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Casablanca Defends Title, Wins Palm Beach Open; Sapo Caset Sweeps MVP, BPP Honors

WELLINGTON, Fla., April 8, 2024---Casablanca defended its title in the World Polo League's Palm Beach Open championship final Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Hilario Figueras, 6, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9) broke open a close game in the fifth chukker to defeat Travieso (Tony Calle, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 11-8.

For the second game in a row, Caset, 38, swept Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony Honors. Caset scored a game-high eight goals. Caset's horse, Bayos Angostura, was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.

"When I saw that he was nine goals I was a little shocked," Ganzi said. "I said that's got to be the best 9-goaler in the world period."

Two other Best Playing Pony blankets were awarded for the final. Calle's horse, Guri Suerte, was the World Polo League BPP and Bensadon's Abrojitos Canasta was the Polo Argentino BPP.

In the most competitive season in the league's six-year history, Casablanca was the third different champion. The other two winners were All-Star Challenge champion Audi and Founders Cup winner Park Place.

"This is the best year of the World Polo League by far and away," said Ganzi, the only returning player off last year's winning Casablanca team. "The majority of the games have been decided by one or two goals. That tells you that the level is great and competitiveness is high.

"A testament to the World Polo League is to how competitive it is, six different finalists for three tournaments is unheard of. That just shows it's competitive as hell. It means a lot to beat all the teams we did. It feels good to win. I am happy we persevered and continued to fight and showed that we could win it all."

In the fast-paced final, the teams were evenly-matched with similar styles of play. Both teams were constantly attacking and played so close to each other there was no room to carry the ball at times making for interesting playmaking.

It was anybody's game for the first four chukkers with the lead changing hands eight times.

With goals from Bensadon and Pieres, the game was tied 1-1 after the opening chukker. Casablanca took a 3-2 lead in the second chukker with two goals from Caset and one from Ganzi. Nero and Vercellino converted the first of four penalty shots for Travieso's goals.

Travieso outscored Casablanca, 2-1, in the third chukker to go into halftime tied at 5-5. Travieso had another 2-1 chukker in the fourth for a 7-6 lead.

Casablanca, using back shots at a high level, dominated Travieso with three consecutive goals by Caset including a 126-yarder to open the fifth chukker to give Casablanca a 9-7 lead going into the final chukker. Travieso missed two crucial scoring opportunities midway through the fifth chukker.

"We played well the entire game," Ganzi said. "We had moments where we had a foul or two that we shouldn't have fouled or a missed goal. Apart from that, I thought we defended really well. They scored half their goals on penalties and that tells you a lot about our defense. It was just a matter of maximizing our goal-scoring opportunities."

Vercellino's 30-yard penalty conversion cut the deficit to 9-8, but Travieso could get no closer with Caset scoring back-to-back goals to finish the game. Casablanca ended up outscoring Travieso, 6-3, in the second half.

"A game like today, there are four guys out there, you try to grab one and work your tail off," Ganzi said.

In addition to Caset's eight goals, Ganzi, Figueras and Bensadon each had one goal. Vercellino led Travieso with four goals. Pieres and Nero each had two goals.

Casablanca outshot Travieso, 15-12. Travieso led in throw-ins, 12-11. Each team had four knock-ins and eight fouls.

To advance to the final of the 10-team tournament, Travieso knocked off Pilot, 10-8, and Casablanca defeated Audi, 12-7.

In last year's Palm Beach Open, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Barto Castagnola, 10, Jesse Bray, 7) held on for a 14-13 victory over Dead End (Evan White, Jr., 1, Pedro Falabella, 7, Magoo Laprida, 8/Gringo Colombres, 7, Facu Llosa, 7), 14-13. Castagnola was Most Valuable Player.



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