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Travieso Takes On Defending Champion Casablanca Sunday In Palm Beach Open Final

WELLINGTON, Fla., April 1, 2024---On a picture-perfect Easter Sunday, Travieso and Casablanca advanced to the championship final of the Palm Beach Open Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.


By Sharon Robb

Photos by Candace Ferreira


In the morning semifinal, Travieso, the tournament's Cinderella team, stunned Pilot, 10-8, at Pilot Field in the biggest upset of the tournament.



In the afternoon feature game, defending champion Casablanca knocked off favorite Audi, 12-7, at Grand Champions in front of a packed house.


"This is the biggest win that I have had in my entire life," said Tony Calle, who will be pitted against good friend and former college (Lynn University) roommate, Grant Ganzi.



"The final of the 26 is something that you can only dream about," Calle said. "Playing with Juan, Pipe and Tomacho is a pleasure and a privilege."


TRAVIESO 10, PILOT 8

Travieso (Tony Calle, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Juan Martin Nero, 10), which had to win a playoff game against Maltese Falcons to earn the fourth spot, knocked off previously undefeated Pilot (Curtis Pilot, 0, Antonio Heguy, 7, Santi Torres, 6, Facundo Pieres, 10).


It was the first time Travieso, one of the winningest teams in various leagues and tournaments at Grand Champions, advanced into a 26-goal final.


"I was just focused on play by play, trying to do my best, keep my head down and just keep that intensity throughout the game," said Calle, making his 26-goal tournament debut this season.



"I'm trying to take this as seriously as I can," Calle said. "My family and my dad, especially, has done his best to bring up our level of horses. I think we have a competitive string right now and I couldn't be more happy.


"I believed in our team from the get-go," Calle said. "I said this is my opportunity and the chance to have such a good team doesn't come often. I believe in every one of our players. I thought we had a chance at this so we might as well take advantage of it."


Travieso, working well together, relied on a tenacious defense to hold Pilot scoreless for nearly the entire first half. Pilot's first three goals were on handicap. Torres scored Pilot's first goal with 2:23 in the third chukker.



Meanwhile, Travieso worked its way back from the three-goal handicap deficit behind Vercellino's three goals and goals from Calle, Pieres and Nero and shut out Pilot, 2-0, in the second chukker to lead 6-4 at the half.


"We tried, we tried very hard," Calle said. "Juan said it was very important to stick with the good players we had to defend whether it was Santi or Facu and whoever was free take advantage when we could with the ball. We tried not to give them a clean shot or clean option the whole game."



Travieso had leads of three (7-4 and 9-6) in the fourth and fifth chukkers. Facundo Pieres brought Pilot to within one (9-8) with 2:51 left in the game. After a great defensive play by Calle on Facundo Pieres and Tomacho Pieres clearing out a Pilot goal at the 1:30 mark, Tomacho Pieres scored an insurance goal on a broken play with a minute left to clinch the win.


"The main focus of the game was play by play," Calle said. "They are obviously going to score, they are great players and great athletes. We just needed to keep our cool and not give them any window to score."


Travieso got balanced scoring from its lineup. Vercellino and Pieres each had three goals. Calle and Nero each had two. Facundo Pieres had three for Pilot and Torres added two.



Pilot led in throw-ins, 12-4, but couldn't capitalize. Travieso led in shots-on-goal, 14-13 and knock-ins, 8-4. Pilot had 8 fouls and Travieso had 7.


CASABLANCA 12, AUDI 7

After a 2-2 opening chukker and 5-2 Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Tommy Collingwood, 5, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Pablo MacDonough, 10) second chukker buoyed by three Castagnola goals, it was all Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Rufino Bensadon, 8, Sapo Caset, 9, Hilario Figueras, 6)  holding Audi to its lowest scoring output of the tournament.


Playing its best game of the tournament, Casablanca shut out Audi in the third, fourth and fifth chukkers while scoring eight unanswered goals for a 12-5 lead midway through the sixth chukker.



Casablanca's defense was relentless holding Catagnola to two goals in the second half, both in the final minute.


Caset swept Most Valuable Player and Best Playing Pony Honors. His horse, Pickey, was the WPL Best Playing Pony. Catwoman, played by Castagnola and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was the American Polo Horse Association BPP.


Caset led all scoring with a game-high eight goals. Bensadon had two and Figueras added one. The team was also awarded a penalty-one. For Audi, Castagnola led with five goals and Collingwood had two.



Casablanca led in shots on goal, 23-16. Throw-ins were even at 10-10 and Audi led in knock-ins, 11-9, and fouls, 8-7.


The fun afternoon featured the Easter Bunny, an Easter egg hunt, great food, music, most spirited and best dressed fan awards and Wheelie Polo game won by Grand Champions Polo Club Red, 8-1, with Inda Pieres and Artemio Figueras leading in scoring.



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.


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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