By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., February 27, 2018--Grand Champions will open the 26-goal season on Thursday in the C.V. Whitney Cup at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The foursome of Grant Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Nico Pieres, 8, and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, will play Colorado (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Cristian Laprida, 8, Diego Cavanagh, 9) Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
The four-team tournament opens Wednesday at 3 p.m. with defending champion Valiente (Rob Jornayvaz, 1, Tommy Beresford, 4, Facundo Pieres, 10, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) playing The Daily Racing Form (Jared Zenni, 5, Agustin Obregon, 5, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Mariano Obregon, 6).
The subsidiary and final are Sunday at noon and 3 p.m. respectively.
Ganzi, Pieres and Novillo Astrada are coming off the George Haas Cup subsidiary tournament. Ganzi, his father Marc, Roldan and Pieres won the final on Sunday with a 14-9 win over Travieso at IPC. Novillo Astrada played in the 12-9 semifinal win over Coca-Cola at Everglades Polo Club.
"It was a good win for the horses since we were getting ready for Thursday," Ganzi said. "It was good to get all three guys involved in some capacity in the semifinals and finals. We're going to have a practice Wednesday and try to get everything going on Thursday."
At 19, Ganzi is the youngest player in the field. It will be his first full 26-goal tournament. Last year he played two chukkers in the U.S. Open and two years ago he played for his mother Melissa in the U.S. Open against his father.
"I am really excited and pumped, I've never played the C.V. Whitney," Ganzi said. "We're going to give it everything we've got.
"I've never played a full 26-goal game. I played two chukkers in the USPA Gold Cup in the semifinal and that was frightening but good. I was 16-years-old and played against Sebastian Merlos."
Pieres said Sunday's win helped with the team's confidence going into the C.V. Whitney Cup.
"This is a new team," Pieres said. "It's going to be fun. This is the first time playing the high goal with a real team. Hopefully, we win the game and see how we do."
Added Roldan, "We are excited about the 26-goal starting. The horses feel good and ready. I love the team. We're ready to go. This is the first time for Grant with his first team.
"For us, in terms of confidence the George Haas Cup win was amazing," Roldan said. "It's good to go into a new tournament with a couple of wins under your belt. We're focused and ready to go."
The C.V. Whitney Cup is the first of the Triple Crown 26-goal tournaments, the highest-rated polo tournaments played in North America. It is a single-elimination format. Other 26-goal tournaments are the March 8-25 USPA Gold Cup and April 4-22 U.S. Open.
The winner of the 2017 C.V. Whitney Cup was Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh, Adolfo Cambiaso). Valiente defeated Orchard Hill, 14-11, in the final. Zavaleta was Most Valuable Player and Valiente's horse Sugar played by Cambiaso was Best Playing Pony. Orchard Hill had won in 2015 defeating Alegria, 16-13, the tournament's highest-scoring final ever, and 2016, defeating Audi, 11-9.
The C.V. Whitney Cup, originally known as the U.S. Handicap, was created in 1979 and first played at the Retama Polo Center in San Antonio, Texas where it was the handicap counterpart to the U.S. Open Championship. It was moved to IPC in 2003 and has been held every year.
In 1988 and 1989 the Fort Lauderdale team of Jack Oxley, Joey Casey, Ernesto Trotz and Bart Evans won the title. Other notable past winners were Valiente (2012, 2014, 2017), Lechuza Caracas (1999, 2002, 2011), and White Birch (1995, 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2005).
Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, the son of 10-goal Hall of Famer Payne Whitney, was an American businessman, film producer, writer, government official and owner of a leading stable of thoroughbred horses. He followed in his father's footsteps as an avid polo player and won the U.S. Open three times.
USPA Polo Network will livestream the entire C.V. Whitney Cup with content provided by ChukkerTV.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre 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 polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.
During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.
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