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Casablanca Wins WPL Palm Beach Open In Thriller; Barto Castagnola MVP

Palm Beach Open champion Casablanca's Jesse Bray, Barto Castagnola, Grant Ganzi and Tomacho Pieres. ©Candace Ferreira

WELLINGTON, Fla., March 27, 2023—Casablanca captured its second World Polo League tournament of the season Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

In front of a good crowd, 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.

Dead End made it all the way to the championship final of the eight-team tournament in its 26-goal WPL debut.

For the second time in two tournaments, Argentine 10-goaler Barto Castagnola was Most Valuable Player. The playmaker scored a team-high six goals and had some clutch plays in the final minutes to clinch the game.

Three horses earned Best Playing Pony honors. Chalo Nina Loly, owned and played by Castagnola, was the Argentino BPP. American thoroughbred Girl Power, owned and played by Ganzi in the second and sixth chukkers, was the American Polo Horse Association BPP. Incari Uvita, owned and played by Falabella in the sixth chukker, was the World Polo League BPP.

Casablanca also won the season-opening All-Star Challenge with a stunning 14-9 victory over 2021 champion Richard Mille (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7).

Unlike its first tournament win, Casablanca survived a rollercoaster ride in the last two chukkers with Dead End overcoming a four-goal deficit to tie the game twice (12-12 and 13-13) before succumbing to Casablanca‘s tenacity.

Pieres scored the game-winner off a broken play with 4:15 left in the sixth chukker. Both teams had scoring opportunities from the field and penalty line in the final minutes before Castagnola came up with a loose ball in the final seconds.

„It was an amazing game,“ said Ganzi, who also won the Madelon Bourdieu Memorial 6-goal tournament with Limehouse Properties teammates Eliza Limehouse, Marc Ganzi and MVP Miki Novillo Astrada earlier in the day. „It was a fun, open game. We scored a bunch of goals and everyone played their hearts out.“

Dead End lost the services of LaPrida with 1:25 in the third chukker to a pulled groin muscle. He was replaced by Gringo Colombres who kept Dead End in the game.

„My hats off to Dead End, they were an amazing team,“ Ganzi said. „Evan White played a fantastic tournament and it‘s fun to play against him. I wish the best for Magoo and a quick recovery. He‘s one of the nicest guys in polo.“

In addition to Castagnola‘s six goals, Ganzi and Pieres each had three goals and Bray added one for Casablanca. The team was also awarded a penalty one in the third chukker.

Llosa led Dead End with a game-high eight goals and Laprida added one. Dead End received three goals on handicap and one penalty one in the fifth chukker.

Casablanca led all statistics: 20-17 shots on goal; 7-6 knock-ins; 11-10 throw-ins, 13-12 fouls; and 3-2 penalties scored with Casablanca converting 30, 40 and 60-yard penalites.

The third World Polo League tournament featured eight teams including two making their WPL debut, Globalport and Dead End.

Casablanca now adds its name again to this year‘s WPL champions.

Casablanca won the season-opening All-Star Challenge. Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, 3, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Barto Castagnola, 10, Jesse Bray, 7) defeated 2021 champion Richard Mille (Gilberto Sayao, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7), 14-9. Barto Castagnola was MVP.

Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Nic Roldan, 8, Freddie Mannix, 7) defended its title and finished undefeated (5-0) in the Founders Cup with a thrilling 14-13 overtime victory over Richard Mille (Patricio Mayor, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Lucas James, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10). Jeta Castagnola was MVP.

In last year‘s Palm Beach Open Catamount (Scott Devon, 1, Toro Ruiz, 7, Polito Pieres, 10, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8) knocked off Richard Mille (Santos Bollini, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Pablo MacDonough, 10, Juan Martin Nero, 10), 9-7 to win its first-ever WPL tournament title in a battle of unbeaten teams. Polito Pieres was MVP.

The world-class league will run through April 16. The remaining WPL events are the 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, WCT Finals, Polo School Women‘s Weekly League play and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.

Remaining season highlights for 2023 are the John T. Oxley Memorial, $100,000 World Cup Tournament and special events including Great Futures Celebrity Polo, WCT Finals, 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

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