By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 5, 2018---Altair Polo won its first tournament of the winter polo season with an impressive 11-7 victory over Patagones Saturday in the Top Pony 8-Goal final at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Altair Polo (Christian Weisz, 0, Keko Magrini, 1, Henry Porter, 2, Brandon Phillips, 5) led from start-to-finish and never relinquished its lead over Patagones (Santi Avendano, 1, Joaquin Avendano, 1/Anita Avendano, 0, Benjamin Avendano, 2, Robi Bilbao, 4).
Veteran player Brandon Phillips scored a game-high five goals and was named Most Valuable Player. Keka, an 8-year-old, played in the second chukker by Porter, was Best Playing Pony.
Phillips was the team's field general working with three talented young players: Porter, 18, Weisz, 17 and Magrini, 12.
"The boys played really well," Phillips said. "They are very talented, all of them. It was fun to play with them. We had a game plan and it was about keeping them on it. That's my job, to do what we say we are going to do. When they do that, we do really well."
Altair Polo finished this month's 8-goal tournament undefeated at 4-0. Patagones finished 2-2. In their previous 8-goal final, Patagones defeated Altair Polo.
"It was good to get another shot at them," Phillips said. "The thing that scared me was in their other games in this league at halftime we were the ones that were down that much and we came back to win. We always said that the thing that would scare us the most is if we were in the lead at halftime because we were always usually behind. It was good to be in the lead but also to know that it can switch on you pretty quick."
Porter of Great Britain is enjoying his finest winter polo season in the U.S. competing at 20-, 12- and 8-goals. After finishing runner-up with GSA in the 20-goal Ylvisaker Cup, Porter is preparing for the $50,000 National 12-Goal tournament that gets underway Monday at Santa Rita Polo Farm. Porter is one of three players returning for defending champion GSA.
"I am very happy with my season," Porter said. "Playing all the levels is good. In the 20, I was playing the No. 1 position, the guy that was always running forward. In the 8-goal, it teaches me to play more as the third player with Brandon at the back.
"It's good for me to work with Brandon," Porter said. "We are all learning so much from him. He is a great player, very skilled."
Magrini, at 12, the youngest player on the field, had three goals; Porter scored two goals and Weisz, playing well with his new team, added one goal.
Florida State-bound Christian Weisz filled in for team sponsor Ashley Busch, U.S. Polo Assn. Brand Ambassador, who was in Las Vegas with husband Kurt Busch competing at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Altair Polo is based in Middleburg, Va. It was Altair's third tournament victory in Grand Champions history. Altair Polo is named after her family’s farm in Virginia and great grandfather’s Navy battleship.
Phillips texted her with the result after the game. Altair Polo never let Patagones into the game. Altair Polo led 2-1, 4-2, 6-3, 8-3 and 10-5.
Bilbao led Patagones with four goals. Santi Avendano had two goals and Benjamin Avendano added one goal.
Joaquin Avendano left the marathon game with 3:23 left in the sixth chukker with an injury and was replaced by Anita Avendano. Joaquin Avendano had a bump near his elbow but said he felt fine and played in Sunday's Sieber Memorial 12-Goal Tournament which Patagones won with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Beverly Equestrian.
The tournament winners were presented with original prints designed by Brazilian-born renowned artist Romero Britto of Miami Beach. The signed prints featured a polo player in full swing on a polo pony surrounded by a palm tree, heart and whimsical designs of color.
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.