KITZBUHEL, Austria, January 15, 2018---On a day of historical firsts, Bendura Bank won the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel 2018 with an impressive 10-6.5 victory over Engel & Volkers on Sunday.
In front of a packed house, the talented trio (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Tito Gaudenzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) won their Kitzbuhel debut tournament. Trailing 6.5-6 after three chukkers, Bendura Bank scored four goals in the final chukker to knock off Engel & Volkers (Kutlay Yaprak, 0, Augustin Kronhaus, 7, Adrian Laplacette Jr., 6).
Ganzi, president of Grand Champions Polo Club and USPA Florida Circuit Governor, made snow polo history for the second time in three years as the first woman to win the Kitzbuhel tournament. In 2016, she was the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup and first to make the 2017 final. She is also the first woman to win the St. Regis Snow Polo World Cup Aspen title as team captain of Flexjet.
"What a weekend we have had," Ganzi said. "This win really tops it off. Following our loss to Engel & Volkers on opening day, we worked on our team skills, got to know the horses and honed our gameplan. The hard work really paid off today. We can't wait to take this perfect trio to St. Moritz next."
Ganzi will return to the 34th St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup for the third consecutive year on Jan. 26-28 along with Gaudenzi, Novillo Astrada and fourth player to be determined.
For Gaudenzi, it was the second time he has been on the winning team in his seventh championship final appearance in 16 years.
"What an amazing win with my amazing teammates," said Gaudenzi, the event organizer. "We did it. The ground played amazingly well today. We knew we had a chance to reach the final. We went out and crushed it."
After losing to Engel & Volkers in a close decision 6.5-6 on Day One, Bendura Bank rebounded with a big 10-4.5 win over Maserati on Day Two and earned a trip to the final.
"It was a great day for Bendura Bank," said Alejandro Novillo Astrada, the leading scorer in all three games. "We really came together as a team and it paid off. We went into the final with power."
With the Alps as a stunning backdrop, the day started off with the Engel & Volkers Cup final for fifth and sixth place. Hometown favorite Kitzbuhel Polo Club (Sebastian Schneberger, 2, Hector Monserrat, 4, Valentin Novillo Astrada, 6) jumped out to a 9-3.5 halftime lead over Bernd Gruber (Steffi von Pock, 1, Marty van Scherpenzeel, 2, Eduardo Anca, 6) and went on to win 11-8.5.
In the subsidiary Kitzbuhel Country Club Cup, 2007 champions Corum ( Philip Sommer, 3, Lukas Sdrenka, 3, Patrick Maleitzke, 4) edged Maserati (Marc Aberle, 0, Caspar Crasemann, 4, Thomas Winter, 5.) for a thrilling 10.5-9 victory.
"Each year this tournament gets better and better with both the calibre of the players and the ponies improving year after year," Gaudenzi said.
The event was started in 2003 by Tito Gaudenzi and his father Reto with four teams and 1,000 fans. It has grown into one of the country's major sporting events, six international teams and major sponsors, and attracts more than 15,000 fans over three days.
Grand Champions 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 three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
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.
Photos courtesy of Reinhardt & Sommer.