WELLINGTON, Fla., March 20, 2023—For the second consecutive World Polo League tournament, Kaia Polo is off to a great start.
Kaia Polo (Larry Austin, 0, Lerin Zubiaurre, 7, Santi Toccalino, 8, Jero del Carril, 8) improved to 2-0 with an impressive 15-12 victory over Globalport (Mikee Romero, 0, Polito Pieres, 10, Sapo Caset, 10, Anthony Garcia, 5) on Sunday in the feature game at Grand Champions Polo Club. Kaia Polo also defeated Richard Mille, 15-12, in its tournament opener.
Del Carril, a defensive standout, was named Most Valuable Player. Escriba Copada, played by Caset in the fifth chukker, was selected WPL Best Playing Pony.
„I don‘t really have words,“ Austin said. „To win against two of the most talented 10 goalers in the world is crazy.
„Everyone on the team played above their handicap. Jero was like a wall and his passes were incredible today. The field helped a lot. The grass was very smooth and fast, and it helped us to get an early advantage.“
Kaia Polo also had a 2-0 start in the Founders Cup. But it didn‘t get any easier going against two 10-goalers in a rollercoaster game that had Kaia Polo sitting pretty with a 6-1 lead in the first chukker and 7-3 lead in the second chukker before Globalport dug itself out of a hole and trailed 8-6 at the half.
With 1:42 left in the fourth chukker, Garcia scored off a perfect pass from Caset to tie the game at 9-9.
Kaia Polo settled back into its rotation and took advantage of Globalport penalties. Toccalino scored three goals including two penalty conversions to regain the lead, 12-10, going into the sixth chukker.
Globalport had its share of scoring opportunities but could get no closer than one goal after Caset converted a 30-yard penalty to trail 12-11. Kaia Polo came right back with Toccalino taking out a defender to enable Zubiarre to score and restore a two-goal cushion, 13-11.
Toccalino had a game-high nine goals. Zubiaurre had three goals and del Carril added one goal. Kaia Polo picked up two goals on handicap. Caset led Globalport with five goals. Pieres and Garcia each had three goals and Romero added one.
Kaia Polo led in shots on goal, 19-17, and throw-ins, 14-11. Globalport led in knock-ins, 6-5 and fouls 11-6, with Kaia Polo scoring off five of those penalties with three 30-yarders and two 60-yarders.
The Palm Beach Open continues Monday with a doubleheader. Santa Rita Trenque Lauquen plays Casablanca at 11 a.m. and Richard Mille takes on Dead End at 4 p.m.
In the early Sunday game, Audi (Marc Ganzi, 1, Jeta Castagnola, 10, Nic Roldan, 8, Freddie Mannix, 7) bounced back from its 13-10 loss to Casablanca (Scott Wood, 0, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Pipe Vercellino, 7, Miguel Novillo Astrada, 8) with a 13-11 victory over Brookshire. Audi is now 1-1 and Brookshire is 0-2 in bracket play.
After a sticky opening chukker, Audi came up big in the second chukker with a 5-1 advantage. Audi never trailed, leading 7-5 at the half, 9-8 after four and 12-10 after five.
Audi got balanced scoring from its lineup. Castagnola led with five goals, Ganzi had four goals and Roldan and Mannix, who bounced back quickly from a hand injury sustained in Audi‘s opener, had two goals. Vercellino led Brookshire with four goals, Pieres had three and Astrada had two. Brookshire picked up two goals on handicap.
Audi outshot Brookshire, 20-13, and dominated throw-ins, 16-8. Brookshire led knock-ins, 7-4.
The third World Polo League tournament features eight teams. This year, the Palm Beach Open is being played on the handicap since some teams are lower than 26 goals. The World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina, is in its fifth season.
Two World Polo League champions have already been crowned. 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, one of the top 26-goal teams two decades ago, 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 in addition to the Palm Beach Open 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, women‘s weekly league play and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.
Season highlights for 2023 are the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, 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.
2023 World Polo League Palm Beach Open Schedule
11am -Santa Rita/Trenque Lauquen vs Casablanca
4pm – Richard Mille vs Dead End
4pm – Richard Mille vs Globalport
11am – Audi vs Santa Rita/Trenque Lauquen
4pm – Casablanca vs Brookshire
11am -Kaia Polo vs Dead End
4pm – Final
GCPC Field 2
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira