By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, FL., January 10, 2019---The much-anticipated league play at Grand Champions Polo Club begins this week with sixteen teams competing in 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm have put the finishing touches on the turnkey club's well-manicured fields in anticipation of its biggest and best winter polo season.
The nation's largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world's winter equestrian capital, opens Friday with the Metropolitan 6-Goal Cup.
Four teams will compete in the January 6-goal league including Mayer Ranch, Banks Mill/Amista Polo, The Polo School and Willowcreek. The tournament begins Friday with a 3:30 p.m. game between Banks Mill/Amista Polo against Mayer Ranch.
The 6-goal team rosters are:
Banks Mill/Amista Polo: Hope Arellano, 1, Lucas Arellano, 2, Agustin Arellano, 3, Kylie Sheehan, 0.
Mayer Ranch: Landon Daniels, 0.5, Clark Mayer, 0.5, Justin Daniels, 2, Brendon Stenzel, 2.
The Polo School: Rich Desich, 0, Jeff Desich, 0, Santos Bollini, 1, Juan Bollini, 5.
Willowcreek: Misty Allen, -1, Cecelia Cochran, 1, Jason Wates, 3, Mikey Matz, 3.
The club attracts 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 and England.
The Aspen Valley Cup 8-Goal league begins Saturday at 3 p.m. with Horseware playing Altair Polo, led by U.S. Polo Assn. Brand Ambassador Ashley Busch.
The 8-goal team rosters are:
Altair: Ashley Busch, 0, Keko Magrini, 1, Nick Manifold, 3, Brandon Phillips, 4.
Dutta Corp: Nico Diaz Alberdi, 1, Timmy Dutta, 2, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, 5, Tim Dutta, 0.
Horseware: Tom Maguiness, 0, Tim Kyne, 0, Hugo Lloret, 5, Jason Wates, 3.
Patagones: Gonzalo Avendano, 1, Santi Wulff, 5, Santos Bollini, 1, TBA.
Eight teams, featuring some of the sport's top players including Gringo Colombres, Michel Dorignac, Tomas Pieres and Segundo Boccino, will compete in the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series tournament that begins Saturday with Colorado playing Patagones at 3 p.m.
The 12-goal team rosters are:
Audi: Oliver Firestone, 0, Marc Ganzi, 2, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Tomas Pieres 6.
Beverly Equestrian: Bill Ballhaus, 0, Hilario Figueras, 3, Tolito Ocampo, 5, Geronimo Obregon, 4.
Colorado: Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Nick Johnson, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4, Bautista Panelo, 3.
Newport: Gene Goldstein, 1, Nick Manifold, 3, Michel Dorignac, 6, Tomas Schwencke, 2.
Palm Beach Equine: Scott Swerdlin, 0, Segundo Merlos, 2, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Gringo Colombres, 7.
Patagones: Santiago Avendano, 1, Benjamin Avendano, 3, Tony Calle, 3, Santiago Wulff, 5.
Sebucan: Juan Bollini, 5, Pablo Pulido, 2, TBA, TBA.
Westhaven: Max Torokvei, 0, Segundo Boccino, 6, Pedro Falabella, 5, TBA, 1.
The Women's Weekly League in The Polo School, a USPA-sanctioned club, created by Alina Carta and Melissa Ganzi, made its debut the first Wednesday of the month and will continue every Wednesday through March at Santa Rita Polo Farm. The one-of-its-kind weekly league is in the midst of its third season and has attracted several top players. Women's polo continues to be the largest growing sector in the sport.
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 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 Polo Farm. 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 Palm Beach for three years and would not have 26-goal polo including the C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup and U.S. Open.
In polo's heyday, the 16-20 Sterling Cup was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club and attracted as many as sixteen teams. The World Cup also returns with a unique format where teams of any handicap from 0-to-40 can compete for the $100,000 prize purse.
Grand Champions is coming off its finest fall season in the club's 12-year history. It was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments in addition to the International Cup and Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial. The club also hosted a full schedule of successful medium goal tournaments.
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's 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 Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving at Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm. 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.