Audi, Palm Beach Equine Meet Sunday In Santa Rita Abierto Final At Grand Champions Polo Club

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WELLINGTON, Fl.—May 25, 2019----Audi and Palm Beach Equine will be looking for their first tournament title of the spring season Sunday when they play in the Santa Rita Abierto final at Grand Champions Polo Club.

On a windy Friday, both teams advanced into the final with impressive victories.

Palm Beach Equine (Brandon Phillips, 4, Juan Bollini, 5, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Scott Swerdlin, 0) broke open a close game to knock off Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, 2, Tommy Collingwood, 5, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6), 10-5, in the opening game.

Audi (Sugar Erskine, 6, Lucas Lalor, 5, Marc Ganzi, 2, Jared Zenni, 6) defeated Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Bauti Andrada, 1, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Nic Roldan, 8), 8-6, in the other qualifying game.

In Sunday's doubleheader opener at 10 a.m., Dutta Corp will play Sebucan in the Just For The Love Of It subsidiary final.

In the opening Friday game, Palm Beach Equine and Dutta Corp were tied after the second (2-2), third (3-3) and fourth chukkers (4-4) until Phillips broke loose for four goals in the fifth chukker to take a commanding 8-4 lead going into the final chukker. 

Dutta Corp was unable to dig itself out of the hole with Phillips and Astrada scoring for a 2-1 advantage in the sixth chukker.

"This is a great team, everyone played well," Swerdlin said. "Juan was amazing today and Brandon was incredible. 

"Everyone came to Negro and Juan would open the ball up the middle of the field and Brandon was always there, always in the right place. He was on good horses and never missed the ball. He left everybody behind. It was great and now we're in another final.

"I do want to wish Tim Dutta and Dutta Corp good luck in the consolation final," Swerdlin said. 

Phillips finished with a game-high five goals, Astrada had three goals and Bollini added two. For Dutta Corp, Kampsen and Dutta each had two goals and Collingwood added one.

Palm Beach Equine will be making its second final appearance. In the Spring Challenge Cup, Palm Beach Equine lost a 9-8 overtime game to Aspen Valley's Pablo Pulido, Juancito Bollini, 4, Grant Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada.

"I think we know each other pretty well," said Bollini, a 57-year-old cancer survivor. "Brandon and I have played a long, long time. I know if I get the ball to Brandon he will score. He is very straight with the ball. If you feed him the ball he is really good and we used that. 

"We played as a team and were very focused on what we had to do for the game," Bollini said. "Alejandro is an incredible player. He made us play well and he trusted us. It is a fun team. I am hitting better than I have in the last couple years. I love playing and I am never going to give up."

In the second game, Audi, playing with a new lineup, fell behind 2-0 in the opening chukker but quickly found its chemistry and rhythm to outscore Sebucan, last weekend's tournament winners, 3-1 in the second and 2-0 in the third chukkers to take a 5-3 halftime advantage.

Audi continued to control the game in the second half pulling away for an 8-4 lead on Lalor's goal with 17 seconds left in the fifth chukker. Sebucan attempted to rally behind back-to-back goals by Roldan but ran out of time.

"We started out a little slow in the first chukker," Zenni said. "I've never played with Lucas. I played with Marc and Sugar two tournaments ago and it was a lot of fun. I understood the way they play, we all play similar styles so it made it pretty much easy. We just had to get our feet under us a little bit and got running from there."

Audi got balanced scoring. Ganzi led his team with three goals, Lalor and Zenni each had two goals and Erskine added one goal. Roldan led Sebucan with a game-high four goals. Pulido and Andrada each had one goal.

"Palm Beach Equine is a great team," Zenni said. "I think Alejandro Novillo Astrada has been in every final so it's going to be tough. He's a tough player. They all played really well today so it's going to be a tough final but I think we're up for the challenge." 

Zenni, a senior at University of Miami making his Grand Champions spring debut, has qualified for three of the four spring finals. "It's been a good spring," Zenni said. "It's been great playing with all these different players. The experience has been great."

Last year's Santa Rita Abierto was won by Dutta Corp for the third time (Timmy Dutta, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Piki Diaz Alberdi, Alex Webb) with a 7-4 victory over  Sebucan (Josh Dubarry, Pablo Pulido, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Julio Gracida) in a four-chukker lightning-abreviated championship final. 

The Santa Rita Abierto is named after Melissa Ganzi's grandmother, who passed away on December 29, 2012, in Wellington.
 
On Monday, the season-ending Memorial will feature Grand Champions U.S. against Grand Champions Rest of The World at 10 a.m.

The rosters are: Grand Champions U.S.: (23) Grant Ganzi, 3, Sugar Erskine, 6, Jared Zenni, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, and Grand Champions Rest of the World: (20) Pablo Pulido, 2, Brandon Phillips, 4, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8.

Winners of this season's first three spring tournaments were Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, 2, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jared Zenni, 6) in the Sun Cup for a club record fourth time; Aspen Valley (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Grant Ganzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) in the Spring Challenge Cup; and Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 2, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Jarred Zenni, 6) in the Polo Gear Challenge Cup. The first two tournament finals went into overtime.

The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV.

Grand Champions fall, winter and spring 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, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.

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 in 2007.

The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, 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 May 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.