WELLINGTON, Fla., March 6, 2023—Kaia Polo, making its debut in the 26-goal World Polo League, remains undefeated in the Founders Cup.
Kaia Polo (Larry Austin, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Sapo Caset, 10, Santi Toccalino, 8) led for most of the game to knock off Brookshire Polo (Scott Wood, 0, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Polito Pieres, 10, Jero del Carril, 8), 10-8, in the Sunday feature game at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Ten-goaler and playmaker Sapo Caset, also making his WPL debut, scored a team-high five goals and was named Most Valuable Player. His fifth chukker horse, Don Urbano Penalty, was selected WPL Best Playing Pony. „Sapo is such a great captain,“ Austin said.
Kaia Polo is now 2-0 after defeating Pampa Norte Biotricity, 14-13, and Brookshire, two seasoned teams with WPL experience.
„I‘m very happy with the chemistry of the team organized by Nick Manifold,“ said Austin, who named his team Kaia after his Rhodesian Ridgeback. His first polo team, Zuma Polo, was name after his first Rhodesian Ridegback. „They are fast, graceful animals with a gait similar to a horse so I thought it was very fitting for a polo team.“
The teams started off with a 1-1 opening chukker with Pieres, after Zubiaurre turned away his first goal attempt, converted a safety-60 for its only lead of the game, 1-0. Three minutes later, Toccalino scored to tie the game.
For the next five chukkers it was all Kaia Polo with its accurate shooting, opportunistic defense and selfless leadership of Caset, setting up goals for his teammates.
Kaia Polo led 4-2 after the second chukker and 5-3 at the half. The stats were close in the first half between the two well-balanced teams. Kaia Polo outshot Brookshire, 8-7; led in knock-ins, 4-3, throw-ins, 6-4; and fouls, 4-2. All three of Brookshire‘s goals were penalty conversions.
Kaia Polo, with great chemistry and anticipation, continued its momentum in the second half. Brookshire changed its rotation in the second half but was still unable to take advantage of its scoring opportunities.
Kaia Polo led 6-3 after the fourth chukker and led by as much as four (7-3, 9-5) and five goals (8-3, 9-4, 10-5) in the fifth chukker. Brookshire scored its first second-half goal with 4:57 left in the fifth when Vercellino took the throw-in and scored. Brookshire kept attacking in the final chukker outscoring Kaia Polo, 3-0, but it wasn‘t enough to beat the rookie team.
In addition to Caset‘s five goals, Zubiaurre and Toccalino each had two goals. There was also a pony goal.
Vercellino led Brookshire with a team-high five goals, including three penalty conversions. Pieres added two goals and del Carril had one.
In the final stats, Brookshire outshot Kaia Polo, 18-14, but Kaia Polo led in knock-ins, 10-4, and throw-ins, 10-9. Kaia Polo led in fouls, 9-6, with Brookshire scoring off three of those penalties from 30, 40 and 60 yards out in the first half.
In other games this past week: Richard Mille edged Brookshire, 9-8; Audi defeated Casablanca, 15-11; Casablanca topped Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen, 11-6; Audi defeated Travieso, 14-13; and Richard Mille nipped Pampa Norte Biotricity, 12-11.
The second World Polo League tournament features eight teams in bracket play.
The WPL, 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 popular WPL has been filling the void created when the U.S. Polo Association, the sport‘s governing body, announced it was lowering high goal polo to 18-22 goals and would not have 26-goal polo.
In the 2022 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.
In addition to the Founders Cup, other WPL tournaments are the Palm Beach Open, Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Triple Crown of Polo and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach. The world-class league runs through April 16.
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, women‘s weekly league play and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.
Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Argentina, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, England, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Venezuela, Chile, and England.
Season highlights for 2023 are the Sieber Memorial, currently underway; $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial, WCT Finals and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and special events including World Polo League Polo Pride, Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails and Great Futures Polo Day featuring Celebrity Polo.
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.
2023 World Polo League Founders Cup Schedule
11am Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen vs Audi
4pm Travieso vs Casablanca
11am Pampa Norte Biotricity vs Brookshire
2pm Kaia Polo vs Richard Mille
11am WPL Founders Cup Semifinal 1
4pm WPL Founders Cup Semifinal 2
4pm – WPL Founders Cup Final
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira