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Newport Captures Santa Rita Abierto; Fred Mannix Sweeps MVP, BPP Honors

WELLINGTON, Fla., May 6, 2024---Newport, making its spring debut, won the second tournament of the season Sunday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.


By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira


Newport (Gene Goldstein, 0, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Fred Mannix, 7, Tommy Collingwood, 5) earned a hardfought 10-8 victory over Palm Beach Equine (Grant Ganzi, 3, Jason Crowder, 5, Nic Roldan, 8, Scott Swerdlin, 0) in the championship final of the Santa Rita Abierto.



Fred Mannix, the highest ranked Canadian polo player and playing exceptionally well this year, swept the Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony awards.


Best Playing Pony Alberta Monaco, a 6-year-old bay mare bred, owned and played by Mannix in the sixth chukker, was making her debut in Wellington after being brought to the U.S. last year playing in California and Aspen.


"I'm in good shape," Mannix said. "I've been training every day here in Florida for 12 years with my trainer. I have a lot of energy for the horses and to play with my friends. Look how exciting it is for Monaco today. We had to prepare her to get to this point. You have to ride, think about it, feed them and train them. Today is the day to shine for her.


"We're off to a very good start," Mannix said. "I'm super happy. I'm very proud of all my guys in Argentina that have been working at it. It just doesn't happen by accident. You have to build the plan and work the plan. The bloodline is obviously strong because her sisters are playing good polo as well."  



Mannix, a former 9-goaler, was the first Canadian in 80 years to compete in all three legs of polo's Triple Crown in Argentina and only the second Canadian to play in the Argentine Open.


Mannix is coming off an outstanding 2024 World Polo League 26-goal season with Canada's only high goal polo franchise Alegria, a team he is founder, captain and sponsor of. He brought 18 horses to Wellington from his Alberta horse breeding operation in Argentina. It is named after the Canadian province where Mannix is from. The word Alegria means happiness in Catalan.


"We have 18 of our horses now in America and I think that's the result of a lot of hard work, effort and a little bit of risk," Mannix said. "It's not just because you bring the horses that they are going to be good and you are going to play well. It's difficult to be well-mounted in Argentina and here in America. Luckily, the WPL has been very good to me. The Ganzis have supported me. They said mount yourself, bring your team and let's make it a good season."


On a perfect day for polo despite the wind, fans were treated to 16 chukkers of polo.


In the final, the lead changed hands eight times. After 2-1 and 3-3 chukkers, Newport shut out Palm Beach Equine, 2-0, in the third chukker behind Goldstein's 30-yard penalty conversion and Mannix' goal to take a 5-3 halftime lead.


Newport led by as many as three goals (6-3) early in the fourth quarter after Mannix scored from a standstill through two defenders.


Palm Beach Equine, trailing 6-4, reeled Newport in during the fifth chukker behind goals by Ganzi and Roldan to tie 6-6. Newport recovered behind Spinacci's back-to-back goals for an 8-6 lead. Crowder scored just before the end of the chukker to trail by only one, 8-7.


Newport maintained its lead and composure in the sixth chukker. Goldstein converted another 30-yard penalty for a 9-7 lead and Mannix scored again just before the courtesy change (3:24) for a 10-7 lead. Behind Collingwood's defensive efforts, Newport allowed only one more goal before the game ended.


Despite not playing together as a team, Newport developed on-field chemistry quickly and had a plan going into the tournament.


"Gene is a nice guy, we have been playing a few weeks together," Mannix said. "He is a gentleman on the field. I had never played with Tommy. I've known Pablo for quite a while but not played with him much. It was like a fresh start this weekend.


"We had a great game," Mannix said. "We had a good gameplan. Nic Roldan has been the best American player here for quite some time. He is  a beast the way he hits the ball and is very dominant on the field. He is a winner so we drew up a plan to keep the ball away from him.


"I think the game plan worked well. It was all very gentlemanly. I think everyone had a great time and I think that's what it's really all about."


Mannix scored a game-high four goals. Spinacci had three goals, Goldstein two and Collingwood had one. For Palm Beach Equine, Ganzi and Roldan each had three goals and Crowder added two.


In the semifinals, Newport earned a spot in the final with a 9-8 win over Maltese Falcons (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7). Palm Beach Equine advanced with a 10-7 upset of Audi (Tomacho Pieres, 6, Marc Ganzi, 1, Lorenzo Chavanne, 6T, Santos Bollini, 2), 10-7.


In the Just For The Fun Of It subsidiary, Maltese Falcons (Sebastian Mandelbaum, 0, Leo Mandelbaum, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7) edged Audi (Santos Bollini, 2, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Lorenzo Chavanne, 6T, Tito Gaudenzi, 2), 8-7, with Astrada scoring the winning goal on a 30-yard penalty conversion. Astrada finished with five goals and was named Most Valuable Player. Santos Bollini had five goals for Audi.


In the Santa Rita Handicap, Grand Champions (Joelle Wyser Pratte, -1, Tucu Paz, 2, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Santos Bollini, 2), trailing by one goal (6-5) after opening day action, came back to defeat Santa Rita (Rebecca Cohen, -1, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7, Sugar Erskine, 6, Jonny Castillo, 0), 11-10, when Santos Bollini scored the game-winner with 38 seconds remaining in the game. Pratte scored five goals to finish with 10 goals for the game.


In last year's Santa Rita Abierto, with 16 seconds left and the game tied 9-9, Travieso (Teo Calle, 0, Tony Calle, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Jason Crowder, 5) converted a 30-yard penalty to defeat Casablanca (Alex Webb, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Bollini, 3), 10-9. Crowder was MVP.


During the spring season, amateur polo players get the chance to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players. It is geared towards improving polo skills and having fun.


 


The spring league is also a great opportunity for younger players to develop and hone their skills against their peers and more experienced players.

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