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Maltese Falcons Win USPA Butler Handicap; Gonzalito Pieres Named MVP

WELLINGTON, Fla., April 23,2024---The Maltese Falcons won their first USPA Butler Handicap Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira

Maltese Falcons (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Grant Ganzi, 3, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7) defeated NetJets (Santos Bollini, 2, Cody Ellis, 5, Nacho Figueras, 5, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8), 12-9.

Former 10-goaler Gonzalito Pieres was named Most Valuable Player. Miniatura, owned and played by Alejandro Novillo Astrada, was Best Playing Pony.

The game marked the return of Melissa Ganzi, sidelined with a serious elbow injury during the World Polo League season. Ganzi showed no signs of rust scoring a game-high six goals.

It was also the first USPA Butler Handicap won my a mother-son combination. Grant Ganzi, a 3-goaler enjoying one of his best high goal seasons, joined his mother on the Maltese Falcons. The pair combined for eight goals.

After a 2-2 opening chukker, Maltese Falcons took control of the game and never trailed after Melissa Ganzi scored three goals in the second chukker for a 5-4 lead. Pieres added two more goals in the third chukker to lead at halftime, 8-6.

Maltese Falcons shut out NetJets, 1-0, in the fourth chukker to take a 9-6 lead. Playing wide open polo, Maltese Falcons never lost their rhythm. The teams exchanged 2-1 chukkers in the fifth and sixth chukker with Maltese Falcons outscoring NetJets, 4-3, in the second half.

In addition to Melissa Ganzi's scoring, other Maltese Falcons scorers were Grant Ganzi and Gonzalito Pieres, each with two goals, and Alejandro Novillo Astrada added one.

NetJets got balanced scoring from its lineup. Cody Ellis led with three goals, Nacho Figueras and Nacho Novillo Astrada each had two goals and Santos Bollini had one.

In the 2023 final, Old Hickory Bourbon (Matias Magrini, Vaughn Miller Jr., Antonio Heguy, Stevie Orthwein) defeated Hawaii Polo Life (Chris Dawson, Santino Magrini, Gonzalo Ferrari, Pelon Stirling), 8-7, at Port Mayaca Polo Club.

In 2014, with the combined efforts of the Butler family and USPA, the historic Butler Handicap was officially adopted as a national USPA event.

In July 2016, the Greenwich Polo Club hosted the 20-goal tournament in Greenwich, Ct. in a concerted effort with the USPA to re-launch and better memorialize the national tournament. In 2020, the Butler Handicap moved to Port Mayaca Polo Club.



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