By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., November 8, 2018----The tenth annual Polo Gear Challenge Cup, one of the club's oldest tournaments, begins Friday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The two-day tournament features four teams including Whitehall, making its fall debut. In May, Texas-based Whitehall Ranch won the USPA Western Challenge after defeating Tonkawa, 9-8, and in April won the Land Rover Houston Central Cup with a 7-6 win over Eureka at the Houston Polo Club.
Four teams will compete over two days. Two games are scheduled for Friday and Sunday.
On Friday at 2 p.m., Whitehall Ranch will play Newport. Both teams are rated at 15 goals.
At 3:30 p.m., Travieso, a 15-goal rated team, plays Sebucan, a 13-goal rated team and winningest team this fall with three tournament victories under its belt.
On Sunday and Veterans Day, the "Just For The Fun Of It" subsidiary final is 10 a.m. followed by the championship final at 11:30 a.m.
The team lineups are:
Whitehall Ranch: Bill Lane, Sugar Erskine, Pablo Dorignac, Whistle Uys.
Newport: Gene Goldstein, Marquitos Alberdi, Jeff Blake, Adrian Wade.
Travieso: Tony Calle, Justin Daniels, Jason Crowder, Tommy Biddle.
Sebucan: Pablo Pulido, Tito Gaudenzi, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida.
Whitehall Ranch features two South Africans, Whistle Uys, who has had an outstanding fall season at Grand Champions, and Sugar Erskine, a 6-goaler making his fall debut at the club.
Erskine, one of the sport's most colorful players and longtime member of Gillian Johnston's Coca-Cola pro team, won the U.S. Open in 2004 and 1998 as well as 20-goal Ylvisaker Cup in 2014 and 2013 among other major high goal titles.
Biddle is another top pro player making his fall debut at Grand Champions. The 2002 U.S. Open winner with Coca-Cola and 22-goal Triple Crown of Polo winner in Aiken was rated as high as 8 goals outdoors and 10 goals in arena polo. Biddle is one of only four players in history to achieve a 10-goal indoor rating.
In last year's Polo Gear Challenge Cup, Dutta Corp (Carlitos Gracida, Kris Kampsen, Carlucho Arellano, Tim Dutta) defeated Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, MVP Benjamin Avendano, Pablo Dorignac, Guille Aguero), 8-6, to win its fall debut. Trailing most of the game, Dutta Corp outscored Sebucan, 3-0, in the final two chukkers to win,
Polo Gear co-founder Gary Fellers, who played polo for nearly forty years from zero to 26-goal, is pleased with the success of the long-running tournament at Grand Champions.
"We have had the Polo Gear Challenge Cup since the beginning," Fellers said. "We have been involved with Grand Champions for a long time. We are proud to be part of it in any way we can."
Polo Gear, one of the sport's top sponsors and supporters of polo established in 1993 and incorporated in Florida, manufactures, distributes and sells polo products to players, teams and polo events worldwide. For more information on Polo Gear and to order products, visit www.pologearusa.com.
The Polo Gear Challenge is the fifth of six medium-goal touraments in addition to 20-goal action during the season and Triple Crown of Polo on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Casablanca (MVP Mariano Gracida, Juancito Bollini, Julio Gracida, Grant Ganzi) won the season-opening Tackeria Invitational; Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Juancito Bollini, MVP Whistle Uys, Carlitos Gracida) won the US Trust Cup; Sebucan (MVP Pablo Pulido, Whistle Uys, Mariano Gracida, Julio Gracida) won the Fall Classic; and Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Pablo Doirgnac, Whistle Uys, MVP Julio Gracida) won the Fall Plates Tournament last weekend.
World-renown polo announcer Jan-Erik Franck is calling the action during the fall season, St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship in Aspen in December and winter season featuring the World Polo League at Grand Champions. Franck, popular among fans, makes it both entertaining and educational. He has been a polo announcer at various tournaments around the world for more than 20 years. Franck is also a polo player, HPA instructor, La Martina ambassador and polo columnist. He was recently the featured cover story in POLO+10 magazine.
"I think it’s great that polo is making itself known and gaining awareness in more and more places all over the world which will hopefully also encourage a greater following and contribute in cultivating an even bigger generation of future polo players," Franck said.
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. The winter season features 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 fall season is important to us because it is a continuation of the sport and shows the world you can play polo all year," said Grand Champions Director of Operations Juan Bollini. "It's good, competitive polo and the best time of the year with great weather and great fields in October and November after five months of rest."
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 Nov. 14 Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Nov. 24 International Cup.
Among season highlights are the USPA National 20-Goal Championship; Triple Crown of Polo Tournament and Romero Britto Celebration; and doubleheader featuring the Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial and International Cup on Thanksgiving weekend.
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 Azerbaijan, 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 is live streaming most of the 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.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is thriving 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.