WELLINGTON, Fla., February 23, 2022—Grand Champions won the U.S. Polo Assn Junior Tournament Tackeria President‘s Day Cup and Aspen Valley Polo Club won the historic Avendano Trophy celebrating its 40th anniversary Monday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Grand Champions (Maeve Reicher, Harrison Reicher, Ava Nunes, Paquito de Narvaez) won an exciting 5-4 penalty shootout over Red Barn (Jack Whitman, Ethan Siekel, Elisabeth Brassart, Joaquin Vilgre de la Madrid). Grand Champions, Red Barn and Tackeria (Matteo Bilbao, Alea Crespo, Ava Hinkson, Joseph Schwartz) were the top three finishers in the round robin.
Teams Tackeria, Red Barn, and Grand Champions.
Paquito de Narvaez of Grand Champions earned Most Valuable Player honors. Jack Whitman of Red Barn was awarded the Sportsmanship Award and his horse, 8-year-old Pintada, was Best Playing Pony.
Aspen Valley Polo Club (Santiago Gonzalez, Francisco Spinacci, Cruz Bilbao, Artemio Figueras) dominated runner-up Power Group Total Care (Brock Bromley, Milo MacDonough, Antonio Aguerre, Valentina Tarazona) and third-place finisher GJ Racing (Jem Handler, Max Scott Barnes, Santos Teves, Finn Secunda) to win the second round robin and historic Avendano Trophy celebrating its 40th anniversary.
MVP Paquito de Narvaez and Pablo MacDonough.
Milo MacDonough of Power Group Total Care was Most Valuable Player. Lucama, played by Santiago Gonzalez of Aspen Valley Polo Club, was Best Playing Pony. Jem Handler of GJ Racing earned the Sportsmanship Award.
After the four-chukker Santa Rita-Alex Photo matchup, Antonio Villamil was named Most Valuable Player. Blueberry, played by Villamil, was Best Playing Pony. Silver Novillo Astrada of Santa Rita earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Teams GJ Racing, Aspen Valley Polo Club, and Power Group Total Care.
The Morning Line won its round robin over Tackeria and Cavaliers. Florencio Merlos of The Morning Line was Most Valuable Player. Myla Cambiaso of Cavaliers earned the Sportsmanship Award. Minla Sobre, played by Inda Pieres, was Best Playing Pony.
In the Huskies, Wahoos and Grand Champions round robin, Emilia Wulff of Wahoos was Most Valuable Player. Lorenzo Nero of The Morning Line earned the Sportsmanship Award. James Bond, played by Felix Pieres of the Huskies, was Best Playing Pony.
MVP Milo MacDonough and Polito Pieres.
After the ChukkerTV, Polo School and Red Barn round robin, Izzy Novillo Astrada of Polo School @ GC was Most Valuable Player. Milo Vilche earned the Sportsmanship Award. Perfecta, played by Kawai Dawson, was Best Playing Pony.
ChukkerTV (Azu Pieres, Lupe Pieres, Mia Pieres, Violeta Pieres) were 1-0 winners over Alex Photo (Isa Nero, Alba Figueras, Olivia MacDonough, Carmen Aguerre). Lupe Pieres, who scored the lone goal, was Most Valuable Player. Carmen Aguerre earned the Sportsmanship Award. Chevy, played by Alba Figueras, was Best Playing Pony.
Teams Santa Rita and Alex Photo.
The tournament featured 81 players on 19 teams competing at various levels. In addition to South Florida, players travelled from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina and Sarasota to compete.
„I was very happy with the turnout and to see the numbers coming back up to where we had it back in 2012, 2013 and 2014,“ PTF Executive Director Jennifer McLeavy said. „Our record was around 119. Getting back up to 81 was magical.
MVP Antonio Villamil.
„These kids get better every year, especially seeing the lead line level,“ McLeavy said. „The number of kids in that group this year was exciting and points us toward higher numbers in the future.“
World Polo League players Polito Pieres, Juan Martin Nero, Pablo MacDonough and Mariano Aguerre took turns awarding trophies to smiling faces.
