Grand Champions Polo Club Rally Falls Short, Tonkawa Wins First Game In Joe Barry Cup 

Mike Azzaro of Grand Champions outraces Sterling Giannico as Beverly Equestrian's Bill Ballhaus, Carlucho Arellano and Hilario Figueras watch from the sidelines.

Mike Azzaro of Grand Champions outraces Sterling Giannico as Beverly Equestrian's Bill Ballhaus, Carlucho Arellano and Hilario Figueras watch from the sidelines.

WELLINGTON, FL., January 12, 2018---In a wild, rollercoaster game, Grand Champions Polo Club rallied from a seven-goal deficit only to lose a 9-8 heartbreaker to Tonkawa on Thursday in the Joe Barry Cup.

Playing on its home field because of wet fields at International Polo Club Palm Beach, Tonkawa (Jeff Hildebrand, Sterling Giannico, Sapo Caset and Julian de Lussaretta) won its opening game in the 11-team tournament.

Ten-goaler Caset led Tonkawa with six goals, including five in the first half. Azzaro, a former 10-goaler, scored all of his team-high six goals in the final two chukkers, five on penalty conversions. Eight-goaler Nico Pieres was held scoreless.

Scoreless after two chukkers, Ganzi scored Grand Champions only goal in the first half at the 1:27 mark of the third chukker.

Tonkawa outscored Grand Champions 6-1, in the first three chukkers and led 8-1 at the end of four chukkers before Grand Champions scored seven unanswered goals to outscore Tonkawa, 7-3, in the second half.

Azzaro's penalty-two conversion tied the game at 8-8 with less than three minutes left. Caset put Tonkawa back in the lead with a penalty-two conversion at the 2:12 mark. Caset had another scoring opportunity but watched his long attempt sail wide with 1:22 left. Azzaro had one final goal opportunity that also went wide. De Lussareta took possession of the ball and ran out the clock.

"It was like watching two different games in one," Caset said. "I think we relaxed a little bit because we were winning by seven goals. You don't want to look at the scoreboard but you do and maybe you relax on one play or two. 

"Of course, they are trying their best and they are really good. We made some stupid fouls and the game got really close at the end. A win is a win. We didn't panic. They came back but we were still controlling the game and we still won. That is very important to start a tournament like this."

It was a new lineup for Tonkawa who may be the tournament darkhorse.

"This is a really good team, they are all good teammates," Caset said. "We are really happy to win the first game. It was their second game and they had a bit more rhythm than we had. Our horses were a bit heavy for this game and the rain was a factor this week. It wasn't easy to get ready."

Grand Champions is 1-1 after defeating SD Farms, 11-7, in its tournament opener on Monday. Grand Champions will regroup for its next game on Sunday against La Indiana (Michael Bickford, Jeff Hall, Torito Ruiz, Facundo Obregon) in the featured game at 3 p.m.

The tournament continues on Saturday with Colorado vs. Goose Creek at noon and Modere vs. Postage Stamp Farm at 3 p.m. A triple header is scheduled for Sunday. In addition to the Grand Champions game, Coca-Cola takes on Tonkawa at 10 a.m. and Travieso plays SD Farms at noon.

USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season, including the entire Joe Barry Cup tournament, with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV.

The tournament, created in 2005, is named after Joe Barry, a big-hitting 9-goal ranked American player, born and raised in Truscott, Tex., and one of the most well-liked players in the game. He dominated polo in the 1960s and 1970s.

The six-time U.S. Open winner was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1999. He also won three Gold Cups, three Silver Cups as well as Coronation and Camacho Cup trophies. Barry died on May 18, 2002 at age 58.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.

Grand Champions 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 Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.