By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., October 20, 2018----ChukkerTV and Sebucan will meet Sunday in the US Trust Cup final at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In two exciting qualifying games on Friday, ChukkerTV (Santos Bollini, 1, Brandon Phillips, 4, Julio Gracida, 4, Juan Bollini, 5) defeated Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Grant Ganzi, 2, Juan Cruz Merlos, 5, Kris Kampsen, 6), 10-7, in the opening game.
In the second game, Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Whistle Uys, 4) rallied for a 10-8 victory over Travieso (Justin Daniels, 2, Tony Calle, 3, Mariano Gracida, 4/Dominic State, 2, Pablo Dorignac, 4).
Newport and Travieso will meet Sunday in the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary game followed by the title game at 5 p.m.
ChukkerTV controlled most of the game leading by at least two goals from start-to-finish. ChukkerTV jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the second chukker and maintained its momentum and kept the pressure on for most of the game. Newport had its share of scoring opportunities but could get no closer than two goals.
"We were hitting and passing the ball, not holding it and we opened the game up," said Juan Bollini. "We played fast polo and got into a rhythm. The important thing was trusting your teammates.
"I like this team. It's always fun to play with Brandon and Julio and great to be on the same field with one of my sons and focus on him to have fun and improve."
Phillips scored a game-high six goals including five penalty conversions. Teammates Santos Bollini and Julio Gracida each had two goals. Goldstein had a team-high five goals and Kampsen added two for Newport.
"This team has all played together a lot and now the horses after their first weekend are much better this weekend," Phillips said. "Each weekend the horses get better and everyone gets better and we get to play a little harder."
Phillips said it was important to keep the ball moving and maintain the momentum.
"We're four players, the easiest way is to use everybody, it's the easiest thing to do and works the most effective," Phillips said. "Hitting the ball the first time and playing classic open polo works."
Like many players, Phillips is using the fall season to get his green horses ready for the winter season.
"For me I use the fall to finish the horses, a lot of the younger horses," Phillips said. "We can push them but we don't have to work them hard or kill them. I use this to make horses and finish horses so they are ready for the season."
In the afternoon game, trailing 6-4 at the half and 7-5 after the fourth chukker, Sebucan rallied by outscoring Travieso, 5-1, in the last two chukkers to advance into the final.
Travieso was dealt a severe blow in the third quarter when Mariano Gracida, last week's Tackeria Invitational MVP, was forced to leave the game in the third chukker with an injury and was replaced by Dominic State. The momentum started to shift in the fourth chukker with the teams battling to a 1-1 tie before Sebucan's big 3-0 fifth chukker.
Sebucan got balanced scoring. Uys had four goals, Carlitos Gracida scored three, Bollini had two and Pulido added one. Daniels led Travieso with four goals, Dorignac had three and Calle added one.
It is the second consecutive week Juan Bollini and his two sons, Juancito and Santos and Julio Gracida qualified for a championship final.
"It's always nice to be in the final," said Juan Bollini, Director of Operations at Grand Champions. "I just love being out there and playing polo. I don't care who we play in the final, it's just great to be on the field playing polo."
Polo announcer Jan-Erik Franck made his fall debut at Grand Champions. World Polo League Commissioner Dale Smicklas, in Wellington for the weekend for WPL business, was among the crowd for the doubleheader.
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. League play gets under way the last week of January with the $100,000 World Cup (0-40).
Three members of Team USPA, Grant Ganzi, Justin Daniels and Tony Calle competed in the qualifying games. The Team USPA program was created in 2010 to improve learning, training and playing opportunities for young American players in an effort to grow and sustain the sport in the U.S. Players are selected for the team based on talent, enthusiasm and dedication to polo.
In last year's tournament, Casablanca (MVP Mike Azzaro, Grant Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Cacho Galindo) won the US Trust Cup after a spirited round robin with Audi and Team USA after heavy rains cancelled the qualifying round.
In 2016, US Trust (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, MVP Jared Sheldon, Nic Roldan) won the title for the second consecutive year. Because of Hurricane Matthew, the tournament was condensed into a one-day round robin format based on net goals.
US Trust, founded in 1853, is a wealth management and private banking company designed to address the needs of its clients, regardless of complexity. It provides investment management, wealth structuring, credit and lending services to clients. It is the first and oldest trust company in the United States.
The US Trust Cup is the second of six medium-goal tournaments in addition to 20-goal action during the season. Grand Champions is one of the few USPA-sanctioned clubs that offers fall polo. The fall season is a good tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses to get fit for the winter.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is also open at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. It 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.
Grand Champions is one of the nation's busiest and most innovative polo clubs, hosting both medium and high goal polo in the fall highlighted by the Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and International Cup.
Among the highlights of the season are the Oct. 24-27 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.
This year's Nov. 24 International Cup will feature defending champion Team USA against Azerbaijan. This year the U.S. team will put its six-year winning streak on the line against Azerbaijan, known as the Land of Fire and Ice, and one of the most improved polo teams in the world. Recently, Azerbaijan finished runner-up to Italy in the FIP European Championship.
Last year Team USA ( Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Julio Arellano, Mike Azzaro) defeated Brazil, 9-7, to capture the sixth annual International Cup event. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year. Since 2012, Team USA has defeated England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay in International Cup history.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract 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.
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 hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the winter season.
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.