WELLINGTON, Fla., March 13, 2023—Audi won the battle of unbeatens to defend its title and capture the World Polo League‘s Founders Cup Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
After dominating most of the game, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Nic Roldan, 8, Freddie Mannix, 7) needed an overtime chukker to defeat Richard Mille (Patricio Mayor, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Lucas James, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) 14-13.
Audi finished the eight-team tournament undefeated with a 5-0 record. Richard Mille finished 4-1.
Richard Mille was playing with a makeshift lineup after losing two starters to injuries in the semifinals. Patricio Mayor replaced patron Gilberto Sayao and Lucas James replaced Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
Down by as many as five goals (13-8) late in the fifth chukker, Richard Mille scored three goals in the first two minutes of the sixth chukker with Mayor scoring the tying goal with 4:10 left. Both teams had scoring opportunities in the final minutes of regulation play but it took a 30-yard penalty conversion by Ganzi to clinch the win in overtime.
„That sixth chukker happened so quick I don‘t know what happened,“ Roldan said. „We kind of got comfortable. They scored two quick goals and came out really strong in that sixth chukker and we were a little bit soft.
„But look, at the end of the day we won and we‘re happy about that because we know we played well and we deserved it,“ Roldan said. „It‘s always good to be on the podium and it was fun to win. Our team feels good and everyone is playing great. It‘s a fun team to play with.“
Jeta Castagnola was named Most Valuable Player. „Jeta is just an animal,“ Roldan said.
Three horses earned Best Playing Pony honors.
Open Sauza, played by Gonzalito Pieres in the second and sixth chukkers, was awarded the Polo Argentino Best Playing Pony.
Irenita Pizza, played by Pablo MacDonough in the third and sixth chukkers, was the World Polo League Best Playing Pony.
Catwoman, played by Jeta Castagnola in the second, fourth and seventh chukkers was the American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
Until the sixth chukker Audi looked to be in the driver‘s seat with its fast-paced aggressive offensive attack, winning nine throw-ins to Richard Mille‘s four in the first half. Audi had at least a two-goal cushion in the first three chukkers and led 7-5 at the half.
Audi looked even stronger in the fourth and fifth chukkers with its good rotation and positioning on the field. Audi dominated plays and moved the ball well and built a 13-8 lead with 1:02 left in the fifth chukker before Richard Mille clawed its way back to force an overtime chukker.
Ganzi scored a game-high seven goals including six penalty conversions and the game-winner. Castagnola added three goals, Mannix had two and Roldan one.
Gonzalito Pieres and Pablo MacDonough each scored five goals for Richard Mille. Mayor and James each had one. The team was also awarded a penalty-one.
Audi outshot Richard Mille, 21-18, including 11-8 in the first half. Audi dominated throw-ins, 9-4 in the first half, and 17-11 overall. Richard Mille led in fouls 11-9, with Audi converting seven of those penalties (four 30-yarders, two 40-yarders and one 60-yarder).
In the semifinals, Audi advanced with a 15-12 win over Kaia Polo (Larry Austin, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Sapo Caset, 10, Santi Toccalino, 8) and Richard Mille advanced with a 14-10 victory over All-Star Challenge tournament champion Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomas Pieres, 6, Barto Castagnola, 10, Jesse Bray, 7).
In last year‘s Founders Cup, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 2, Jeta Castagnola, 9, Barto Castagnola, 9, Paco de Narvaez, 6) defeated Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 10, Juan Martin Zubia, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8), 13-9. De Narvaez was MVP.
The World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, is in its fifth season with a star-studded lineup that features six 10-goalers including Pablo MacDonough, Barto Castagnola, Juan Martin Nero, Jeta Castagnola, Polito Pieres and Sapo Caset.
The world-class league will run through April 16. The remaining WPL events are the Palm Beach Open which gets under way this week, Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Triple Crown of Polo and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach.
Grand Champions, the nation‘s largest polo club celebrating its 16th anniversary, and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and short work arena. The club has 13 well-manicured fields including nine world-class fields at GCPC and four at Santa Rita.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation‘s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world‘s winter equestrian capital, is hosting tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 26-goal leagues, weekly Polo School Ladies League play, WCT Finals and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.
Season highlights for 2023 are the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, Sieber Memorial, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and special events including Nic Roldan Sunset Polo and White Party, Great Futures Celebrity Polo, WPL Polo Pride and Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails.
The winter season is being live-streamed locally and worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV Sports).
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its‘ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its‘ Polo On Demand program.
The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. The stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. It is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. November. The Polo School has nurtured several junior, men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.
For more information on leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira