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Park Place Captures World Polo League's Triple Crown Of Polo; Joaquin Panelo Named MVP

WELLINGTON, Fla., April 22, 2024---In an emotionally-charged game, Park Place won its first World Polo League Triple Crown of Polo Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.




By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira


Park Place (Andrey Borodin, 0, Juan Britos, 9, Hilario Ulloa, 10, Joaquin Panelo, 6) held on for a thrilling 12-11 victory over defending champion and previously undefeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras, 5, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pablo MacDonough, 10).


The victory avenged a 10-9 loss to Audi in overtime in tournament bracket play.


It was the second World Polo League tournament title for Park Place making its 26-goal WPL season debut. Park Place also won the Founders Cup.



Other tournament winners in the most competitive WPL season in the league's six-year history were Audi in the All-Star Challenge and Casablanca in the Palm Beach Open.


Joaquin Panelo, 29, the team's unsung hero, was named Most Valuable Player.


Three Best Playing Pony blankets were awarded. Senora Queen, played by Ulloa, was the Argentino BPP. Chalo Netflix, played by Castagnola, was the American Polo Horse Association BPP. Delta, played and owned by Borodin, was the World Polo League BPP.



Borodin was also given the Winning Patron Award by Reto Gaudenzi, the godfather of snow polo. Gaudenzi presented him with a five-day stay in St. Moritz, home of the world's only high goal tournament on snow established in 1985 by Gaudenzi.


The championship final lived up to expectations as one of the best finals in World Polo League history with the lead changing hands 12 times.


Like a prizefight, both physical teams played consistently well with punches and counter punches. Park Place opened with a 2-1 opening chukker lead including one handicap goal. Audi bounced back with a 2-1 second chukker for a 3-3 tie. With three goals from Ulloa, Park Place had a big 3-1 third chukker and led at halftime, 6-4.



Audi had its big 3-1 chukker in the fourth behind two Castagnola goals and one Ganzi goal to tie again 7-7. Playing its best horses, Park Place outscored Audi, 4-2, in the fifth chukker to take an 11-9 lead.


As expected the game came down to the sixth chukker where Audi shut out Park Plce, 2-0, but fell short of rallying to send the game into overtime. Audi ended up outscoring Park Place 7-5 in the second half.


Audi had one final scoring opportunity in the closing 57 seconds of regulation time but had a 30-yard penalty conversion bounced off the post. Audi had one final possession with six seconds left but ran out of time.



Ulloa scored a team-high six goals. Panelo had four and Britos added one. The team was awarded one goal on handicap.


Castagnola scored a game-high 10 goals for Audi. He finished as the tournament's leading scorer with 34 goals. Ganzi added one goal.


In the first half, Park Place led in shots on goal, 9-7, and fouls committed, 6-4, with Audi scoring three off penalties. Audi led in throw-ins, 6-4, and knock-ins, 4-3.


Audi finished leading in shots on goal, 18-17 and throw-ins, 13-9. Park Place led in knock-ins, 7-6, and fouls 14-9, with Audi scoring seven goals off penalties.



Lake Worth-based Team Fastrax professional skydiving team made an impressive entrance with the American and World Polo Lague flags to open the pre-game festivities that included tandem-diving with WPL co-founder and Grand Champions Polo Club President Melissa Ganzi landing perfectly at mid-field.


"That was a pretty cool entrance," Nic Roldan said.


Latina rock star Galxara gave a stirring rendition of the National Anthem in her 2024 season debut.



Before the opening throw-in, a moment of silence was held for Hall of Famer Glen Holden, a former American polo player and U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, who died Friday night. He would have been 97 in July.


In the semifinals, Audi advanced with a 10-9 win over Travieso (Teo Calle, 1, Mackie Weisz, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Juan Martin Zubia, 9), 10-9. Park Place defeated Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Hilario Figueras, 6, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9), 11-8.


The crown jewel and fourth and final 26-goal tournament of the season, attracted eight teams for the two-week tournament.



In last year's Triple Crown of Polo, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6) knocked off defending champion Pampa Norte Biotricity (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, 0, Facundo Llosa, 7, Gringo Colombres, 8, Pedro Falabella, 7), 18-14.


The Triple Crown of Polo trophy is comprised of three separate trophies that fit perfectly together to create an entire polo scene that is breathtaking in sterling silver. As WPL tournament winners, Park Place players' names will be inscribed on the trophy.



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

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