Teams Huskies, Grand Champions, and Wahoos.
The day-long, fun event featured top caliber competition among boy and girl youth players.
„I think it‘s playing opportunity,“ McLeavy said. „That‘s part of the reason we try to do these junior tournaments, getting kids playing with other kids. The more they play, the more they learn. More hours in the saddle, the better.
Sportsmanship Award recipient Lorenzo Nero and Pablo MacDonough.
„What I‘ve learned is even if they don‘t come up from a polo-playing family they will come to one of these events, let‘s say their first one and they will play and then they‘ll go home and they want to ride, they want to get better and want to go to the next one and do even better. It‘s very encouraging.“
Three different ChukkerTV announcers, Jan-Eric Franck, Dale Schwetz and Steve Lane kept the large crowd and world-wide stream audience entertained and informed. The post-tournament trophies and asado ended a perfect day of polo.
Teams Tackeria, Cavaliers, and The Morning Line.
Grand Champions Polo Club President, PTF Chairman and tournament host Melissa Ganzi is a longtime supporter of grass roots polo and PTF. Grand Champions provided the fields, staff, five umpires, and several horses for some of the players and umpires.
The Polo Training Foundation is dedicated to the future of polo in the U.S. The PTF has been instrumental in the growth of junior and youth polo players by encouraging the sport‘s development with training programs, lessons and tournaments for boys and girls.
Inda Pieres receiving Best Playing Pony award for Minla Sobre from Mariano Aguerre.
The PTF was created in 1967 by Palm Beach Polo and Country Club founder and former 7-goal amateur Bill Ylvisaker to teach the game of polo to youth by promoting youth clinics, interscholastic and intercollegiate competition, good sportsmanship and good will through friendly competition.
The Polo Training Foundation is a 501(c) 3 organization and relies solely on tax deductible donations for financial support.
Teams Alex Photo and ChukkerTV.
Grand Champions, the nation‘s largest and busiest polo club celebrating its 15th anniversary, is coming off its most successful fall season. Club officials hope to build off that success when it hosts 23 tournaments from January through April.
Grand Champions is host to the World Polo League, now in its fourth year and only 26-goal polo played outside of Argentina. Already underway with the All-Star Challenge, it has attracted a large international field from around the world.
Carmen Aguerre receiving her Sportsmanship Award trophy.
The world-class league will run through April 16. In addition to the All-Star Challenge which ends on Saturday, the remaining WPL events are the inaugural Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Feb. 27; Founders Cup, Feb. 23-March 13; Palm Beach Open, March 9-27; Triple Crown of Polo, March 23-April 16 and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach, April 29-May 1.
Grand Champions has also added Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek held Tuesday late afternoon on Field One for players and guests.
Walking Class teams ChukkerTV, Polo School, and Red Barn.
The high goal club tournaments feature the Sterling Cup, $100,000 World Cup and Santa Rita Abierto.
The 16-goal league play includes the Grand Champions Cup, Power Horse Invitational and Pedro Morrison Memorial.
The 12-goal league continues with the current Sieber Memorial Trophy, the $50,000 National 12-Goal and Mar. 8-26 Top Pony 12-Goal.
MVP Izzy Novillo Astrada with Juan Martin Nero.
After January‘s successful Aspen Valley Cup, the 8-goal tournament schedule continues with the 5 Top Pony 8-Goal and Limited Edition 8-Goal.
The 6-goal schedule features the Metropolitan Cup, also underway; Halo Polo Trophy and Madelon Bourdieu Memorial.
Lead-line teams GJ Racing and Mayer Ranch.
There is also the Polo School Grand Champions Women‘s League, co-founded by Melissa Ganzi and Alina Carta, for all ages and playing ability held Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
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.
Felix Pieres receiving the Matt Cohen Unsung Hero Award from Melinda Cohen.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation‘s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal including the 26-goal World Polo League 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 the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
Players and their families enjoyed an Asado after the day‘s festivities.
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 only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira