ST. MORITZ, Switzerland—January 28, 2019—On a day of historic firsts, Badrutt's Palace Hotel captured the 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz.
Against a spectacular backdrop of snow-capped Engadin Valley, Badrutt's Palace (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Juan Bautista Peluso, 0, Alfredo Bigatti, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) won the coveted Cartier Trophy for the first time in the hotel's hallowed history.
As snow fell on the frozen lake of St. Moritz, Badrutt's Palace defeated previously unbeaten Maserati (Valery Mischenko, 0, Robert Strom, 5, Chris Hyde, 5/Jack Hyde, 4, Max Charlton, 6), with an impressive 7-3 victory in front of a record crowd on Sunday.
Making her fourth appearance in the only high goal polo tournament played on snow, the team captain became the first woman to win the tournament and was named Best Playing Patron.
Ganzi was the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo Tournament in 2016 and first woman to make the final in 2017. She is also the first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo World Cup in Aspen for Flexjet in 2016 and 2018 Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup.
"It is an amazing feeling," Ganzi said. "I am super proud of my team and happy to represent Badrutt's Palace."
Argentine 8-goaler Alejandro Novillo Astrada was named Most Valuable Player. Astrada scored a game-high six goals including five penalty conversions. The Best Playing Pony was awarded to Pantera, played by Novillo Astrada in the last chukker.
"I am extremely happy, I knew I scored a few goals, but I didn't know how many goals I scored," Novillo Astrada said. "Our team played amazing. We had a great game. I am so happy for Melissa."
In a fast and furious physical final, the two 16-goal teams were evenly matched. Badrutt's jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening chukker behind Novillo Astrada's penalty conversion and break away goal after winning the throw-in.
Maserati bounced back to tie the game with a goal from the field by Charlton and 60-yard lofted penalty conversion by Hyde.
It was the closest Maserati would get. Badrutt's pulled away for a 3-2 halftime lead on Novillo Astrada's 40-yard penalty conversion. Badrutt's outscored Maserati, 3-1, in the third chukker and maintained control for the rest of the game.
Novillo Astrada and Peluso both tumbled off their horses after getting hit in the rough contest but were able to continue. Hyde, a member of last year's Cartier team making his 11th final appearance, was less fortunate. Hyde, going for his eighth title, was forced to leave the game with a minute left in the third chukker with a back and rib injury. He was replaced by his 20-year-old son Jack, a 4-goaler making his snow polo debut. Maserati last won the tournament in 2016.
In the La Martina Cup subsidiary game, Azerbaijan Land of Fire (Elchin Jamalli, 2, Agustin Kronhaus, 3, Adrian Laplacette, 6, Thomas Winter, 4) shut out defending champion Cartier (Marc Ganzi, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juan Martin Nero, 10, Tito Gaudenzi, 2), 5-0.
"We were on fire today," said Jamalli, whose team received a two-goal advantage on handicap to start the match.
Against a stiff Azeri defense, Cartier could not get its offensive attack untracked for most of the game. It was the first time Juan Martin Nero played in St. Moritz since 2004.
"It is great to be back in St. Moritz," said the 10-goaler. "It is such a special tournament, the people, the snow, the great organization. Everything is fantastic and I can't wait until next time."
Grant Ganzi, a member of the winning 2017 U.S. Polo Assn. team in the St. Regis World Snow Cup in Aspen and Team USPA, completed his Europe snow polo circuit debut. He also competed for Bernd Gruber in the Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel.
In early tournament action on Friday, Azerbaijan defeated Cartier, 5.5-5, for the Royal Salute Trophy. Maserati edged Badrutt's Palace Hotel, 6-5, for the President's Cup.
On Saturday, Badrutt's Palace Hotel earned a trip to the final with an impressive 7-3.5 victory over pre-tournament favorite Azerbaijan for the Maserati Trophy. Thomas Winter of Germany replaced starter Isidro Strada because of illness giving the Azeris 1.5 handicap goal lead. The Azeris also lost Adrian Laplacette who suffered a cut ear during the game and was replaced by Min Podesta. Laplacette returned to play on Sunday. Novillo Astrada also suffered a bruised arm after tumbling off his horse but returned to second-half action. Badrutt's led 4-2.5 at the half and never relinquished its lead.
Maserati remained undefeated (2-0) with a 7.5-6 win over Cartier in the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Challenge.
During Saturday's full day of events, Brit Malcolm Borwick hosted the fifth annual Royal Salute Zero-To-Hero Clinic with fans and media learning the basics of snow polo on the actual playing surface.
The always-entertaining Jan-Erik Franck, who announces fall and winter seasons at Grand Champions Polo Club and St. Regis World Snow Polo Cup in Aspen, announced the action.
"This was history in the making," Franck said. "It was wonderful to see a woman win it for the first time and the fact it was Melissa Ganzi was fantastic."
The world’s most prestigious polo tournament on snow was the first snow polo tournament in the sport’s history created by polo promoter Reto Gaudenzi, founder and CEO of Snow Polo World Cup. The 2020 event is scheduled for Jan. 24-26.
"I always get the compliments but I would like to pass on these compliments to the team, we have a team here of almost 250 young men and women, volunteers and professionals working," Gaudenzi said. "It's a team, not only me. I am flabbergasted. We have a fantastic sport. The four teams were very even, anyone could have won."
Badrutt's Palace is the birthplace of Alpine winter sports and favorite European destination. The five-star hotel celebrated 120 years since opening its doors. It won the award for Most Renowned Luxury Hotel 2016 at the Hotel Spa Awards.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation's largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club nestled in the heart of the world's winter equestrian capital, is hosting 22 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women's weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm.
Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.
Season highlights for 2019 are the Jan. 26-Feb. 9 Sterling Cup, March 1-31 $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, March 1-16 John T. Oxley Memorial and March 3-24 $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament.
The biggest highlight of the season is the debut of the Feb. 5-April 15 World Polo League, the nation's only 26-goal league featuring some of the world's top players and team sponsors at Grand Champions and Valiente. The WPL will fill the void created when the U.S. Polo Association, the sport's governing body, announced it was lowering high goal polo to 18-22 goals at International Polo Club and would not have 26-goal polo and instead feature the Gauntlet Polo Series with the C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup and U.S. Open.
Grand Champions 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 three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. 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, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. It is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.