By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., October 22, 2018---On a perfect day for polo, Sebucan rallied in the fifth chukker to win the US Trust Cup Sunday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
After a scoreless fourth chukker, Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Whistle Uys, 4, Carlitos Gracida, 4) scored three goals in the fifth chukker for a thrilling 9-7 victory over ChukkerTV (Gerardo Patin, 0, Brandon Phillips, 4, Julio Gracida, 4, Juan Bollini, 5).
South African Whistle Uys was named Most Valuable Player. It was his second MVP honor of the fall season. Playing for Santa Clara, he was MVP of the season-opening Tackeria Invitational subsidiary game after scoring three goals and giving Sebucan fits on defense.
Uys was born and raised in South Africa. He started playing polo at age 12. He arrived in the U.S. in 1996 and began playing professionally for Graymar Farms in 2001. His home base is Franklin, Tenn.
Uys last played at Grand Champions five years ago with Gene Goldstein, Matt Coppola and Chris Nevins and won the 12-goal title.
"We made some changes in the fifth chukker," Uys said. "We started to have forward momentum and put a lot of pressure on them going forward. It changed everything. Every time there was a broken play, it seemed like we came up with the ball."
Seven-year-old mare Cortina, played by Juancito Bollini in the fourth chukker and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Sebucan got balanced scoring from all four players. Carlitos Gracida and Pablo Pulido each had three goals. Pulido had an incredible back shot goal set up by Bollini, who scored two goals, with seven seconds left in the opening chukker. Pulido also scored at 7:01 in the third chukker on a fast break run off the throw-in.
The lead changed hands nine times before Sebucan took charge in the fifth chukker after a scoreless fourth chukker. Uys opened the fifth chukker for a 6-5 lead followed by goals from Gracida and Juancito Bollini for an 8-5 lead going into the sixth chukker. Juan Bollini scored with 4:32 left to cut the lead to 8-7, and Carlitos Gracida converted a penalty-three at 2:44 to clinch the win.
"I didn't think we played well the first four chukkers," Uys said. "We kind of held it together but it seemed like they had a better plan. They were more seasoned players. Our team is good, we had two young guys and two older guys but it seemed like we were hitting the ball but not putting it on the end of a teammate's mallet.
"We were mismatched marking-wise," Uys said. "We had too much in the back of the game and not enough going forward. So we switched it, we put Carlitos at the back and Juancito and I in the middle and Pablo at one starting the fifth chukker and I think that's what did it."
Uys and Graymar Farms owner Robert Lipman, a polo player for 35 years, started a horse breeding business and was proud he played all "homebred horses" in Sunday's final.
"I've been more focused on homebreds," Uys said. "Everything I played today was homebreds. Now they are coming to an age where we can start pushing them."
In the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary game, Newport (Gene Goldstein, 1, Grant Ganzi, 2, Juan Cruz Merlos, 5, Kris Kampsen, 6) dominated Travieso (Justin Daniels, 2, Tony Calle, 3, Mariano Gracida, 4, Pablo Dorignac, 5) for an impressive 12-6 victory.
Juan Cruz Merlos, making his Grand Champions debut this fall, was Most Valuable Player. The playmaker scored one goal and was key on defense.
Team USPA's Grant Ganzi scored a game-high five goals, Kris Kampsen had four goals and Gene Goldstein added two goals.
For Travieso, Team USPA's Justin Daniels had two goals and Tony Calle had one. Mariano Gracida also had two goals and Pablo Dorignac added one goal.
Newport jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first chukker. Travieso clawed its way back in the next two chukkers, 4-2, to tie Newport 5-5 at the half.
The second half was all Newport with Ganzi converting four penalty shots in the fourth quarter to shut out Travieso, 4-0, in that chukker. Newport outscored Travieso, 7-1, in the second half while shutting them out in the fourth and sixth chukkers.
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 was 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 Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is 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 upcoming 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.
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.
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.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is live streaming 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 during the winter season 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.