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Santa Rita Captures Grand Champions Cup; Pancho Bensadon Named MVP

WELLINGTON, Fla., May 23, 2022—Santa Rita won its first tournament of the spring season Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Playing less than 24 hours after its semifinal game, Santa Rita (Haley Schaufeld, -1, Jason Crowder, 5, Pancho Bensadon, 7, Tommy Collingwood, 5) defeated Newport (Juan Bollini, 4, Tomacho Pieres, 6, Michel Dorignac, 5, Gene Goldstein, 1), 11-8. 

Pancho Bensadon was selected Most Valuable Player. His Ellerstina-bred horse Corbata, played in the second and fifth chukkers, was Best Playing Pony.

After two close chukkers, 2-2 and 3-3, Santa Rita took control of the tempo of the game, pulling ahead to lead at the half, 6-5. Santa Rita never relinguished its lead in the second half, outscoring Newport, 5-3. 

Newport was plagued by fouls and missed scoring opportunities. Newport came within one goal of Santa Rita in the fourth and fifth chukkers but was unable to finish its scoring runs.

Leading 8-7 going into the sixth chukker, Collingwood stole the ball and scored with 6:50 left and Bensadon followed two minutes later with another goal for a 10-7 advantage with 4:37 left. Newport tried to play catch up but ran out of time.

Bensadon scored a game-high five goals. Collingwood had four goals and turned in one of his best games of the season on both ends of the field. Schaufeld and Crowder each had one goal.

Pieres led Newport with four goals. Dorignac had three goals and Bollini added one.

In the subsidiary Just For The Love Of It Cup, Sebucan (Fran Spinacci, -1, Pablo Pulido, 2, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Nic Roldan, 8) defeated Travieso (Teo Calle, 0, Sugar Erskine, 6, Tony Calle, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 7), 12-7.

Sebucan jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening chukker behind two goals by Fran Spinacci and one by Pulido, and never trailed after that. 

Sebucan got stronger as the game progressed leading 3-1, 5-2 and 6-3 in the first half and 9-5 and 11-6 after the fourth and fifth chukkers.

Pulido, a Cornell alum, scored a game-high six goals. Thirteen-year-old Fran Spinacci had three goals, Pablo Spinacci had two and Roldan added one.

Sugar Erskine led Travieso with four goals and Tony Calle added three.

In the semifinals Newport advanced with a thrilling 13-12 victory over Sebucan on Friday and Santa Rita knocked off Travieso, 6-5, in the other rain-delayed semifinal on Saturday.

In last year‘s Grand Champions Cup 16-goal final, STM (Grant Ganzi, Paquito de Narvaez, Facundo Llorente, Robert Strom) defeated Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, Pablo Spinacci, Juancito Bollini, Juan Bollini), 20-19. The tournament was played over two days with a running score.

In other spring tournaments, Casablanca has won three titles: Eastern Challenge (Steve Cox, Grant Ganzi, Pablo Spinacci, Tomacho Pieres), WPL Beach Polo Cup (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) and Spring Challenge (Meredith Lovegrove, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Tommy Collingwood). Knockers Field (Annabelle Gundlach, Marc Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Alejandro Novillo Astrada) won the Sun Cup. 

The spring schedule concludes with this weekend‘s May 27-29 WPL Polo Pride.

The spring season is being live-streamed worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV.

Grand Champions, the nation‘s largest  polo club celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off successful fall and winter seasons. 

Grand Champions plays host to the World Polo League, the only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.

During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation‘s largest club with 13 well-manicured fields including nine world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.

The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. 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.

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.

By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira
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