WELLINGTON, Fla., February 25, 2019---The semifinals of the World Polo League Founders Cup begin Tuesday with Grand Champions hosting Scone at 4 p.m.
Grand Champions held off Audi in the final minute for a thrilling 12-11 victory in the World Polo League feature game Sunday in front of a good crowd at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The victory advances Grand Champions into Tuesday's semifinal against Scone in the battle of unbeaten teams. Both teams are 2-0.
Grand Champions (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Juan Martin Nero, 10) shut out Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Kris Kampsen, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Pablo MacDonough, 10) in the first and third chukkers to lead 9-2 at the half and 10-2 early in the fourth chukker.
Audi rallied in the second half outscoring Grand Champions, 9-3, but ran out of time and remains winless at 0-2.
"This is a really good win for this team," said 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, named Most Valuable Player. "We needed to win this game to have a chance to get into the semifinals.
"I think we played really well the first four chukkers," Nero said. "We were hitting the ball well and Grant and Juancito were hitting the ball and moving forward. Then I think we started looking at the scoreboard and the goal and we forgot about the man and they came back. We are just happy we are in the semis."
Grant Ganzi, at 20 one of the youngest players in the tournament, led Grand Champions with a team-high five goals. Nero added three and Bollini and Andrade each had two.
"I'm very happy we won," Bollini said. "I think we got comfortable in the end. From my part I started not going to the man as much and being a little too optimistic and that made us slack on defense and that's why they started making holes.
"What matters is next game," Bollini said. "We going to start thinking about Scone now."
Ten-goaler Pablo MacDonough led Audi with a team-high five goals. Ganzi, Roldan and Kampsen each had two goals. The game also pitted father and son team sponsors Mark and Grant Ganzi against each other.
"I just think we didn't play our best polo in the second half," Grant Ganzi said. "We got complicated at dumb moments. We played a perfect first half so it was tough to keep that rhythm. The halftime slowed our momentum and the fouls slowed the game down. All that matters is we got the win at the end of the day.
"This was really important," Ganzi said. "We are undefeated and 2-0 and so is Scone. The semifinal is going to be tough as ever."
There were two World Polo League Horses of the Day. Muneca, played by Nero, was named Grand Champions Best Playing Pony. Girl Power, played by Grant Ganzi, was selected the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
In the other semifinal, Colorado will play Valiente in a showdown of J5 Equestrian teams on Wednesday at Valiente Polo Farm, part of a doubleheader that also features Black Watch (0-2) against Alegria (0-2). The Colorado-Valiente game will also pit father against son with Bob and Rob Jornayvaz.
The WPL is being live streamed on ESPN Deportes and ChukkerTV/Horseplay with Gus Whitelaw calling the action. For more information go to www.worldpolo.org.
Co-founded by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi and Valiente Polo Farm owner Bob Jornayvaz, the World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The WPL is preserving the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the U.S.
The WPL has its own set of simpler fan-friendly rules to improve the flow and action of the game.
The WPL, with 14 tournament-quality fields to play on, also includes the Feb. 19-March 3 Founders Cup, March 6-24 Palm Beach Open and March 27-April 14 Triple Crown of Polo.
The WPL game finals will be held Sundays on Field Two at Grand Champions at 4 p.m. and semifinal games at Valiente Polo Farm, Fields One and Two. Several games will also be held throughout the week at various times. Admission is free along with food and refreshments at the featured games.
The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. Entries are still open and everyone is welcome to play. Games are offered on the flat (Open) and on Handicap.
The World Polo League has attracted a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Uruguay and U.S.
Grand Champions and Valiente are also launching the U.S. National Mixed Doubles Championship, featuring two men and two women with combined handicaps, in March.
In addition to the World Polo League, season highlights for 2019 at Grand Champions are the 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.
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.