WELLINGTON, Fl., April 8, 2019----Playing its best polo of the World Polo League, Audi will join Colorado, Grand Champions and Valiente in the Triple Crown of Polo semifinals on Thursday.
Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Kris Kampsen, 6) defeated WPL (Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Guillermo Terrera, 8, Agustin Nero/Santi Torres, 6, Diego Cavanagh, 9), 10-6, Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Leading 5-4 at halftime, Audi outscored WPL, 5-2, in the second half, and held them scoreless in the fourth and sixth chukkers to remain unbeaten (3-0).
Audi will play Valiente, 13-10 winners over Black Watch, in Thursday's first semifinal. Undefeated Colorado (3-0) will play Grand Champions (2-1), 14-13 winners over Mandarina, in the other semifinal.
"I think we played well today most of the chukkers," said Most Valuable Player Pablo MacDonough, fully recovered from an ankle sprain he sustained against Grand Champions. "We played the way we wanted. We have been playing together for two months now and we know each other on the field.
"We had a few mistakes in the middle where we rushed a bit," MacDonough said. "We are in the semis, that's good. Now hopefully the horses stay well for a few more days. It's really important for us to have them in good shape, fresh and 100 percent."
MacDonough scored a game-high six goals including five on penalty conversions. Nic Roldan added two goals and Marc Ganzi and Kris Kampsen each had one. Diego Cavanagh scored three goals for WPL. Terrera had two and Cambiaso added one goal.
"The game got really tough. Obviously, those guys are a great team and they lost their key player and had to put a sub in at the last second but he played great," Kampsen said. "It's never easy jumping in the last minute.
"This was a huge win. Pablo was great about keeping our heads in the game. It's very important for us to be in the semifinals. It's important to get back in the final. I want to win with these guys. I want a chance to win."
Six-goaler Agustin Nero of WPL was injured in the opening chukker when he tried to ride off Nic Roldan, both taking out the goal post. Nero returned to the game briefly before being replaced by 6-goaler Santi Torres of Valiente in the second chukker. Torres played with a different helmet until a friend brought his trademark bright red helmet to the players' tent for him to switch.
Torres had already played in the Valiente-Black Watch game earlier in the day, but Audi team sponsor Marc Ganzi and his players agreed to allow him to play again.
"We just thought it was good sportsmanship," Ganzi said. "This is the beauty of the World Polo League. That's the idea, the idea is to make sure everybody understands that it's a privilege to play this game. It's a game at the end of the day, a game among gentlemen. If we forget that's what the purpose of the game is, then we have all lost our compass about why this is what it is. I am really happy with the sportsmanship in the league and very pleased with how far we have come as a league in one short year. I think we have shown people a lot."
In the last two tournaments, Audi has gone from winless in the Founders Cup to finalist in the Palm Beach Open.
"We talked about how important this game was," Ganzi said. "The pattern of polo that's working for us right now is being super disciplined and playing good defense which is not usually what we do. Pablo has us thinking defense first. When we defend well, we play well."
Audi jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening chukker and maintained its game plan working together well as a team for most of the game leading 4-3, 5-4, 6-4 and 8-6.
"I am very happy," Ganzi said. "Each game we get better. I like it when we play error-free polo. We made a couple mistakes today. Whether it's defending a man with security or it's delivering the ball with security, I think we are hard to beat."
The Grand Champions Best Playing Pony was Cuban, played by Poroto Cambiaso of WPL. The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony was Irenha Pizza played by MVP Pablo MacDonough of Audi.
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.
Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Pelon Stirling, 10, Alejandro Taranco, 8) needed only one chukker to overcome a 3-0 deficit Black Watch (Juan Cruz Merlos, 6, Nacho Figueras, 6, Pite Merlos, 8, Juan Bollini, 5) received on handicap and 4-0 lead early in the first chukker.
Valiente shut out Black Watch, 4-0, to take a 7-5 lead and never relinquished the lead. Black Watch cut the lead to one, 9-8, after the fourth chukker but Valiente pulled away in the fifth chukker.
"They played well today, they are definitely playing better," Jornayvaz said. "It was a fun game to be in. Juan Bollini made a big difference. He is a long ball hitter and did a great job opening it up for them.
"It's fun that I have played with all these guys so many times and they know what I can do and can't do," Jornayvaz said. "They make up for all the things I can't do. It's fun, it worked out well. It's great we are in the semifinals."
Stirling led Valiente with a game-high eight goals including six on penalty conversions. Taranco added three goals and Jornayvaz and Torres each had one. For Black Watch, Juan Cruz Merlos and Figueras each had three goals and Pite Merlos added one goal.
In the first game of Sunday's tripleheader, Grand Champions started out with a 5-0 deficit with Mandarina's handicap and fell behind 6-2 late in the first chukker before clawing its way back and tying the game 7-7 on Ganzi's goal with 4:57 left in the third chukker.
The lead changed hands three times before Grand Champions regained a 12-11 lead on Nero's goal with 3:10 left in the fifth chukker.
Grand Champions pulled away for a 14-11 lead with 3:56 left in the game. Biggati's goal in the final two minutes cut the lead to one but Mandarina ran out of time.
"This is a huge win," Ganzi said. "It gives us a lot of confidence going into the semifinal. This game was more to play for the team just to get some chemistry back. We kind of got a little lackadaisical the last game. We were a little loose. Everything that could have gone against us went. It was really tough.
"Going into the semifinals the horses are good and the team is good. We just need to keep our heads on straight."
Grand Champions got balanced scoring out of its lineup. Ganzi had a game-high five goals including a penalty-four in the sixth chukker, Andrade had four goals, Bollini had three and Nero added two.
Melissa Ganzi, playing against her son, led Mandarina with four goals. Bigatti and Novillo Astrada each had two.
World Polo League action continues on Wednesday with the US Trust Cup subsidiary semifinals. At 10 a.m., Mandarina plays Alegria at Grand Champions Field 1. At 3 p.m. Black Watch plays World Polo League at Jan Pamela Field 3.
On Thursday in the Triple Crown of Polo semifinals, Valiente plays Audi at 11 a.m. at Valiente Polo Farm Field 2 and at 4 p.m. Grand Champions plays Colorado at Valiente Polo Farm Field 3.
The WPL is being live streamed on ESPN Deportes and ChukkerTV/Polo Channel/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 11 tournament-quality fields to play on, features the All-Star Challenge Draw Tournament, Founders Cup, Palm Beach Open and Triple Crown of Polo. The WPL is open to 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 Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Nigeria, New Zealand, Uruguay and U.S.
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.