WELLINGTON, Fl., March 8----With a former hockey player in the lineup, Orchard Hill rallied for a 15-12 victory over Travieso on Day 4 of the $100,000 World Cup Friday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
With 26-goal Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres, Steve Van Andel) focused on Sundaymorning’s U.S. Open game against Audi, the defending champions sent a talented backup team.
The foursome of Frank Evans, minus-1, Lucas Criado Jr., 0, Felipe Vercellino, 5, and Lucas Criado, 8, moved Orchard Hill from a 26-goal team to a 12-goal team against 6-goal Travieso (Mackie Weisz, 0, Tony Calle, 2, Julio Ezcurra, 4, Juanse Olivera, 0).
Orchard Hill spotted Travieso a six-goal lead to start the game. After five chukkers, Orchard Hill scored four unanswered goals in the final chukker to clinch the win in one of the most competitive games in the 0-26 goal winner-take-all, single-elimination tournament.
During a practice session on Wednesday, Lucas Criado asked Evans, a minus-one player, to join the team. The former hockey player jumped at the opportunity.
“Orchard Hill wanted to play but they had a U.S. Open game scheduled so they turned to Lucas and he put a couple guys together,” Evans explained.
At age 60, Evans got on a horse for the first time and four years later is playing polo. He is the oldest player in the tournament.
“I absolutely love this,” Evans said. “Being a lifetime hockey player doesn’t help riding a horse. It would be hockey on horseback if I could ride like I can skate. I love the game and I am having fun.”
Evans held his own against Weisz and Olivera, both 14, and Calle, 22.
“The young kids beat me up all the time, but it’s a pleasure,” Evans said. “It was great making up the six-goal deficit. It just shows you how nicely the handicap system works. I thought it was a very fair game and made the playing field proper.”
Playing together for the first time, Travieso led for five chukkers, 7-3, 8-6, 10-7, 11-8 and 12-10.
“We put the 26-goal team in the tournament when we saw the World Cup was starting to play a few games before the U.S. Open,” Criado said. “But the U.S. Open had already started which is why we put this team together.
“This is a fun team with my son, Frank and Felipe,” Criado said. “I like the format. We play these kind of tournaments in Argentina, we have a few with handicaps like this. It is a different way to play polo. It is fun because sometime young kids start to play this level and if they have a good game they can beat the higher ranked teams.”
Criado Jr., 13, who had four goals after two chukkers, and his father combined for four goals in the final chukker to put the game away. Criado Jr. finished with nine goals including four penalty-two conversions.
“I am very happy, the team was very fun,” said Criado Jr., who started playing polo when he was 6. “It’s fun when my father passes me the ball. It was hard to catch up but we started scoring goals.”
Criado Sr. added four goals and Vercellino had two.
“You never know if you are going to make up the goals, it’s hard to start down by six and the other four guys are playing really well,” Vercellino said. “I played before with Lucas but this is my first time with Frank and Lucas Jr.
“The game was really fun, it was a different kind of game,” said the 22-year-old Vercellino. “I want to keep playing this tournament.”
Trailing 12-11 going into the sixth chukker, Criado scored the tying goal, 12-12, with 6:10 remaining. Vercellino converted a penalty-six to give his team the lead for the first time. Criado and his son added two more goals.
“We had to go chukker by chukker,” Criado said. “They are all really good kids and friends on both teams. They are going to be the future of polo.”
Orchard Hill will now play La Dalila in the second round.
The final game of the first round is Saturday at 4 p.m. at Grand Champions featuring 13-goal San Saba (Dawn Jones, Luis Saracco, Tomas Garbarini, Luis Echezarreta) against 7-goal Deeridge (Will Jacobs, Santos Bollini, Lucas Lalor, Wes Finlayson). Deeridge will begin with a 6-goal advantage. Jones and England’s Lolly Stanhope-White of The Polo School are the only women competing in the 16-team tournament.
After the final opening round game is completed, Grand Champions Polo Club manager Juan Olivera will announce the second round matchups scheduled to start on Sunday.
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 is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club, with 11 polo fields, 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: Saturday, 4 p.m., San Saba vs. Deeridge, GCPC Field 2; Second round, Sunday and Monday.
APRIL: 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 and Flexjet. 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.