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Audi Captures WPL All-Star Challenge; Jeta Castagnola MVP; WPL Doubleheader Wednesday Featuring Adolfo Cambiaso

WELLINGTON, Fla., February 26, 2024---In a hotly-contested championship final, Audi captured the World Polo League's All-Star Challenge Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira

Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Nic Roldan, 8, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pancho Bensadon, 7) broke open a close game in the fifth chukker to defeat Kaia Polo (Larry Wilson, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Mariano Aguerre, 7, Santi Toccalino, 8), 16-13.

Argentine 10-goaler Jeta Castagnola was named Most Valuable Player.

Audi worked its way back from 22-goal Kaia Polo's four-goal handicap lead and a 5-1 deficit midway through the second chukker. Audi reeled off four unanswered goals to tie, 5-5, at the 2:45 mark on Roldan's short chip shot after Castagnola's 145-yarder fell short of the goal. Audi moved into the lead, 7-6, on another Castagnola goal and led 8-6 on Ganzi's goal off the volley at the half.  

Audi never relinquished its lead in the second half. Kaia Polo came within one goal in the fourth (10-9) and fifth (12-11) but could get no closer even though it had its share of scoring opportunities. Audi led 10-9 after the fourth and 14-12 after the fifth chukkers.

"It was a very tough game," Roldan said. "That team has been playing really well. They have been really successful in the past couple of games leading up to the semis.

"We knew it was going to be tough. We also knew it was going to be long," Roldan said. "We had to give them four goals to start with. It was a game of patience and sticking to our system and executing."

In the third and fourth chukkers, penalties slowed the wide, open flow of the game down.

"It got a little sticky in the middle of the game," Roldan said. "I think that might have been the plan they wanted to do. We kind of got caught up in it which is tough not to in a situation like that. We just said look, we have to stick to our game plan, have the patience and open up the game and the team pulled through."

Audi will now have a target on its back after winning the WPL opener. But with the chemistry among teammates, they are up for the challenge.

"Marc scored a couple of great goals at the end of the game, Jeta was a machine and Pancho was great," Roldan said. "The whole team played really well. We're happy. I think the WPL is wide open. There's a lot of good teams. It will be interesting."

The fact Audi, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, has such a rich winning tradition in polo is not lost on Roldan.

"Marc has obviously built up a great organization and really good team," Roldan said. "Audi has been very successful in polo for more than 20 years.

"We don't think about the target on our back," Roldan said. "We just go ahead, stick to our game plan and our system and try to get the horses in the best shape possible and get ready for the next games."

Castagnola and Ganzi shared high scoring honors, each with six goals. Ganzi converted four penalties. Roldan had three goals and Bensadon added one. For Kaia Polo, Toccalino had a game-high eight goals. Aguerre had one. The team picked up four goals on handicap.

Audi outshot Kaia Polo, 23-17, including 12-8 in the first half. Audi led in knock-ins, 8-7, throw-ins, 15-10, and fouls, 14-12.

Kaia Polo advanced into the final with a 17-14 win over La Irenita and Audi defeated Alegria, 11-8, to get to the final.

Three horses earned Best Playing Pony blankets on Sunday. The World Polo League BPP was Mas Salsa, owned and played by Mariano Aguerre. Santi Toccalino's Polera Famosa was the Argentine BPP. The American Polo Horse Association BPP was Castagnola's Catwoman.

WPL Founders Cup action continues Wednesday with two games. In the opening game, Maltese Falcons (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 9) plays Travieso (Tony Calle, 3, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Martin Jauregui, 6, Juan Martin Nero, 10) at 11 a.m. Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6) plays Alegria (Tincho Merlos, 7, Sugar Erskine, 6, Jason Crowder, 5, Fred Mannix, 7) at 3 p.m.

Cambiaso, 48, returns to the WPL after a three-year absence. On Sunday, the 10-goaler was named MVP after leading Valiente to a 12-10 win over La Dolfina, featuring his teenage son Poroto, in the C.V. Whitney Cup final.

On Wednesday, Cambiaso will play against another 10-goaler, Juan Martin Nero, his La Dolfina Saudi teammate in the 130th Argentine Open won by La Natividad, 13-10 winners over La Dolfina Saudi.

In last year's All-Star Challenge final underdog Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Barto Castagnola, 10, Jesse Bray, 7) defeated 2021 champion and tournament favorite Richard Mille (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7), 14-9. Argentine 10-goaler Barto Castagnola was named MVP Player after scoring a game-high 11 goals.

The WPL, the winter season's biggest highlight, continues to make history as the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina.



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