WELLINGTON, Fla., February 7, 2019---Colorado made history Wednesday in the Sterling Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Colorado (Rob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Nick Johnson, 3) qualified for its first final in the prestigious tournament with an impressive 13-10 victory over Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tony Calle, 3, Juan Martin Nero, 10, Juancito Bollini, 4).
Colorado will face defending champion Valiente (Kian Hall/Bautista Panelo, 3, Robertito Zedda, 4, Poroto Cambiaso 3, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) in the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday on Field 2 at Grand Champions.
"I'm very happy with the win," Cavanagh said. "This is our first time in the final. I think if we play good we have a good chance against Valiente. We have to improve a few things."
Valiente advanced into the final with a 9-4 victory over Audi on Tuesday. Both teams are undefeated at 2-0. Valiente has scored 23 goals and Colorado has scored 21 goals.
Colorado, playing its best game as a young team, led from start to finish. Colorado jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind two goals by Jornayvaz and one each by Cavanagh and Johnson.
"We had a really good first chukker and then we managed to keep the advantage," Cavanagh said. "When you start 4-0 they usually come back so we needed to stay calm when they were scoring two goals in a row."
After a 3-3 second chukker and Casablanca shutting out Colorado 1-0 in the third chukker, Colorado led 7-4 at the half.
"The 4-0 lead helped a lot," Torres said. "We got lucky to start the first chukker like that and then we maintained. We went out and tried to play a little stronger than the other day and we had a little bit more rhythm. The horses were great and I think we killed their momentum a little bit in the first chukker. It was tough, they are a good team."
Colorado maintained at least a two-goal cushion in the second half. The teams were even in the second half, 6-6.
"I knew it was going to be a really tough one because they are a four-man team," Cavanagh said. "They play really well and Juanma organizes them very well. We knew it was going to be tough. Santi played fabulous and I think Rob played amazing. It was a good game for all of us."
Colorado and Valiente are in the J5 Equestrian organization which will make for an interesting matchup.
"It's fun, but it's also very competitive," Jornayvaz said. "That's a big part of J5, everybody in the organization is super, super competitive. Everybody on the outside thinks of it as a friendly game but at the same time it's super competitive. It will probably be the best competition. They won on that side and we won on this side so we're ready to go."
Cavanagh led Colorado with a team-high seven goals. Jornayvaz, Johnson and Torres each added two goals.
"I think that big lead at the beginning was a big thing for us," Jornayvaz said. "In our last game we were kind of up and down, up and down, figuring out our team organization since it was the first time we played together and the horses were a bit heavy last game
"It was good to have that lead at the beginning because it gave us a lot of confidence and it was really about us staying organized and keeping our game going."
Cavanagh will have back-to-back games. The 9-goaler will play for Flexjet Thursday morning at 10 in the historical first 26-goal World Polo League game against Scone.
Nero led Casablanca with a team-high seven goals. Bollini had two goals and Ganzi added one goal.
In last year's Sterling Cup Adolfo, Mia and Poroto Cambiaso made history by winning their first ever high goal tournament together. Along with teammate Magoo Laprida, Valiente knocked off pre-tournament favorite Audi (Marc Ganzi, Henry Porter, Nic Roldan, Nico Pieres), 10-4, in the final. Mia Cambiaso was MVP.
The Sterling Cup is one of two prestigious tournaments that the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club resurrected two years ago after a 22-year absence. It was brought back by Grand Champions owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi in hopes of recapturing polo's glory days. It was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at Palm Beach Polo after the January Challenge Cup and last played in 1995. It was considered the 22-goal championship and attracted as many as eighteen teams.
In addition to the strong field of players, the tournament is showcasing some of the best horses in the sport. Three awards will be presented: Best Playing Pony for the final game, Best Playing Pony for the tournament and the coveted American Polo Horse Association best registered horse of the game.
The APHA 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.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation's largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, 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, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.
Season highlights for 2019 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.
The biggest highlight of the season is the debut of the World Polo League on Thursday, 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 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.