WELLINGTON, Fl., March 7, 2019---Welcome to the World Polo League Sayyu Dantata and SD Farms and Gringo Colombres of Alegria.
In a stunning upset to open the World Polo League's third tournament of its inaugural season, Alegria (Freddie Mannix, 8, Jesse Bray, 6, Gringo Colombres, 6, Juan Martin Obregon, 5) knocked off Founders Cup champion Grand Champions (Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Rodrigo Andrade, 9, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 12-10, on a brisk and windy Wednesday at Jan Pamela Field.
SD Farms (Sayyu Dantata, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Guillermo Terrera, 8, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) looked impressive in its debut with a 16-11 victory over Black Watch (Juan Cruz Merlos, 6, Nacho Figueras, 6, Pite Merlos, 8, Tommy Biddle, 5) at Valiente Polo Farm.
In the opening game, Gringo Colombres made his World Polo League debut with Alegria. Colombres, coming off three 20-goal tournament wins with Dutta Corp, turned out to be the missing piece of the puzzle with his aggressive, scrappy, ball-hawking ways for Alegria.
Looking stronger with each game, Alegria turned in its finest performance leading from start-to-finish to win its second consecutive game after a slow start in league play.
"We played as a team," Mannix said. "We know we didn't want to go like we did the last tournament. It was no fun to lose like we did against the big teams. Today we showed that we could play really good polo. It was fun. I had a good time and look at all these guys faces here. Everyone had a great day, every one played well. Jesse scored some amazing goals, Juan Martin had good all-around defense, Gringo had some amazing goals and I did what I needed to do.
"Grand Champions is good," Mannix said. "Rodrigo is a champion and the same with Juan Martin and I have no doubt that the two boys one day will be great players. They are a tough team to beat. They are well-organized, have some of the advantages having a 10-goaler and some horses. Today it just seemed like our team wanted it more and played a little more concentrated at times up front."
Playing wide open polo and pressure defense, Alegria dominated most of the game and caught Grand Champions off guard to lead 8-4 at the half and 9-5 after four chukkers.
Grand Champions dug itself out of a hole in the fifth chukker and early in the sixth chukker to trail by one, 9-8, and 10-9.
Grand Champions outscored Alegria, 6-4, including a 1-0 shutout in the fourth chukker, but Alegria came up with the clutch goals from Mannix, working both sides of his horse and back-to-back goals from Colombres for a 12-9 advantage. Bollini scored the final goal with 1:30 left for Grand Champions.
"It's amazing to start like this," said Colombres of his debut. "I think we played an open game today. It was fun. This was my first time with the guys playing in a game. I only played with Juan Martin when we were 15 years old, a long, long time ago. But I have played against them and we know each other well.
"I like this wide open polo, it's like we play in Argentina, we hit and run," Colombres said. "I tried to play simple today."
Obregon led Alegria with a team-high five goals. Colombres had four goals, Bray scored two and Mannix added one.
"We are really happy, this is a tough team to play against," said Obregon, who turned away four goal attempts with his back shots. "We pulled through. It was tough to get a good advantage. Going in at halftime with four goals on top is very difficult to maintain. We knew they were going to switch some things and really step it up. The good thing is we were able to maintain.
"When they got within one we knew we had to keep our calm and our patience," Obregon said. "The team was doing well, we didn't have to change much. It was getting one or two lucky breaks and one or two goals back on the board."
Added Bray, "We're very happy. It's good to have two wins in a row now. We finished the last tournament with a win after the first two losses and now to get another one is good. This gives us confidence. Once you start winning it makes things a little easier."
For Grand Champions, Nero scored a game-high six goals. Andrade and Bollini each had two goals.
Playing together for the first time as a team, SD Farms jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the opening chukker and kept building on it. SD Farms' firepower and horsepower was too much of a challenge for Black Watch.
For Nigerian Sayyu Dantata, it was a dream come true to play alongside the world's greatest player.
"I had a fantastic time," Dantata said. "It is amazing to play with him and in this league. It is another world of polo that I have never seen before.
"It brings my game up," Dantata said. "It is a completely different game. It is fast paced and everybody knows exactly where everybody is. I had one practice with them and Adolfo tells you where to be. Playing on their horses is amazing, they take you to the ball and know exactly what to do. There is nothing better."
The foursome had instant chemistry. Terrera was coming off playing with Scone and Cambiaso and Torres played with Valiente during the Founders Cup.
"We tried to be nice to the other team," Cambiaso said. "They started playing better and we woke up in the last couple chukkers and finished it up. It's not easy when you are winning like that. You lose a bit of the system, the concentration. They played well in the third and fourth and we played well in the first, second and last."
It was the first time Cambiaso played with Dantata in a game. The two had one practice before the opener.
"It was great playing with him, he had some really nice plays, he knows how to play polo," Cambiaso said. "He had a couple of nice team work plays and he took a couple of guys and Santi was able to score a couple of goals thanks to Sayyu. I think we played very well and I think Santi Torres is on a different level. He is playing really, really well."
Terrera led scoring for SD Farms with a game-high seven goals. Torres and Cambiaso each had four goals and Dantata added one goal.
Big-hitting Biddle had a team-high six goals for Black Watch. Father and son Pite and Juan Cruz Merlos each had two goals and Figueras added one.
Another doubleheader is scheduled for Thursday. At 11 a.m., Flexjet plays Colorado at Grand Champions Polo Club's Field 3 and at 4 p.m. Valiente plays host to Audi at Valiente Polo Farm's Field 2.
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, includes the All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament, Founders Cup, Palm Beach Open and Triple Crown of Polo.
The World Polo League is open to other teams that wish to compete in one or more of the tournaments. 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, Nigeria, 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.
Photos by Ramon Casares