By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., October 13, 2018---On a sun-drenched opening day at Grand Champions Polo Club, Casablanca and Flexjet advanced into the championship final of the 12th annual Tackeria Invitational.
In the opening morning game, Flexjet (Kris Kampsen, Stevie Orthwein, Lucas Escobar/Santos Bollini) defeated Santa Clara (Fernando Chavarria, Whistle Uys, Brandon Phillips, Luis Escobar), 11-9.
Kampsen scored a game-high five goals. Escobar, 16, playing for four chukkers, scored four goals and Orthwein, a last-minute replacement for starter Melissa Ganzi, sidelined with an illness, added two goals.
Flexjet led the close game including 9-8 after the fifth chukker. Kampsen and Orthwein scored two insurance goals in the sixth chukker to put the game away.
"The team played well for the first game of the season," said Juan Bollini. "We didn't really want to push the horses because we want to save the horses. I think it went pretty well.
"We played everyone in position and passed the ball well," Bollini said. "We made the goals moving and that was the key of the game was. We closed the gap on them and were more in control of the game. I'm very happy with the win, I hate losing."
Bollini, the club's Director of Operations, was pleased to get the fall season under way.
"We're very excited to get the polo season started," Bollini said. "Just to play polo for me is exciting and to be back on the field was fantastic. It was a bit hot but it's Florida so you cannot complain. We love it here and that's why we play polo in the fall."
Orthwein, the newly-minted USPA Florida Circuit Governor, was making his first appearance at Grand Champions in five years.
"I got the substitute call and it was a lot of fun," Orthwein said. "I was down here for the weekend so it was great. I played with Kris a lot this summer. The field played great. The horses were good. I got a bunch from Melissa and one from Kris."
Santa Clara, that started the game with a 2-0 lead on handicap, was led by Fernando Chavarria with four goals, Phillips with two and Luis Escobar with one goal.
In the second afternoon game Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Julio Gracida, Mariano Gracida), the youngest team in the tournament, defeated Sebucan (Pablo Dorignac, Pablo Pulido, Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida) for an impressive 9-5 victory.
Grant Ganzi scored a game-high four goals. Julio Gracida added three goals and Juancito Bollini and Mariano Gracida each had one goal.
Sebucan started out with a one-goal lead on handicap but could not get its offensive attack going against the well-oiled machine Casablanca.
Casablanca, its roster's age average of 22 years old, shut out Sebucan in the third, fourth and fifth chukkers. Sebucan had its share of scoring chances but could not convert.
Casablanca, playing as a cohesive unit with tremendous chemistry, trailed 3-0 in the first chukker but quickly recovered in the second chukker for a 4-3 advantage. Then its defense, anchored by Julio Gracida, went to work for the next three chukkers while building a 9-4 lead after five chukkers.
The final gets under way Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Sebucan and Santa Clara will meet Saturday in the subsidiary game at 4 p.m. on Field 4 at Grand Champions.
The Tackeria Invitational is one of six medium-goal touraments in addition to 20-goal action during the season. The tournament has a special place in club history as the inaugural tournament when the club first opened in 2007.
The fall season is a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the debut of the highly-anticipated 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm featuring 10-goalers Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, Pelon Sterling and Juan Martin Nero.
The Tackeria Invitational has a history of exciting finishes. In last year's tournament final, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Brandon Phillips, Carlitos Gracida) rallied in the final chukker to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Andres LaPlacette, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini), 11-10, in overtime at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
The Tackeria, a longtime supporter of polo and Grand Champions, has one of the most complete selections of equestrian equipment in the world, importing goods from all over Europe, the Far East and South America to create the best selection of quality items for its customers.
It is a go-to source for equipment, supplies, fashion and gifts for the hunter/jumper, dressage and polo disciplines. The Tackeria is located on the corner of Pierson Rd. and South Shore at 13501 South Shore Blvd.
Grand Champions is one of the nation's busiest and most innovative polo clubs, hosting both medium and high goal polo highlighted by the Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and International Cup.
Among the highlights of the season are the Oct. 15-27 USPA North American Cup, Nov. 3-17 USPA National 20-Goal Championship; Nov. 14 Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Romero Britto Celebration; and Nov. 24 doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup.
The fall season attracts players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. Grand Champions was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments and again is hosting two 20-goal tournament this season.
The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player's polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off a successful summer season at their Aspen Valley Polo Club which concluded over Labor Day Weekend.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two medium tournament games every weekend; ambulance and USPA umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV will live stream the entire fall season. ChukkerTV's state-of-the art technology also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm annually hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater 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 at the turnkey facility.