By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 10, 2018---The stage is set for the semifinals of the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Hilario Figueras, 2, Tolito Ocampo, 4, Carlucho Arellano, 5) will meet Wildcat (Wes Bryan, 3, Jason Crowder, 6, Del Walton, 3, Ryan Gilbertson, 0) on Sunday at noon in the first semifinal.
In the second semifinal, defending champion GSA (Henry Porter, 2, Santino Magrini, 3, Nachi Viana, 2, Toro Ruiz, 5) will play Team USPA (Julia Smith, 0, Nick Johnson, 3, Felipe Viana, 5, Tommy Alberdi, 4) on Monday at 3 p.m.
On Friday, Beverly Equestrian advanced with an impressive 14-10 win over Work To Ride (Kareem Rosser, 2, Rob Jornayvaz, 1, Joseph Manheim, 0, Mariano Aguerre, 9).
Beverly Equestrian jumped out to 5-0 and 8-1 leads on lightning-quick horses after the first two chukkers.
While Work To Ride tried to dig itself out of a hole behind the former 10-goaler Aguerre, Beverly Equestrian, which has been playing together since the season started, never relinquished its lead.
"We wanted to come out strong on our good horses," Arellano said. "That was the idea, come out strong early and take advantage of our rhythm since we have been playing longer than them.
"We were hoping for that outcome. We knew that would be the only way to beat Mariano because if it was close in the second half he would beat us on his own. We knew we had to come out and run up the score as much as we can. That was going to be our saving grace. They are all good players."
Beverly Equestrian, one of the winningest teams this season, was coming off its 11-10 loss to Patagones (Joaquin Avendano, 1, Robi Bilbao, 4, Benjamin Avendano, 2, Santi Wulff, 5) in the Sieber Memorial 12-Goal Tournament final.
"That game was exactly the opposite of this game," Arellano said. "We came out flat footed. And I'll be honest, we came out overconfident. We thought we were going to win. We were 12-0 in all our games including Santa Clara so we were overconfident."
Wildcat will provide a challenge for Beverly Equestrian.
"I hate that team, they are so good, they are so strong," Arellano said. "I hate them and I love them. I love all those guys but I hate to play them because they are so strong, a very tough team. It will be a good game."
Arellano scored a team-high eight goals. Figueras had four goals and Ocampo added two goals. Aguerre also scored a team-high eight goals and Rosser had two goals.
WILDCAT 10, GRACIDA WINES 7
With the game tied 6-6 after four chukkers, Sarasota-based Wildcat outscored Gracida Wines (Harrison Azzaro, 1, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Mariano Gracida, 4, Stewart Armstrong, 3), 4-1, in the last two chukkers behind two goals from Bryan and two penalty conversions from Crowder.
Wildcat led for the entire first half, 3-0, 4-2 and 6-3 at the half. Gracida Wines outscored Wildcat, 3-0, in the fourth chukker to tie the game at 6-6. But the rally was shortlived after Wildcat outscored Gracida Wines, 2-0 and 2-1 in the last two chukkers.
Crowder led Wildcat with a team-high four goals. Gilbertson had three goals, Bryan two goals and Walton one goal.
Gracida Wines, making its debut as polo team, was led by Carlitos Gracida with a game-high five goals. Azzaro and Mariano Gracida each had one goal.
The tournament defending champion is GSA (Henry Porter, Santino Magrini, Juan Martin Zubero, Toro Ruiz). In the final, GSA defeated Casablanca (Matias Gonzalez, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Jesse Bray), 13-6, and became the youngest team in tournament history to win. Zubia scored a game-high six goals, Ruiz had five and Magrini scored two.
The fifth annual eight-team, winner-take-all, single-elimination tournament is the only tournament to offer major prize money at the 12-goal level.
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.