I with four goals. Panelo had one goal and Jornayvaz and Cambiaso each had one. For Audi, Roldan had a game-high six goals. Ganzi had three and Laprida and Astrada each had two. Cambiaso’s horse Creciente was named Best Playing Pony.
VALIENTE II 13, FLEXJET 7
Valiente II jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening chukker and 7-2 after the second. Flexjet, playing in only its second game together, could get no closer than 7-5 when Nico Pieres converted a penalty-four with 2:16 left in the fourth chukker.
“The first few chukkers they were playing with hunger,” Jornayvaz said. “I think their priority is probably the U.S. Open.”
Valiente II took Flexjet out of its game with its tight, ball-hawking defense. In the final two chukkers, Valiente II outscored Flexjet, 5-2.
“It’s always fun playing with this team,” said Tomas Garcia Del Rio, who recently finished his 20-goal season with Goose Creek. “I played with them last year. It’s easy to play on a team that is so well-organized from one end to another.
“Our team did well today. I think we were focused on this tournament and they were thinking about the U.S. Open and they were using today to get ready for their game.”
Zavaleta scored a game-high five goals. Jornayvaz added three goals and Cavanagh had two.
Zavaleta and Cavanagh looked in good form to join Cambiaso and Bob Jornayvaz for Wednesday’s U.S. Open opener against defending champion Orchard Hill at 5 p.m. at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
For Flexjet, brothers Gonzalito and Nico Pieres each had three goals. Andrade added one. It was Nico Pieres’ first game with his U.S. Open teammates since returning from Dubai.
Gonzalito Pieres’ 9-year-old Bay mare Nerea was selected Best Playing Pony.
After opening day action, players seemed to like the 0-26 goal format.
“The 0-26 is fun,” Rob Jornayvaz said. “It’s fun because it’s different than every other tournament. Playing in a 20- or 12-goal it’s normal. But realistically for this one you have to plan a bit more beforehand. How are you going to play? How are you going to use those goals? How are you going to make up a deficit? The next team we play we have to give goals so we have to figure out how we are going to play that way. I have never played in a game yet this season where we had to give goals.”
Added Garcia Del Rio, “The format is different. In Argentina we know how it is because there is a big tournament Copa Republica that is similar. It is fun for a change to do something different.”
“I like this format, for sure, it is really good fun,” said former 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres, who competed once in the Copa Republica. “It is a good opportunity for young players who are playing medium or low goal to get a chance to compete against the higher goal teams at a good facility.”
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” Melissa Ganzi said. “I would like it to be 0-40 like it is in Argentina and that way it doesn’t matter what goal level. It allows more people to participate.”
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 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: Wednesday, 10 a.m., IPC vs. Palm Beach Illustrated at Grand Champions Polo Club Field One; noon, La Dalila vs. Equuleus at Santa Rita Aspen; 3 p.m., Sebucan vs. The Polo School at Santa Rita Buenos Aires; 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.
DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; hotline 561-373-0073.
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.