By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., April 3, 2018---Skaneateles captured its first tournament title in five years at Grand Champions Polo Club on Saturday.
Skaneateles (Marty Cregg, 0, Costi Caset, 5, Mariano Obregon, 6, Cesar Gimenez, 1) knocked off Patagones (Joaquin Avendano, 1, Robi Bilbao, 4, Benjamin Avendano, 2, Santi Wulff, 5), with a thrilling 10-9 victory.
"It was a hardfought game," Cregg said. "The competition here is the best in Florida. To play 12-goal and to win at Grand Champions especially against Patagones which is a very, very tough team, we are very happy. We have never won a tournament at Grand Champions. We won at Port Mayaca but never won a 12-goal at Grand Champions."
Obregon scored the winning goal with four seconds remaining with a penalty-three conversion. Obregon finished with a game-high six goals and was selected Most Valuable Player. Caset added four goals. For Patagones, Wulff had a team-high five goals, Benjamin Avendano had three and Bilbao added one goal.
"I just wanted that penalty shot to go in, I wanted to get the win," Obregon said. "It's been a good season, we can't complain. We know each other, we have been playing together for three and a half years. We have played the same system and eventually it pays off. I am very happy we won."
Since Sept. 1, 2017, the same Skaneateles foursome has competed in six 12-goal tournaments, advancing into five finals and winning four of them.
"This is our first win here in Wellington," Caset said. "We won a 12-goal in Port Mayaca and last fall we had a very successful season in Aiken where we won two out of three tournaments. We have a system and we know each other. We have nice chemistry.
"I was confident Mariano was going to make the penalty shot," Caset said. "He had a couple before so I was confident he was going to make it. How happy am I? From one to ten, a ten."
In the hotly-contested game, that featured 16 fouls in the first half alone, Skaneateles jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first chukker with Caset scoring all three goals, including one that banked off the goal post.
Patagones regained its momentum in the second chukker outscoring Skaneateles, 2-1, to trail, 4-3. In a defensive battle in the third chukker, Patagones shut out Skaneateles to go into halftime tied, 4-4.
Patagones outscored Skaneateles, 2-1, in the fourth and fifth chukkers and took the lead for the first time early in the fourth chukker, 5-4. Patagones led 6-4 in the fourth and 8-5 in the fifth chukker. Patagones was down a player late in the fifth chukker when Bilbao was assessed his second yellow flag of the game. Bilbao returned with 6:11 left in the final chukker.
Skaneateles kicked it into high gear in the sixth chukker behind Obregon, outscoring Patagones, 4-1.
"The whole game relied on people making good decisions when the ball was left behind or neutral," Cregg said. "Sometimes the players got caught in a foul and that made a big difference or Patagones or we were quicker to the ball. It was a game of reactions, it wasn't a game of plays."
Skaneateles' team chemistry is evident. Obregon and Caset created a system that fit nicely with Cregg and Gimenez.
"We got a chance to play with each other in a couple of different tournaments and we liked the way each other played and we liked the system," Cregg said. "It was important that we found people that played well together because heroes don't win games down here. We like playing together."
Skaneateles Polo Club is located just outside of the Village of Skaneateles, N.Y. The club offers organized practices, spectator-friendly polo matches, well-managed tournaments in a fun, fair and friendly environment.
Beverly Equestrian, led by MVP Carlucho Arellano, won the Top Pony 12-Goal Handicap title with an 11-9 victory over Valiente that featured siblings Mia and Poroto Cambiaso.
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 10 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, Sunny Hale's Legacy WCT Final 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.