By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 27, 2018---Entries close Saturday for next month's $100,000 World Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The highly-anticipated tournament showcases the sport of polo and players at every level competing for the richest prize purse in the nation.
Last year one of the sport's most prestigious tournaments featured a club record sixteen teams from 0-to-26 goal rating and record crowds. The inaugural champion was Palm Beach Illustrated, a 21-goal underdog with players Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon and Tommy Collingwood, all young, talented rising stars.
"The World Cup was a lot of fun, probably one of the most fun tournaments I've played in," Zenni said. "I've known these guys forever and we're all friends. We had great chemistry."
The tournament was resurrected by Grand Champions owners and polo players Melissa and Marc Ganzi thanks to the generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where it was last played in the late 1990s.
What makes the tournament so unique is the fact it's open to teams 0-26 goal on handicap, similar to the Copa Republica in Argentina where teams of any handicap from 0-to-40 can compete. Last year the lowest rated team was Equuleus at four goals and highest ranked teams were Orchard Hill, Audi, Valiente and Flexjet at 26 goals. The tournament also featured 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso playing with his son Poroto in a U.S. tournament for the first time.
In last year's final, Palm Beach Illustrated won the eight-day, winner-take-all tournament with an impressive 13-7 victory over Valiente I.
"I think we showed everyone a great tournament," said Marc Ganzi. "I think we demonstrated what's great about polo. You saw great sportsmanship and horsemanship. Two great teams that battled it out and worked their way through a big bracket of 16 teams."
Many players and sponsors said the tournament was a great opportunity to showcase the sport's younger players.
"Not all up-and-coming players have that kind of opportunity to play against the high level teams," Zenni said. "It is a great showcase because everyone can play in it."
Each player receives $25,000 in prize money.
The prestigious World Cup is a tournament steeped in tradition. American businessman and polo player Bill Ylvisaker, then CEO of a Fortune 200 battery company in Chicago, created the Gould World Polo Championship with a prize purse of $150,000.
It was first held in 1976 at the Butler Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ylvisaker's staff sent out invitations to countries all over the world known to have top-ranked pro polo teams.
Three teams from the United States were recruited and joined Mexico, India, England and Argentina in the field. The inaugural event was won by Argentina, attracted great crowds and was deemed a success.
In 1977, Ylvisaker bought 2,000 acres to develop a polo resort. The Palm Beach Polo and Country Club was built with 14 polo fields and soon became the polo capital of the world.
The first season at the new club featured the $150,000 Michelob World Cup Polo Championship. Held April 3-15, it was the highlight of the season attracting top players and sponsors from around the world. It was the world's richest and most premier polo event and one of the most significant polo championships.
In 1988, Landmark purchased the club for $25 million and continued the club's growth until it was sold at auction in 1993 to Straub.
Those interested in entering should contact club manager Juan Olivera at 561-601-9316.
The tournament will be live-streamed by Wellington-based ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 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
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, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.
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.